‘German-dominated EU undemocratic’ – Alternative for Germany founder

No party exists in Germany to give voice to eurosceptics despite severe deficiencies in the eurozone which have been laid bare by the ongoing economic crisis, Alternative for Germany party founder Bernd Lucke argues.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has grown accustomed to battling a splintered leftwing which has left the ruling Christian Democratic Union of Germany (CDU) and its sister party, the Christian Social Union of Bavaria (CSU) firmly in power.

Although she has virtually remained silent regarding the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, its ranks swelled beyond 10,000 within seven weeks of its creation earlier this year.

With a stance that is anti-euro but not anti-European Union, Lucke argues how both scaling back the eurozone and Germany’s dominance throughout the EU would be beneficial for Europe as a whole.

RT:Why does Germany need an alternative?

Bernd Lucke: Because there is no party in our parliament which is eurosceptic. All parties defend the euro as the common currency of the Eurozone despite the fact that the euro has clearly big defects, that it actually puts southern Europe into severe recession, that it drives up the unemployment rates and the youth unemployment rates in southern Europe, and that it prevents the southern European countries from competing with central European economies. For all these facts, it is necessary to have another party in Germany which is asking for the gradual dissolution of the euro.

RT:Well, you’ve put forward the problems you see with the euro, what’s the solution?

BL: What we propose is that the southern European states, and by these I mean Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Spain, and Portugal leave the Eurozone within the next four or five years. We think of something like a gradual exit from the Eurozone, so we propose the time in which both the euro and the national currency are used in these countries, so the effects from withdrawing from the euro are as soft as possible for these countries’ economies which are already heavily under stress. And then, after four or five years, there is the new task of re-shaping what remains of the Eurozone, and then we obviously have to talk of no-bail-out clause. I’m fine with living with a smaller Eurozone if it is the case that bail-outs are strictly forbidden in the new system. But this is not the situation currently. And if we stay with the possibility of bail-outs, then I would propose a return to the national currencies.

RT:Can you see Germany going back to the deutschmark?

BL: Yes, in the long run I can see that.

RT:But wouldn’t this have a knock-on effect, raising the price on German exports?

BL: Well, it would mean that Germany is in charge of its own currency again, that it doesn’t have hundreds of billions of euro to save banks which have granted credit to the southern European countries. It would mean that German products become more expensive for importers in other countries. Then, on the other hand, German imports become less expensive, making it easier for the German firms to buy the intermediate goods from other countries. So there are lots of effects which are connected to introducing a new currency.

RT:But wouldn’t this have a knock-on effect making German exports far more expensive?

BL: Well, we are making the products, the outputs more expensive, but the way we would like to do this would also be gradual, that there is a sort of pressure on the German exchange rate like we had it prior to the introduction of the euro. The German has always been very capable of living with this kind of appreciation pressure. It would also, as I have emphasized, mean that our imports become cheaper which is very important for our economy, for our producers, that they can buy the intermediate goods at lower prices. But most importantly, it would mean that other countries in the Eurozone would experience a boom in their economy, because they will have a currency which allows them to be competitive again. You have to bear in mind that the German exports to the southern European countries have declined by 25 per cent over the last years, simply due to the fact that there is severe recession in southern European countries.

RT:Well, it’s clear that the euro is a major issue for your party, but what else is in the manifesto?

BL: Well, there are a few other things we put forward, like, for instance, energy prices. Energy prices are very high currently due to the fact that the consumers do not only pay for electricity that they use, but are also charged on energy prices to pay out subsidies on what people call environmental, or acceptable, technologies of producing energy. So this makes our energy prices currently very high, and we think this is an unfair and unbalanced way. We think it would be much better to subsidize new technologies, out of total tax revenue than out of energy prices. So this is, for instance, one of the issues that we mention in our program, but also we are concerned about our pensions’ system. We have big problems due to the fact that our demographic structure is not healthy, we don’t have enough children in German society, so pay as you go, pensions’ system is not sustainably financed, so that’s why the German government encouraged private savings, which pay for the pensions later. But now ….. are very low, and actually the inflation rate is higher than short-term interest rates, so the savings are actually eaten up by inflation. Therefore, the second branch of our pension system is also jeopardized.

RT:So this is your first general election. Who are you looking to steal the votes from?

BL: From just everybody. We think that we pick up issues which are of concern for all German citizens, for all German tax payers. We are absolutely un-ideological on these issues, we just want healthy and sound euro-policy, we want to start the rescue of the payments and transfers to the southern European countries. So this is a goal that is shared by a wide variety of political opinions. We take votes from the more right-wing parties like the CDU and the FDP in the same way as we take votes from the social democrats, or the greens, or the leftist parties.

RT:The majority of your party are white, middle-aged, middle-class men. How do you hope to attract voters from across Germany?

BL: There are not so many non-white men in Germany, so it’s not a surprise. I mean, we’re not in America here. I mean that we are very strongly representative of the German society as a whole, but it is true that we have more male members than female members, which is perhaps an effect of the fact that men often take stronger interest in economic issues than women do.

RT:Your party has faced allegations of nationalism and comparisons with other political groups like the United Kingdom Independence Party. How do you address those claims?

BL: This comparison is absolutely uncalled for. First of all, we have no ties at all to the UKIP party, and secondly, we are not anti-european as the UKIP party is. Quite the contrary, we are in favor of the European interrelation. We have some criticism of the present state of the European Union, but in general we are in favor of the European Union. We are absolutely not a nationalist party.

RT:Should you be elected, where would your party take Germany in the future?

BL: We would head for the European Union which is based much more on mutual respect and understanding than the current European Union, which is dominated by Germany trying to impose German views on other countries, which I think is inappropriate and undemocratic.

RT:Germany is already an economic leader in Europe. Why shouldn’t it take a stronger leadership role in Europe as a whole?

BL: I’m not against political leadership, and actually I think that political leadership needs to be voted for, and I don’t really see that vote in the European Union, and I also think that all the people in the European Union should have the possibility to decide on the economic benefits, its welfare, and its pursuit of happiness. And if the pursuit of happiness is something which goes in line with, perhaps, working a little less, and enjoying some more leisure, then I think that’s fine with me.

RT:And do you see the pursuit of happiness paid for with deutschmarks, not the euro?

BL:  In the first place, I see that we are paying with euro for the rescue operations on banks, big financial institutes, because all those transfers don’t benefit the Greek or the Portuguese population. They are actually in the severe economic crisis. But rather all this money is just channeled to the banks who have had bad risk management and who are now being rescued by German taxpayers. And that’s something that I’m critical of, regardless of whether this is paid in euro or in German mark.