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Habermas calls for more democracy, defends referendum decision

German intellectual heavyweight Jurgen Habermas has slammed European elites for taking power away from the people, emphasizing the “need to save the dignity of democracy.”

Writing in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, a German daily newspaper, Habermas criticized German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy for taking a “post-democratic path” while calling for a new institutional model that will put people on the Continent back in the frame.

“The concentration of a power in the hands of an inner circle of government leaders who impose their agreements on national parliaments is not the way forward,” Habermas wrote, adding that what the European Union really needs is a new institutional model that will put the people back in the frame.

A burgeoning debt crisis across the eurozone is widely seen as taking a toll on national sovereignty, as supernational bodies like the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank are heavily influencing economic policy and, as a result critics say, manipulate political developments.

Once again, Habermas defended a recent decision by Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou to put a European bailout deal to a popular referendum. Papandreou's announcement caused shocked reactions from eurozone partners and was widely seen as a catalyst for developments that led to his imminent exit.

In his article, Habermas describes Papandreou as “the archetype of a politician who came a cropper attempting to bridge the widening rift between financial experts and citizens; [between] the systemic imperatives of unbridled financial capitalism – which politics has untethered from the real economy – and the electorate's complaints about empty promises of social justice.”

Habermas said power must return to the citizens.

“This is not only a question of democracy, but also a question of dignity,” he wrote.

ekathimerini.com , Thursday November 10, 2011 (12:35)  
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