Merkel’s ailing coalition partner FDP seeks electoral revival as defender of euro

FDP warns France against creating ‘debt EU’

German chancellor Angela Merkel's Free Democrat (FDP) coalition allies, battling the threat of electoral extinction, have presented themselves as defenders of the euro against threats inside and outside Germany.

Party leaders warned France and other euro partners it would not allow them endanger the single currency by undermining austerity conditions imposed in exchange for crisis-era loans.

After a difficult four years in office, and with support of just 4 per cent in polls, FDP leader Philipp Rösler has presented his party as the final bulwark against higher inflation, a “debt union” and an unstable euro.

"We view attempts to impose political influence on the independence of the European Central Bank as lethal," said Mr Rösler. "That's a threat to stable money. That is why we as Free Democrats say: 'Hands off our ECB'."


Meanwhile, Rainer Brüderle, elected yesterday to fight the FDP’s election campaign, took issue with French borrowing hovering above levels laid down in the euro zone fiscal pact.

“We must be careful, because those who would break the fiscal pact are out and about once more,” he said.

In spirited speeches to the party's conference, the two FDP leaders accused Dr Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) of drifting to the political left.

"Without the FDP of today we would have a debt union in Europe and not a fiscal pact," said Mr Brüderle.

Domestic policies
On the domestic front, too, the FDP hopes to boost its profile by pushing policies it knows will cause tension with the CDU, from the debate over a statutory minimum wage to FDP support for tax breaks for gay couples.

A 67-year-old political veteran, Mr Brüderle was elected head of the party’s election campaign yesterday to serve alongside the the 40 year-old Mr Rösler. A recent regional election success indicates the party has halted a four-year downward spiral in Berlin. Failure to push through tax-cut promises saw support drop from nearly 15 per cent on election night 2009 to near-zero in recent polls. Political analysts are watching to see how far the FDP will push rhetoric critical of the euro to revive its support.

A poll published yesterday suggested one in four German voters could envisage supporting one of two new euro-critical parties vying for support in the September election. Rather than lose voters to these new arrivals, Mr Brüderle may be tempted to tap a sizeable eurosceptic camp inside the FDP. Last week he hinted Italy would have to "accept the consequences" and leave the currency bloc if failed to continue reforms.

Derek Scally

Derek Scally

Derek Scally is an Irish Times journalist based in Berlin