‘German-dominated EU undemocratic’ – Alternative for Germany founder
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
RT:Can you see Germany going back to the
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
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
RT:Germany is already an economic leader in Europe.
Why shouldn’t it take a stronger leadership role in Europe as a
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
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