Michael Mertes, Helmut Kohl's European policy strategist, warns Euro-sceptics that the German electorate will not revolt against monetary unionby Michael Mertes / May 20, 1996 / Leave a comment
The great thing about voters is that they do what they like. In early 1994, a British colleague tried to convince me that the Bund Freier B?rger, a German anti-Maastricht party, would score 10 per cent in the European elections. It had just been founded by Manfred Brunner, a former member of the Free Democrats and chef de cabinet of EU commissioner Martin Bangemann. Its ideology hovered somewhere between economic liberalism and teutonic jingoism; its programme is a crusade against Emu.
My British friend’s argument had its logic: some two thirds of the German electorate dislike Emu and love their Deutschmark. But mainstream parties in Germany support Emu. Hence, there must be room for an anti-Emu party. This is the logic which no doubt seduced Brunner to set up his one-issue party.
Brunner’s party ended up with 1.1 per cent. Why? The only conclusion we can draw is that German voters distrust the single-issue/one-man show. This is hardly news. We all like a safe bet. Helmut Kohl knows it, and so did Konrad Adenauer. His 1957 campaign slogan “Keine Experimente!” has been the most successful ever in German democracy. But isn’t Emu a colossal experiment? To prevent it, all you need is a mainstream party to take up the anti-Emu issue.
Which party could that be? Obviously not Kohl’s Christian Democrats (CDU); as Michael Maclay put it in Prospect (March 1996), they are the true believers in Euro-federalism. The Free Democrats (FDP) will not desert to the anti-Emu camp either; otherwise why would Brunner have left them? What about the Greens, the new members of the mainstream club? Their “small is beautiful” faith should lead them to oppose new leviathans such as the European central bank in capitalist Frankfurt; but, alas, most of them have come to believe that Europe stands for a “post-national” open-mindedness.
Most German Social Democrats (SPD) are true believers, too. They are certainly not natural born killers of Emu. Some SPD leaders thought it might be a good idea to woo voters who want to hang on to the Deutschmark. Let’s bash Emu and win in 1998. This strategy has just been tested in the Baden-W?rttemberg state election. “Kohl stands alone as Germans shun Emu. Chancellor’s party loses nerve on monetary union,” a British newspaper told its readers, with obvious relish. It continued: “Baden-W?rttemberg, Germany’s richest state, is special because the SPD opposition has decided…