Tuesday 24 April 2018

Now Germany's anti-immigration party has a new target: the European Central Bank

Cyclists pass an Alternative for Germany (AfD) campaign poster in Magdeburg, Saxony-Anhalt state, Germany
Cyclists pass an Alternative for Germany (AfD) campaign poster in Magdeburg, Saxony-Anhalt state, Germany

Patrick Donahue

Germany's surging anti-immigration party isn't just railing against asylum seekers. It's also gunning for the European Central Bank, an alleged "master plan" to eliminate cash and negative deposit rates that it says amount to financial "repression."

To the Alternative for Germany party, a proposal by the German Finance Ministry to limit cash transactions to €5,000 and ECB ideas to phase out the €500 note are more than measures aimed at curtailing criminals. They're a first step in banning paper money and robbing helpless account holders of privacy, according to Joerg Meuthen, the party's co-chairman.

"Everything people spend will be completely under surveillance by the state," Meuthen, a professor of economics at the University of Public Administration in Kehl, said.

Fresh from sweeping into three German state assemblies in March, the party known most recently for opposing Chancellor Angela Merkel's open-border refugee policy and warning against Islamic influence is marshalling a broader list of grievances. The draft party platform includes a ban on minarets, calls for partnership with Russia and rejects international efforts to combat global warming as based on "faulty computer models".

Hostility toward the euro and the ECB's stimulus measures are among the most potent complaints by the AfD, as the party is known in Germany.

To Alice Weidel, who sits on the party's executive board, the ECB's negative deposit rate is a way to prop up living standards in highly-indebted euro countries at the expense of savers in creditor states such as Germany.

These measures are financial repression," Weidel, an economist, said. "The ECB has become a huge redistribution machine." The Frankfurt-based central bank should eventually be abolished, "but that will happen anyway in the end", she said, because the 19-country euro area is doomed to fail.

ECB President Mario Draghi said last week he was "doing everything to restore inflation to the right level."

AfD's stance on the euro has gained the attention of the ruling parties, and German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeublehas suggested ECB President Mario Draghi's policy was abetting the AfD's rise.

The three-year-old party is riding a wave of frustration that's spread beyond the biggest influx of refugees since World War II.

Voter support for the AfD declined one percentage point to 10pc in a new poll, while other national surveys suggest the party might win 14pc if elections were held now. Merkel's Christian Democratic bloc polled 33pc and her Social Democratic coalition partner 22pc.

The AfD's draft platform calls for banning mosque minarets and calls to prayer in Germany, saying the growing number of Muslims in Germany is "a great challenge for our state." That stance on Islam has prompted accusations of racism and xenophobia from across Germany's mainstream political spectrum.

Aiman Mazyek, chairman of Germany's Central Council of Muslims, compared the position to "Hitler's Germany".

It also marks a shift away from the original anti-euro, anti-bailout focus when AfD was founded in 2013 by Bernd Lucke, an economics professor who was ousted as party head last year.

New co-leader Frauke Petry, an East German-born chemist, has made overtures to anti-Islamic protest groups such as Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West, or Pegida, which began drawing crowds in 2014.

"The AfD is pushing the right buttons" even when a measure such as eliminating cash clearly "isn't on the table," Brzeski said. "This is how you win votes." (Bloomberg)

Irish Independent

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