Eurosceptic election manifesto divides Germany's left
A draft election manifesto just released by Germany's Left Party is highly critical of the EU. Amid rising euroscepticism the party is split over whether the document's wording accurately depicts its European message.
As national parties in Germany reveal their plans for the European elections in May, a widespread debate has emerged over how to treat European integration (see background).
For weeks now, Germany's Left Party, Die Linke, has been quarrelling over its European orientation ahead of the upcoming campaign.
The bone of contention is a draft of the party's election manifesto in which the party describes the EU as "a neo-liberal, militaristic and largely undemocratic power".
It was the party's far-left wing, led by vice party chairman Sahra Wagenknecht, which insisted on the disputed passage.
"Europe will be destroyed if it continues to socially divide itself. When the people see Brussels' institutions as helper's helpers for banks and corporations, ... it tears Europe apart," Wagenknecht told ARD television, defending the document's wording.
Bundestag Representative Diether Dehm shared a similar view. "Whoever loves Europe or loves European integration, must reject the EU as it is now," he said.
Alienating eurosceptic voters?
On Sunday (12 January), former Left Party chair Oskar Lafontaine vehemently denied rumours of euroscepticism at the party's campaign kick-off.
"This is typical nonsense that sometimes comes out of public debate. There is no way one can even be anti-European," he said in Berlin's Volksbühne (People's Theatre).
Still, Lafontaine continued, it is possible to be opposed to European politics if one rejects exploitation, social privatisation and the "de-democratisation of Europe".
At the same time, the chairman of the Left Party's Bundestagfaction Gregor Gysi told ARD television, "not all the wording in the draft is happy".
But Gysi decidedly rejects anti-European accusations. "European integration itself is a left-wing idea, that we will defend," he said.
"When we criticise the EU, that does not mean we do not want the EU," he told journalists. "We just want it in a different form: peace-oriented, democracy-oriented." The EU must become a social and economic union, Gysi wrote Saturday (11 January) on Twitter.
he vice-president for Die Linke in the German Bundestag, Petra Pau, also called for a clear and unambiguous separation from Germany's eurosceptic AfD party. "I think clear separation is necessary," she said.
Final wording unknown
"I am quite certain that this sentence will not survive the party convention", Die Linke's vice group leader Dietmar Bartsch told SWR television. Criticism is necessary, Bartsch said, "but a clear Pro for the European Project is just as important".
In a statement for Tagesspiegel, Wagenknecht said she was prepared for a withdrawal of the passage.
But the decision over the final wording of the Left Party's election manifesto, will not be revealed until the party convention on 14 and 15 Febraury.
During the European Parliament elections in May, each member state has the right to elect a fixed number of Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) based on population.
Elections are contested by national political parties but once MEPs are elected, most opt to become part of transnational political groups. Most national parties are affiliated to a European-wide political family so one of the big questions on election night is which of these European groupings will exert greater influence on the decisions taken in the next legislative term. The European Council must take the election results into account when choosing a nominee for the post of president of the European Commission, the executive arm of the EU.
See more on European Parliament elections here.