Wednesday

17th Jul 2019

Opinion

The real significance of Germany's eurosceptic party

  • The new party held its founding congress in Berlin on 14 April (Photo: Valentina Pop)

Ever since Alternative für Deutschland had their coming-out party in April, commentators have struggled to say something interesting about this new anti-Euro party.

Will they disrupt the continuation of the Black-Yellow coalition in September? Do they herald a mass movement against the common currency? Well, with a predicted share of the vote of just 2-3%, it seems unlikely.

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

It is hard to escape the conclusion that AfD is rather unimportant. A party of 'frustrated professors’, it struggles to shine in political debates, is squashed by the German Volksparteien and can expect little financial support from German business for its anti-Euro agenda.

AfD's emergence is simply proof of something we all knew anyway – that Germans have a eurosceptic streak just like everyone else in the EU. AfD is nothing more than a sign of the country's normalisation.

Well not so fast, because the emergence of AfD may be evidence of an interesting development in the German political system. Just at a time when almost every other member state is relying upon the judiciary to withstand the pressures of EU integration, Germans are banking more and more on their Parliament: the emergence of AfD marks a significant shift beyond Germany's familiar judicial euroscepticism.

Until recently, the German Constitutional Court was the first port of call for eurosceptics. Yet, the Hankels and the Schachtschneiders who could always be relied upon to bring a case are now amongst the most prominent supporters of AfD. It is a reflection of the Federal Court’s own long efforts to boost the Bundestag’s responsibility for EU scrutiny, efforts made in the face of resistance from within the parliament itself.

In private, many deputies have reacted badly to the successive rulings giving the Bundestag greater powers over EU affairs: not only does scrutiny of eurozone decisions demand a focus on issues which don’t win elections. It requires some spine.

Changing Europe's political landscape?

Angela Merkel’s EU policy has until now been meekly supported by a de facto Grand Coalition in the Bundestag. The emergence of a more political brand of scepticism suggests that German MPs may now make use of their powers. This promises a change in Europe's political landscape.

Re-imagine if you will the wait for the Bundestag to ratify the European Stability Mechanism or European Financial Stability Facility as a genuinely nerve-racking experience. And imagine also a Bundestag capable of asserting its views on EU affairs Europe-wide, because that is now what will happen.

The EU’s recent forays into national economic, budgetary and defence policy has led to greater cooperation between the EU's national parliaments. But whilst almost every other parliament in the EU has been weakened by the euro-crisis, the Bundestag has been strengthened. Long pressured to boost its research and scrutiny capacity by the Federal Constitutional Court, today it is very much primus inter pares.

It is all part of the reorganisation of power in Europe, in which the national level is resurfacing and bringing out old imbalances between member states. And in this context, AfD marks a further notable shift. Beyond the headline demand for the dissolution of the Euro, AfD is promoting another previously unpalatable idea - the break-up of the Franco-German tandem.

Back in 1994, the Schäuble-Lamers paper called for multi-speed integration led by a Franco-German core and the Benelux states. It caused outrage in southern Europe, not least Italy, the only founding EU state excluded. AfD has taken another step down this path, by alluding to the exclusion of France itself from the core.

This matters. Strains on the Franco-German tandem are already making themselves felt. In the past, the relationship was sufficiently strong to absorb North-South tensions in the EU. It was also resilient enough to allow the UK to make mischief and play Paris and Berlin off against the other. That is no longer the case.

Today, the South of the EU is peeling off in the face of German interference and French weakness. Germany’s traditional tolerance for British mischief is being strained, leaving Britain’s former Central European partners with some uncomfortable choices. And the buffer zone that is Benelux is splitting into Francophone and Germanic spheres, the Dutch foreign minister last week declaring his love of all things German.

Ryszarda Formuszewicz and Roderick Parkes are analysts at the Polish Institute of International Affairs (PISM).

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

Anti-euro party officially launched in Germany

A new party calling for the dissolution of the eurozone held its founding congress in Berlin on Sunday, hoping to capitalise on disillusioned voters in the September elections.

Weber: Six proposals in wake of Spitzenkandidat process

I will not lament the decision-making process that resulted in a package deal on the new leadership in Europe. I respect this result, which was in accordance with the treaties and therefore not undemocratic, albeit unsatisfactory.

Time to pay attention to Belarus

Belarus may be hosting the European Games, but Vladimir Putin is not playing games when it comes to Belarus' independence. The West needs to get serious as well.

Libyan lawyers: EU is complicit in torture

While an end to detention is necessary, particularly for those intercepted at sea and returned to centres, this alone will not make Libya a safe country. No one should be returned to Libya until the rule of law is restored.

My vision for the upcoming Ukraine-EU summit

Former Ukraine president Petro Poroshenko writes on the prospects for Monday's EU-Ukraine summit - the first under his successor Volodymyr Zelenskiy, and against a backdrop of ongoing Russian aggression

Six takeaways on digital disinformation at EU elections

For example, Germany's primetime TV news reported that 47 percent of political social media discussions were related to the extreme-right AfD party, when in fact this was the case only for Twitter - used by only four percent of Germans.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  5. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  7. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  8. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  9. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  10. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North

Latest News

  1. Poland 'optimistic' despite new EU law checks
  2. What did we learn from the von der Leyen vote?
  3. Is Golden Dawn's MEP head of a criminal organisation?
  4. Finland rejects call to end sponsorship of EU presidency
  5. MH17 five years on: when will Russia be punished?
  6. EU commission has first-ever woman president
  7. Son: Malta trial for murdered journalist 'not enough'
  8. Von der Leyen's final appeal to secure top EU post

Stakeholders' Highlights

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

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us