BERLIN ‑ Of the most dangerous sentences a politician can utter, one must be, “There is no alternative.” Or, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel says, the situation is alternativlos.
A group of German political activists who gathered this weekend to launch an anti-euro party is betting that Merkel’s refusal to countenance change will provide fertile ground for opposition. Although most people in Berlin think Merkel will be re-elected in the general election in September, a growing number of political forces are lining up to define an alternative to her policies in Europe.
Merkel has managed to contain the threat to austerity represented by international leaders such as François Hollande, Mario Monti and Mariano Rajoy. At home, in spite of growing hostility to the euro among the public, none of the mainstream parties dissent from Merkel’s dedication to the euro. Merkel’s more dangerous opponents come from outside the established political terrain.
Populist revolts have been capturing headlines in Europe for a while. The surprising electoral success and the unyielding stance of Beppe Grillo in Italy could force more political choices across the continent if he calls for Italy to leave the euro.
This revolutionary challenge is mirrored in Germany by a more unfamiliar movement: a revolt of the technocrats. This weekend 1,500 economists, lawyers and other members of the establishment gathered in Berlin’s Intercontinental Hotel to launch a head-on assault on the chancellor’s European policy. Calling itself Partei Alternative für Deutschland (Alternative for Germany), the nascent political party argues that the euro is dividing the European Union and claims that the re-introduction of the deutsche mark should not be a “taboo.” Its goal is an end to bailouts and an orderly dissolution of the euro.