A look into national debates: Are the anti-euro movements in Germany to be taken seriously?


Euro skeptical movements in Germany, opposed to the ratification of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) and the European Fiscal Treaty seem to become increasingly organised.
Are they only minority opinions or do they reflect the main tendencies in the German opinion?

The Bogenberg Declaration, published in December 2011 sums up the results of a meeting held on 15 October 2011 of the trustees of the Friends of the Ifo Institute under the chair of Hans-Werner Sinn. Signed by representatives of the German industry such as Roland Berger and Eckhard Cordes (Chairman of the Metro AG) it proposes 16 theses on the situation of the European Monetary Union (EMU). Inter alia, they propose that countries, which “are not competitive enough to repay their foreign debts should leave the Monetary Union. […] Exiting the Eurozone should be mandatory in the case of default, and the relevant procedures should be contractually set out.

SPD member and former member of the Executive Board of the Bundesbank Thilo Sarrazin, known for his controversial statements on immigration in Germany in 2010, published in May 2012 “Europe does not need the euro”. The book claims that Germany is being pressured to bail out Member States of the euro zone in difficulty because it committed the Holocaust. Those supporting Eurobonds in Germany “are driven by that very German reflex that we can only finally atone for the Holocaust and World War II when we have put all our interests and money into European hands”. Moreover, the euro has neither brought growth nor jobs to Germany.

The “Zivile Koalition für Deutschland (“civil coalition for Germany”) organised on Sunday 3 June the first demonstration against the ESM with the official slogan “Stop EU debt & Inflation Union”. Further demonstrations are planned in Berlin on 8 and in Karlsruhe on 16 June, all of which aiming at demonstrating that there is “resistance among the German population.” The main concern of the organisation is that the ESM would provide the legal basis to transform the EU in a “Inflation and Debt Union” all by not tackling the main problem, namely the lack of competitiveness of Southern EU countries, and the risk of inflation inherent to the ESM. “Our tax payers” would take the responsibility for debt policies of other countries. The association demands members of the Bundestag  to take officially position against the ESM treaty and an “EU debt union” and supports a petition directed to Angela Merkel against the ratification of the ESM.

The allianceBündnis Bürgerwille” , a non-party movement opposed to «  EU Rescue Policies and the “ensuing incapacitation of the Bundestag” , jointly organised with the Association of German tax payers (Bund der Steuerzahler Deutschland) is signed by many German politicians and academics such as Georg Milbradt, Prime Minister of Saxony, Charles Blankart, professor for economics at the Humboldt-University in Berlin, and Hans-Olaf Henkel, former head of the Federation of German Industries (BDI). The alliance claims for controlled defaults, a stabilization of the financial system and a right to exit the Euro. Henkel stated in August 2011 that “having been an early supporter of the Euro, I now consider my engagement to be the biggest professional mistake I ever made” and proposed a “Sceptic’s solution”, namely Austria, Finland, Germany and the Netherlands to leave the euro zone to create a new currency leaving the euro where it is. He also writes regularly comments in the Handelsblatt such as on 6 April 2012 about the “necessity to stop the ESM”.

Since 2011, Hans Olaf-Henkel is member of the Free Voters Bavaria (Bundesvereinigung Freie Wähler in Bavaria, an association participating in elections without having the status of a registered political party. The Bavarian free voters are the only one contesting state elections since 1998). Chairman of the Freie Wähler (FW) Bavaria Hubert Aiwanger has reached a broad coalition of forged interests, including the Association of German tax payers and the Civil Coalition. The FW initiated an online-petition to the Bundestag to refuse the ESM and the European Fiscal Pact.

Nevertheless, the German blogosphere and national press (apart of the column of Hans-Olaf Henkel Henkel Trocken  in the Handelsblatt…) does not seem to be preoccupied by this movement.
The success of these anti-euro parties seems to be unpredictable and depends on the further development of the euro zone such as the establishment of a banking union or a possible Grexit.
The Handelsblatt writes on 31 May 2012 that the protest against the ESM serves to the FW as a political tool and is notably to be intended to gain votes for the elections in 2013.  Hubert Aiwanger, chairman of the FW, states that “If we get this across properly that could be sufficient for an entry in the Bundestag”.
Public opinion monitors assess the prospects of success of these anti-euro parties differently. According to the Handelsblatt on 29 May 2012 Helmut Jung of the market research firm GMS estimates that 15-20 % of voters would be responsive to these parties. Richard  Hilmer of Infratest Dimap says that these movements will not reach their goals since the Pirate Party (Piratenpartei) already occupies the market niche of a protest party: “In Germany, there is already a successful protest party, the Piratenpartei”. Furthermore, the extreme left-wing part Die Linke also presents already an anti-euro position.
The recent intrusion of the extreme right-wing party NPD into the activities of the FW threatens its credibility. The NPD announced to participate in the demonstration, what led the organisators of the demonstration on Sunday 3 June to extend the device from “Against ESM” to “Against ESM and Extremism” during the demonstration with approximately 1 000 participants in Munich according to the Welt on 4 June 2012.

Philine Schuseil

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One Response to “A look into national debates: Are the anti-euro movements in Germany to be taken seriously?”
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