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German states swap veto rights for more autonomy

German states swap veto rights for more autonomy
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Germany’s upper house of parliament, the Bundesrat, has approved reforms to the country’s federal system. They pave the way for the biggest constitutional shake-up since the republic was founded after the Second World War.

The Bundesrat will give up some of its vetos over planned laws in return for more independence. Conservative and Bavarian state premier Edmund Stoiber said federalism is being given a new boost in Germany. He believes that it would not have been possible to get this far without the grand coalition.

Social Democrat Kurt Beck said he hopes it will be successful in terms of organising task sharing between the federal government and the states in such a way that people recognise responsibilities more clearly and that acceptance of the reforms will grow.

In return for losing some of their vetos, the states will get increased autonomy in areas such as education, setting salaries for the public sector, the penal system and retail opening hours. Two federal states voted against the reforms, fearful only the wealthy areas would benefit.

The plans were the first of three key reform projects Chancellor Angela Merkel has promised to implement.

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