September 15, 2014 / 12:30 PM / 5 years ago

German government says Bavaria following Scots' example 'absurd'

BERLIN (Reuters) - The German government on Monday ridiculed the suggestion that the rich southern region of Bavaria could try to break away if Scotland votes to split from the United Kingdom this week.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks to media at CDU headquarters in Berlin September 15, 2014. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

One local party, the Bavaria Party, has campaigned for decades for independence and has said that Scotland voting to leave Great Britain would lend weight to its own calls.

“I deem that to be an almost absurd thought,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, told reporters.

With opinion polls suggesting that Scotland’s referendum remains too close to call, the prospects that the union may split after 307 years could whet appetites for self-rule across Europe - from Catalonia to Flanders.

In Germany, Bavaria and Hesse no longer want to subsidise poorer north and east German federal states and have challenged the country’s fiscal equalisation system in court.

In its heyday in the 1950s, the Bavaria Party gained almost 18 percent of the Bavarian vote but has not had a seat in the local parliament since 1966. It won 2.1 percent locally last year, and its demands are not on the ruling conservative Christian Social Union’s (CSU) political agenda.

“We from the Bavaria Party wish our Scottish friends victory in the referendum,” the party said on its website.

“A ‘yes’ would also have a positive effect on other regions in Europe. ...even in Bavaria it would bring real support and our media would no longer be able to simply ignore this topic or ridicule it,” the website statement said.

In a rare German comment on Britain’s internal affairs, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said last week he would rather see Britain remain united.

Berlin seldom comments on Britain’s internal debates but Merkel and other officials have often expressed concern about the possibility of Britain deciding to leave the European Union in a referendum on membership.

Reporting by Annika Breidthardt; Editing by Louise Ireland

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