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January 04, 2019

Will the AfD become the Dexit party?

What are the AfD's strategic options now that net immigration is no longer the big political issue in Germany? Wolfgang Kubiki, a leading German liberal, made the confident prediction that the AfD has peaked for that reason. We believe this forecast is wrong for two reasons. First, the immigrants are still there. They are visible in every part of the country, and the problems have not been solved. Secondly, we believe that Kubiki's forecast takes too complacent a view on the AfD’s strategic options after the CDU leadership elections, which left a wide gap open on the political right. 

As Die Welt reports, the party’s draft manifesto for this year’s European election foresees a German exit from the EU - Dexit - in 2024, to coincide with the end of the legislative term of the newly elected European Parliament. The AfD wants to make Dexit conditional on whether the EU can change itself during that period in the way the AfD wants - essentially by turning itself into a club of nation states. 

This won’t happen, of course. There is no support for a Dexit in the country at large, but in the German political marketplace there is clearly room for a Dexit party. This is especially so after the recent leadership elections in the CDU, which firmly rooted the party in the political centre. The Dexit view has strong support among AfD members, but not everybody favours the most radical option of a complete and unilateral withdrawal. 

The AfD will discuss its election strategy at a party conference in Saxony next week.

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January 04, 2019

Romania's corruption problem in the spotlight of its EU presidency

The fight against the fight against corruption in Romania has rightly moved into the public spotlight as the country is now taking over the rotating EU presidency. With hindsight, there was always more than a whiff of magical thinking in the expectation that countries with an ancient history of endemic corruption, and little or no experience of reasonably clean and stable parliamentary politics, would mutate into irreproachable democracies by the time they joined the EU a mere twelve years ago. Politicians and officials in charge on the EU side knew perfectly well that the battle for sufficiently clean politics in the EU’s new member states would be a struggle for decades to come. But in the balance of arguments for or against postponing enlargement, a decision was made to highlight the progress that had been achieved rather than the obstacles still to overcome.

And let us not forget, as all too many distinguished analysts, commentators and editorialists seem to do, that the EU has had to face the problem of a populist leader with weird behavioural patterns and highly corrupt business practices taking over the EU presidency well before its eastern enlargement. When Silvio Berlusconi became Council president for six months in 2003, he tried to limit the freedom of European journalists to raise issues and questions. Earlier, as Italian prime minister in 1994 and 1995, he failed to make good on his solemn undertaking to divest himself of his media holdings so as not to imperil press freedom in Italy. Populism is not a typically eastern European problem: there has always been plenty of it in the politics of the old pre-enlargement EU.

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