Monday, April 15, 2013

Does Germany now really have an alternative to the standard euro bollocks? Who knows? But a fanfare please for . . .

Well, the die has been cast and it now only remains to be seen whether the much-trailed Alternative für Deutschland will become a political force to be reckoned with or just another nine-day wonder.
 The party is demanding – the Germans tend to ‘demand (‘Wir fordern…’) where we

 rather more diffident Brits might ‘suggest a change in policy’ - that Germany withdraws from the euro and re-introduces the D Mark.
There are related demands but they are all more or less centred on the euro, growing dissatisfaction with handling of the euro crisis and a related unease with the EU. The new party’s website list number of supporters – an impressive list if you are impressed by academic qualifications and academia generally – but they do seem to be almost all men. I counted only three women. Here is a potted list if the party’s demands taken from its website with my translation:

Wir fordern eine geordnete Auflösung des Euro-Währungsgebietes. Deutschland braucht den Euro nicht. Anderen Ländern schadet der Euro. (We demand an ordered dissolution of the eurozone. Germany doesn’t need the euro and it is damaging other countries.)

Wir fordern die Wiedereinführung nationaler Währungen oder die Schaffung kleinerer und stabilerer Währungsverbünde. Die Wiedereinführung der DM darf kein Tabu sein. (We demand the reintroduction of national currencies or the creation of smaller, more stable currency unions. The reintroduction of the D Mark cannot be a taboo subject.)

Wir fordern eine Änderung der Europäischen Verträge, um jedem Staat ein Ausscheiden aus dem Euro zu ermöglichen. Jedes Volk muss demokratisch über seine Währung entscheiden dürfen. (We demand the European treaties are amended to make it possible for every member state to leave the euro. Every nation must be able to make a democratic decision on what its currency should be.)

Wir fordern dass Deutschland dieses Austrittsrecht aus dem Euro erzwingt, indem es weitere Hilfskredite des ESM mit seinem Veto blockiert. (We demand that Germany forces the introduction of the right to leave the euro by blocking further contributions to the European Stability Mechanism.)

Wir fordern daß die Kosten der sogenannten Rettungspolitik nicht vom Steuerzahler getragen werden. Banken, Hedge-Fonds und private Großanleger sind die Nutznießer dieser Politik. Sie müssen zuerst dafür geradestehen. (We demand that the costs of the so-called bailouts are not carried by the taxpayer. Banks, hedge funds and big investors are the beneficiaries and they should be first in line to carry the costs.)

When I last mentioned AfD, I pointed out that in my view it is essentially a rather different organisation to Britain’s own UKIP, but it does pose the same threat to the established parties many of whose traditional supporters might be disenchanted with Germany’s self-imposed role of trying to sort out the euro crisis. And that might well mean protest votes come September when the countries goes to the polls. Certainly, all three parties (who are all staunchly behind Angela Merkel’s policies on solving the euro crisis, one of AfD’s major gripes – what representation do those who don’t agree with Merkel have in parliament? they ask pertinently) do not seem to be underestimating the potential threat posed by Afd.

Patrick Döring the general secretary of Germany’s third party, the FDP, is quoted as saying: ‘I even find it disturbing that a body can be formed which is able to give the impression that Germany could change its currency without damaging the savings and wealth of her citizens just like that. It’s a little more complex.’ One of the CDU’s head honchos in Hesse, Christean Wagner, has said: ‘Leaving the euro, which the AfD is demanding, would be a leap back into the previous millennium. To make leaving the euro the central tenet of your manifesto demonstrates: these are yesterday’s people.’

Döring makes a reasonably good point, but Wagner sounds a little desperate. Even weaker is this from the SDP’s president of Lower Saxony, Stephan Weil, who notes that he doesn’t believe the AfD’s stance is ‘very promisng’ and that ‘most people’ knew ‘what Europe and the European Union offered them’.

Where others have warned that the new party will be a refuge for dissidents from both the extreme Right and extreme Left, but AfD seems to be aware of this danger and has insisted that former members of the NDP, the Nationaldemokratishe Partei Deutschlands who would call themselves national socialists if it were not a criminal offence in Germany, will not be allowed to join. To which I can only say: good luck. That pledge is more PR than anything else as rooting out former (or even current) Nazi sympathisers would be a full-time job.

As, of course, would be rooting out left extremists if they thought joining up would in some way prove useful to the cause. The AfD has announced it will put up candidates for September’s election so we can expect a great many dirty tricks as the other three play it safe and resort to skulduggery to neutralise them,  whether or not they pose a real threat. I predict that at least two of the AfD’s candidates will step down because their opponents have revealed tax irregularities in their affairs; one will have his past as a rent boy exposed, will brazen it out, but will eventually give in to party pressure to throw in the towel; one will defect to another party; and one will be exposed by the Spiegel as a BND plant. Or was he? Yes, it will be that kind of murky shenanigans: however much I love them, rather like their national football side, the Germans turn dirty remarkably quickly when the going gets rough.

Another, to my mind relevant, criticism of the Afd – and one which can also be levelled at UKIP – is that its other policies, on transports, say, or health, education, welfare and the rest, don’t seem just ill-defined but non-existent. Getting Germany out of the euro seems to be the alpha and omega of its existence, and in that sense it and UKIP are pressure groups rather than political parties.

As you all know only to well, I am just another internet loudmouth and have absolutely no special knowledge on these matters. Bear that in mind when I say that however much I might applaud the sentiments of AfD, I am sadly inclined to predict that by this time next year it will be a minor footnote in history. But the very existence of the party might lead all three of Germany’s parties to rethink their policies a little if in opinion polls leading up to September’s vote AfD gives a reasonable account of itself. And if that does lead them to treat the whole euro mess with a little more thought and humanity, at least the AfD will have achieved something.

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