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The rise of Germany’s ‘euro-skeptics’

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The IMF recently claimed that there’s a 40 percent chance of a triple dip recession in the eurozone, and a 30 percent chance of deflation. This grim picture has not been improved by developments in the currency bloc’s biggest economy – Germany.

There’s a political tornado brewing in that country that could blow the euro off course and reignite the debt crisis. Germany’s newest political party – Alternative for Deutschland (AfD) – which wants to pull out of the single currency – is on the rise.

“I think we are becoming a real force in German politics, ” says party worker Friedrich Hilse. “ We have broken through into the European parliament, we have won seats in three regional assemblies, and we’re likely to get into the Bundestag (the German parliament) at the next election.”

But the party has the support of only 7  percent of the electorate. How much of a threat to the euro does the AfD really pose?

“The rise of the AfD is unusual because it seems to break the German consensus,” says Pavel Swidlicki, an analyst with the Open Europe think tank in London. “This is the consensus across all political parties  that European integration is the best way forward.”

That does not mean Germany is anywhere close to ditching the euro. Far from it: The country would suffer huge political as well as financial damage if it pulled the plug on monetary union.

But the rise of a euro-skeptic party in the eurozone’s most powerful economy could weaken the single currency and trigger another wave of market unrest. The German government may now be less willing to bailout heavily-indebted member states like Greece or Italy.

“Berlin could dig in its heels much more to try to appeal to those voters that it lost to its new party… and that of course would make the coordination of eurozone-wide policies even harder than it is anyway,” says Dr. Moritz Kraemer of the Standard and Poor’s credit rating agency in Frankfurt . Kraemer claims that the German government – goaded by the AfD – is likely to be even more critical of any special measures by the European Central Bank to stave off deflation. This could mean that if the ECB embarks on U.S. Fed- style money printing, its effectiveness would be undermined.

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