Monday

25th Mar 2019

Deputy chair of German anti-euro party resigns

  • Hans-Olaf Henkel was elected to the European Parliament in May 2014, together with six other party members (Photo: European Parliament)

The deputy chairman of the German eurosceptic party Alternative for Germany (AfD) stepped down Thursday (23 April), officially over the leadership's handling of a scandal with one of its members.

In an interview with a German newspaper however, Hans-Olaf Henkel cited worries that “right-wing ideologues” are taking over the party.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

Henkel told Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that the AfD party leadership should clearly state that it will keep course with its original goals - to dissolve the eurozone and keep Germany an EU member - and not become an anti-immigration party.

If there is no such clarification, “then the AfD will fall. That is my firm conviction”, said Henkel, who is an MEP.

During its two-year history, the young political party has been struggling to define itself.

When Henkel was elected to the European Parliament in May 2014, together with six other party members, there was some internal debate over which political group to join.

Henkel ruled out working together with the UK Independence Party, which wants the UK to leave the EU altogether. The seven AfD MEPs became members of the more mildly eurosceptic centre-right ECR group, which features mainly members of the British and Polish conservative parties.

Another divisive issue for AfD is how to deal with Germany's anti-immigrant Pegida movement. The far-right protest movement which convenes every Monday evening in Dresden posed a dilemma for the party.

One of AfD's founders, Alexander Gauland, has called the party “natural allies of this movement”.

Henkel on the other hand has asked AfD members not to join the protests, because there might be “xenophobic or even racist connotations”.

Henkel's resignation statement - he will remain a party member - said he stepped down due to a scandal involving AfD member Marcus Pretzell.

Pretzell, leader of the party's regional branch in the state North-Rine Westphalia, has come under fire for allegedly giving false statements and for financial irregularities.

On Tuesday, the national party leadership gave him a “warning”, but, according to Henkel, they should have been much more firm with Pretzell, a fellow MEP.

“Had a politician from another party misled the public with false statements, as is the case here, we would have demanded the immediate withdrawal of this politician. And he would have long since resigned,” noted Henkel.

Next month, the German state of Bremen will have elections, which will show if the internal struggles have any effect on voters' behaviour. In February, the party did well at elections in Hamburg.

The party is represented in four of Germany's sixteen state parliaments and is polling around 5 percent.

Magazine

The Spitzen process - a coup that was never accepted

It is a divisive 'Brussels bubble' debate: whether to give the European Parliament more of a say on who becomes the next European Commission president. But the issue goes right to the heart of European integration.

Opinion

Russia and money laundering in Europe

After Danske Bank, both the US and the EU need to abandon the principle in bank regulation that it is all right to be a crook as long as you are big.

News in Brief

  1. EU leaders at summit demand more effort on disinformation
  2. Report: Corbyn to meet May on Monday for Brexit talks
  3. Petition against Brexit attracts 2.4m signatures
  4. Study: Brexit to cost EU citizens up to €40bn annually
  5. NGOs demand France halt Saudi arm sales
  6. Report: Germany against EU net-zero emissions target
  7. Former top EU official takes job at law firm
  8. Draft text of EU summit has Brexit extension until 22 May

Magazine

The Spitzen process - a coup that was never accepted

It is a divisive 'Brussels bubble' debate: whether to give the European Parliament more of a say on who becomes the next European Commission president. But the issue goes right to the heart of European integration.

Magazine

All about the European Parliament elections 2019

EUobserver's new magazine is meant to help readers prepare for the European Parliament elections, no matter their level of knowledge. You can download and read the entire magazine now.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Latest News

  1. The Spitzen process - a coup that was never accepted
  2. Russia and money laundering in Europe
  3. Italy takes China's new Silk Road to the heart of Europe
  4. What EU leaders agreed on climate - and what they mean
  5. Copyright and (another) new Brexit vote This WEEK
  6. EU avoids Brexit crash, sets new date for 12 April
  7. Campaigning commissioners blur the lines
  8. Slovakia puts squeeze on free press ahead of election

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us