My name is Stephanie. I am 24 years old and study European Studies in Frankfurt/Oder.
A small town in Western Germany. 30 000 inhabitants. A town like many others in this country. Shortly before Easter, holiday season: nothing is disturbing the quiet idyll of this small town. Along the roads politicians on posters send Happy Easter greetings. Even the election campaign is quiet and reluctant. Indeed, in four weeks, the European elections will take place. But the politicians wishing Happy Easter are not running for the European Parliament. On 25 May, local elections are on the agenda. Not only here in North Rhine Westphalia, but in nine other federal states as well. And the priorities are obvious: who will be the next mayor is more important than who will be a future Member of the European Parliament. More and more campaign posters for the local elections are emerging all over town. Only one party is promoting the European elections: the AfD (Alternative für Deutschland/”Alternative for Germany”) with slogans campaigning for direct democracy and for restrictions regarding immigration and the free movement of people. The main slogan in its election campaign is “Mut zu Deutschland” (Courage to stand up for Germany), the “EU” in “DEUTSCHLAND” encircled by stars, as they can be seen on the European flag. The AfD describes itself as Eurosceptic, but not anti-European and promotes a European Union of sovereign Member States and a stronger position for Germany in the EU.
It is a worrying sign, that the AfD, as a Eurosceptic party, is the first and till now only party present in the European election campaign here in this small town. And I suppose this is not the only place in Germany where politicians and parties neglect the coming European elections in favour of local election campaigns.
Of course, in Berlin, the political capital, the situation is different. Social Democrats, Greens, the Left and the Pirates focus on the European idea: a Europe for the people and not one of finance, opportunities instead of unemployment, a Europe without borders. The Conservatives emphasise the ‘harder‘ topics: economy and labour, sound finances, chances and security. And, obviously, the AfD is present here as well with their already mentioned slogans.
In light of a Eurosceptic party that due to latest surveys may score 6% of the votes from a standing start, the other parties should not stick to business as usual. They should express a strong commitment to the European Union and the achievements of European integration. Do not yield the political stage to the AfD! This time, it has to be different.