On 3 March 2030 a referendum will be held in Germany on its permanence in or exit from the European Union. As in the UK, where the “no” narrowly won in 2017, the German people will determine its own future directly, since the referendum’s result will be binding.
This referendum was proposed by “Alternative für Deutschland (AfD)”, the Eurosceptic party, which steadily continued to grow since its creation in 2013. If the AfD’s Euroscepticism was initially a soft one, the party gradually became more hardline as regards the EU.
After winning seven seats at the 2014 European Parliament elections, the AfD’s members elected Bernd Lucke as sole leader (as opposed to three beforehand) at the end of 2015. In 2017 the party entered the Bundestag for the first time with 9% of the vote. In 2021 it became the 2nd largest party behind the SPD, which gained an absolute majority. In 2025 the AfD formed a coalition government with the CDU/CSU (it fell 23 seats short of the total required for a majority). In 2029 it was finally able to govern alone.
How was this growth in popularity possible? The main reason was that the German voters became fed up with having to pay for successive bailouts of other Eurozone members. They can no longer tolerate that countries such as Portugal and Spain profit from their strong economy. Germany is also tired of being a net contributor to the EU budget.
More and more German citizens thus turned to the Eurosceptic party, which satisfied its expectations. This constant electoral progress can also be explained by the fact that German voters lost confidence in the CDU/CSU and in the SPD. These parties were not seen as proposing concrete measures or reforms.
When Greece exited the Eurozone at the end of 2015, people realized that Germany had lost a great amount of money. From 2016 to 2027 the standard of living fell because Germany had to prop up amongst others the French and Italian economies, which were threatening to crumble.
The arrival of new Member Sates (Albania, Montenegro and Serbia) meant that Germany’s economy and finances had to assume an even greater burden as Europe’s powerhouse. This was further aggravated by Germany having to take the main responsibility in assisting the recovery of the Ukrainian economy.
Originally the AfD’s goal was not exiting the EU. Under the leadership of Bernd Lucke the main objective was to have greater autonomy for Germany whilst remaining in the Union. However in 2023 Bernd Lucke had to resign for health reasons and Frauke Petry took over. Her positions were more radical. She came up with the idea of a referendum on the EU and managed to force a constitutional amendment legally allowing the holding of referenda in Germany.
Given the high number of undecided voters the result is too close to call. The no supporters recall the 2nd world war and point out that Germany’s contribution to the EU budget has already decreased considerably. They also note that many businesses and jobs depend on being in the EU and that Germany has a bigger influence in world affairs as part of that union. The yes proponents respond that world war two started almost a century ago and that Germany’s debt to history has already been paid. They further claim that the living standard is still too low and Germany needs to use its money as it sees fit in order to address its own internal problems.
What would be the consequences for the EU should the “yes” win? Without its main economy the EU would be in grave danger of disintegrating. Eurosceptic parties would have finally achieved their objective. This would mean an economic invasion of some weak countries by China. In the worst scenario, Russia, having already annexed the Crimea and the Donbass area, could be tempted to try to further enlarge its territory.
To conclude, if a disastrous situation is to be avoided, countries which are net beneficiaries in the EU should adopt a more responsible behavior but the richest countries should not abandon solidarity towards the others completely. A system where a more productive minority carries the whole group is ultimately destined to fail.
About the author:
Tomas (17) participated at our “My Europe” workshop in Brussels in February 2015. He is a student at Collège Saint-Michel.