In devotedly pro-European Germany, it is a radical message. In a packed beer hall meeting on the outskirts of Stuttgart, Roland Klaus tells scores of middle-aged, middle-class Germans what they want to hear. In short – no more bailouts. “We’ve got the possibility to stop this madness,” the former financial TV journalist intones. “Germany pays for no more rescue packages.” In an election in which the major parties essentially support Chancellor Angela Merkel’s approach to the euro crisis, and two-thirds of Germans back her euro rescue plans, it is a surprise to find that thousands of Germans want to leave the single currency. The conventional argument is that Germany has come out of the euro crisis better than its partners, and that Merkel has protected German national interests by foisting austerity on the European south. But not everyone sees it that way. And a new party, the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), is seeking to tap into that resentment to get seats in parliament in next Sunday’s election.
The alternative to further bailouts, says the party, would be to refuse aid to faltering economies, encouraging them to leave the eurozone under their own steam. This would pave the way for a two-speed Europe with parallel currencies – one for the struggling south and one for the productive north.
The plan appeals to German voters like those in Baden-Württemberg, home to the country’s automobile industry and global headquarters of luxury carmakers Daimler and Porsche. Many here say the euro was always doomed because of the cultural gulf between the “lazy” south and the “industrious” north.
And if a smaller, streamlined eurozone failed to materialise, the party has dared to suggest Germany would be better off out of it. “We’d say it clear. It can’t be a taboo any more that it’s an option for Germany to return to the Deutschmark,” the AfD’s Klaus tells his supporters to rapturous applause.