Daily Briefing Dexit not now, but later: The AfD “moderates” its program

Look who’s calling the EU “latently totalitarian”; a stabbing in Gdansk; Richard Grenell, Trump’s German bully. Our Daily Briefing for January 14, 2019.
Quelle: dpa
Gauland: "Latently totalitarian"

The only thing clear about tomorrow’s vote in the House of Commons is that Theresa May’s chance of getting her Brexit “deal” with Brussels approved is that of a snowball in hell. Beyond that, there will be many options — all of them bad — and probably many more months of tragicomedy. So much for Brexit. But what about Dexit?

You wouldn’t think it’s a big topic. (West) Germany’s entire postwar history is based on an embrace of European integration, and the German population, whatever frustrations it may feel about Brussels, remains firmly behind the European project. Except for the Alternative for Germany (AfD) on the populist right. In national polls, it has been stuck at around 14 percent. But it is still the largest opposition party in the Bundestag. So it’s worth watching. What, then, did the AfD decide about Europe at its party conference in Saxony yesterday?

Andreas has been editor-in-chief of Handelsblatt Today (formerly Handelsblatt Global) since March 2017. His articles can be found here. Quelle: Marko Priske for Handelsblatt
Andreas Kluth

Andreas has been editor-in-chief of Handelsblatt Today (formerly Handelsblatt Global) since March 2017. His articles can be found here.

First, to get rid of the European Parliament, because it is “undemocratic”. That’s right. The only directly elected institution in the European Union is undemocratic and must be dissolved, even as the AfD tries to get as many seats as possible in that chamber come May.

Second, to push for Dexit. Not immediate and uncategorical Dexit, as the hardliners wanted, but Dexit at some point, if the EU does not immediately adopt the radical reforms the AfD demands. This bit of megalomania was actually being sold as... a compromise for moderation! The party leaders, including Alexander Gauland (pictured), had talked the hardliners down, you see. In his speech advertising this moderation, Mr. Gauland called the EU a “corrupt, ballooning, undemocratic, uncontrolled, and latently totalitarian apparatus.”

Latently totalitarian? That’s the pot calling the kettle black. Years ago, I wrote off UKIP and other populists in Europe and America as wingnuts. That was a mistake. Let’s keep paying attention to this.

Quelle: Imago
Gdansk Mayor Pawel Adamowicz
(Source: Imago)

Last week, I was still saying “Je suis AfD”, after a brutal attack on a Bremen street against one of its politicians. That’s because some things take precedence over everything else, and condemnation of political violence, or any violence, is one of them. That’s why I’m sad to hear the latest news from not-so-distant Gdansk, Poland — formerly Danzig.

Yesterday its mayor, Paweł Adamowicz, was stabbed in the heart, and almost to death. He immediately went into surgery, and after a five-hour operation, seems likely to survive. Adamowicz is a left-leaning politician and was on the stage of — oh, the irony — The Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity when the attacker went after him.

As I said last week: Neither Germany nor Europe is “Weimar”. Yet. Let’s make sure it stays that way.

Quelle: Picture Alliance
(Source: Picture Alliance)

Quick update on the man who is arguably America’s most undiplomatic diplomat: Richard Grenell, US ambassador to Germany (pictured in host-country ambiance). He wants Germany to pull out of building a gas pipeline, called Nord Stream 2, under the Baltic Sea between Russia and Germany. Germany, in fact, should pull out, as I’ve argued many times here.

But oy vey, how Grenell is going about his lobbying! He has now written bullying letters to German companies involved in the pipeline in some way. BASF and Uniper are among them. He is accusing them of undermining the security of Ukraine and of Europe. And he is threatening US sanctions against them.

As it happens, the debate in German policy circles has already been swinging against Nord Stream 2. With letters such as these, Grenell is obstructing that trend, because now everybody in Berlin will unite in outrage against him. Threatening companies in your host country only makes sense if you’re an actor playing to an audience of one, and that one is named Donald Trump. Maybe that explains it.

If you want to receive the Daily Briefing in your inbox or subscribe to our other newsletters, please click here.