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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A German eurosceptic party on the horizon?

There is a curious mismatch in the German EU debate between public opinion and party politics. Poll after poll shows that a clear majority of Germans oppose further bailouts and eurobonds, and yet the two main opposition parties that have backed eurobonds in principle, the Greens and SPD, are currently way ahead in the polls (Combined they are on 42% to Merkel's CDU/CSU on 31% .

While there are some obvious initial explanatory factors such as Germany's unambiguous commitment to Europe and the fact that German elections (there are a number of state elections in addition to national ones) have been dominated by personalities and local issues. Nonetheless, an opinion poll is FOCUS earlier this month suggested that 37% of Germans would consider voting for a "euro-critical" party, which begs the question whether there is a vacuum in German politics just waiting to be filled.

We're yet to be entirely convinced. The FDP, Germany's liberal party, had a brief and half-hearted flirtation with a more critical EU stance during the recent Berlin regional elections, and scored a disastrous 1.8%, although the impression we got was that the FDP leadership really wasn't all that keen on the flirtation in the first place.

On the other hand, the German political scene is fluid, which is why the rise of the German Pirate Party (Piratenpartei) is particularly interesting. The Pirate Party is tapping into to the German debate on an unregulated internet, civil liberties and privacy. Like its Swedish counterpart, the party targets a younger, more or less tech-savvy demographic, using the same social media and IT tools that it wants to 'set free'. A recent opinion poll put the Pirate Party at a full 10%.

Last week German finance paper Handelsblatt published an interview with the party's economics spokesperson Matthias Schrade (pictured here in a sharp suit as opposed to traditional pirate garb), an indication that the party was starting to be taken more seriously. This is what Schrade had to say about the eurozone crisis:
"I believe that we cannot avoid building a core-Europe with countries such as Germany, Austria, France, Benelux with the euro as their currency. We need a zone that is economically homogenous and not one that is completely drifting apart. We would then get a more stable monetary union than the one we have today. It would of course be open to other countries providing they have made reforms and stabilised their economic system.”
When Schrade was asked whether he thinks this means Greece should leave the eurozone, his reply was: “not just Greece”.

So a break-up of the euro in other words. The regional Piratenpartei in North Rhine-Westphalia called for referenda on bail-outs and have argued for an Icelandic style solution to the eurozone crisis rather than the current bailout strategy. The Swedish Pirate Party ran on a clear eurosceptic platform in the European elections in 2009, in which they managed to get 7.1% of the vote by opposing the EU's Data Retention Directive and various other international data sharing measures, as well as the Lisbon Treaty. Could such a strategy work in Germany, if the Piratenpartei was to capitalise on the anti-bailout mood as well?


The Piratenpartei is less of a political party and more of a movement, and as such it may be difficult for it to come to an internal agreement on such a huge issues like the future of the EU and euro, not least because its supporters are scattered all over the political spectrum. However, what is abundantly clear is that the rise of the Piratenpartei shows that Germans are ready for something new (and incidentally marks a conspicuous failure by the FDP to reinvent itself).

In any event, with an increasingly assertive Bundestag, and with voters starting to show signs of seeking political alternatives, German domestic politics is becoming more interesting by the day.


Anonymous said...

Wake up Germany. The EU is a money wasting socialist organisation run by unelected bureaucrats who's avarice and greed knows no limits. They will waste what money you have.
Get out quick.

Rollo said...

Come on, you Germans: a chance to save democracy in Europe and crush the EU. Now that would be something you could be proud to tell your children about.

Anonymous said...

I think the Germans are at last waking up to the hard facts of the government waste, corruption, and bloated public sectors of the Mediterranean countries within the EU. Reforms may be promised to the ECB and IMF, but reforms have been promised before and never implemented?

Anonymous said...

It's about time Germany said no to funding the EU and other countries who spend recklessly!

Euroscepticism is on the rise especially in the UK -and they don't have the Euro!