Germany's Eurosceptic AfD launches EU elections campaign


Germany's new Eurosceptic party launched its campaign for the European Parliament elections on Saturday (25 January) with an attack on EU federalism and a defence of national sovereignty, in an attempt to mend divisive infighting, EurActiv Germany reports.

About 300 delegates from the Alternative for Germany (AfD) gathered at a party congress in the Bavarian town of Aschaffenburg to elect its candidates for the European vote in May, where fringe parties are expected to do well.

"We can only win if we stick together," AfD leader Bernd Lucke said in his opening speech, comparing his party's plight to that of David against Goliath. 

The mainstream parties on the left and right were too "cowardly" to address Europe's conflicts and problems, said the economics professor, who was elected lead candidate for the AfD's European campaign.

The upcoming European elections could be a godsend for right-wing populist parties in Europe like the AfD, which aim for influence within the European Parliament. Other parties are either frantically trying to differentiate their positions from that of the radicals or else adopting Eurosceptic policy themselves.

Four months after the German Bundestag elections, the Eurosceptic party Alternative for Germany (AfD) has fallen behind in opinion polls.

The AfD's popularity among voters dropped from 5% back to down to 4%, according to German news network stern-RTL. If there was a vote today, the AfD would again miss the 5% minimum required for representation in the German parliament, just as it did in September's election, with only 4.7%.

But for the European elections, which take place on 25 May, the percentage is sufficient, as the European Parliament threshold for representation is only 3%.

Emboldened by the Bundestag failure, the AfD has been actively preparing for its European elections campaign. In early January, the former president of the Federation of German Industries (BDI), Hans-Olaf Henkel, announced he was joining the party.

"The AfD is the last liberal party in Germany", said Henkel in a jab at the Free Democratic Party (FDP). Once a strong ally of Merkel's Christian Democrats, the FDP failed to meet the 5% threshold in the last elections, losing its place in the German government.

Henkel himself recently chose to give up his seat on the supervisory boards of several major enterprises in Germany and Switzerland. While he refused to be the top candidate in the European elections, Henkel still said he wanted to play a prominent role in the AfD.

EU parliament seats would give the AfD a platform from which to campaign at home and draw support from other parties.

"From Brussels, we will aim and fight for our party to finally be represented in the German Bundestag," said Henkel.

'Demonising' Eurosceptics the 'wrong strategy'

Regardless of where one places the AfD on the political spectrum, the party could profit from a low participation rate in the elections and become a magnet for dissatisfied voters from all sides.

And Germany is not the only European country where right-wing populism is on the rise. Countless events in Europe have focused on informing citizens in the hope of finding a miracle cure for the public's disenchantment with politics. Analysts call for more participation in the May elections.

But demonising the AfD and Germany's national conservatives as well as Eurosceptic parties in other countries is the wrong strategy, wrote Thomas Straubhaar, a Swiss economist and director of the Hamburg Institute of International Economics (HWWI).

Simply positioning oneself as the AfD's main opponent, as the FDP did at its party convention one week ago, is less than convincing, Straubhaar wrote in the 22 January edition of Germany's Welt newspaper.

Instead, he said parties should "aggressively and actively stress" the obvious advantages to Europe and the euro in the context of national solutions. This includes the four freedoms that have given Germany evident advantages, even if the conservative Christian Social Union (CSU) has a different opinion. The common euro currency is another development which, despite its problems, has brought significant benefits, Straubhaar argues.

Other than that, the Swiss analyst pointed out concerns with the wider economic policy situation. Since the financial crisis, the world has increasingly organised itself around two different poles - the United States and China. Europe can only stand strong if it speaks with a single voice, Straubhaar said.

"To claim that everything in Europe is good is ignorant because it contradicts empirical relevance", Straubhaar admitted. But the facts clearly show that in almost every relationship, Europe is better off than the rest of the world, with the exception of North America, he wrote.

"Whatever is proven to work well in Europe, should be preserved and improved. Whenever deficits become apparent and require adjustments, a quick remedy should be created," he said, citing the ongoing reform of the European banking sector.

Throwing the baby out with the bathwater, like the followers of renationalisation in Europe are demanding, is the wrong way, according to Straubhaar. Instead, he writes, much more must become Europeanised, so that as many things as possible can remain German.

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True European's picture

I only can congratulate AfD and other so-called "right-populist" parties to win more votes and hopefully to grow significantly. There is no more populism possible for me than with the current coalition in Germany. Europeans do NOT want to become all equal with all the ugly equal stuff in every country. We are different in culture and heritage and want to stay different. Away with the EURO at the first place !!

the real european's picture

Well tell americans for what the real Unity is about!
Americans are affended if you talk about nationalism!
And thus is clear why !!
Federalism doesn't kill sovereignity of the nations!!
federalism doesn't make all equal nor kill the sovereignity but instead it shares the powers !!!
By the way we need democracy and not a German like domi-nation!!

What kills the nation is nationalism of thid kind of nazism !But of course we have forgotten how many death & suffer was caused by nationalism ! But seems there are outdated nationalism promoters which still loves the european war relicts to re-done !

American , you're not to blame !
Prepare your guns again!

El Pluribus Unum

Charles_M's picture

self determination is not the same as nationalism

Ex Uno Plures - for the clever dicks and pseuds who like to pretend they speak latin

Richard's picture

An European: it is utterly unthinkable that a small and weak American state in difficulty would be thrown to the wolves the way that Europe did to Cyprus - that's because all Americans see each other as fellow Americans, whereas Europeans don't.

European solidarity and unity is only skin deep, as soon as there is any difficulty they all revert to naked national self-interest. The rest of the world knows this, that is why when Europe barks no one cares because it has no teeth.

You also seem to overlook the fact that the USA is, and always has been, a FEDERAL system.

In some ways the individual states have more sovereignty in the US than they do in the EU.

The US Constitution is a clear, short document that sets out the powers that the federal government shall have - all else resides with the States.

The failed EU Constitution, that got voted down but was put in place anyway but named a Treaty to avoid all those nasty referendums that always seem to give the "wrong answer" was 855 pages of rambling vagueness

Says it all really.

an european's picture

@ Richard - Posted on :27/01/2014

No and again No!

"more sovereignty in the US than they do in the EU"
Really in what??!!
ha ha ha ha!

Don't spread Mississippi mud Richard!

America wasn't always a Federal system!
After colonies it became a confédération and then a real powerfully centralized fédération after 13 states signed a treaty in Philadelphia!

Note that Europe was an Empire a single countries with a lot of territories in it!

At least Europe has and will have some federal policies for a strong economy and drop jobless and for more democracy and not that centralized like some believes !
The lack of it's policy rules hasn't anymore to be ignored as even for more democracy!

Bi-federalism isn't equal to federalism and has subsystems and thus to take in consideration!


El Pluribus Unum!