Germany's liberals rule out euroscepticism as revival tactic
BERLIN Dec 8 (Reuters) - The new leader of Germany's liberal Free Democrats (FDP), voted in at the weekend to rescue the party from oblivion after it crashed out of parliament in September's elections, has ruled out tapping into euroscepticism as a way to regain popularity.
At an FDP congress in Berlin, the confident 34-year-old Christian Lindner sought to rally the party, for decades the kingmaker in Germany's coalition-oriented political system.
The FDP had ruled in partnership with Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives since 2009, but was humiliated in this year's election by failing for the first time to cross the 5 percent threshold to enter parliament.
"The time for mourning is over," said Lindner, who received 79 percent of votes in a run-off against two largely unknown other candidates. "We are building ourselves up from the very foundations."
The exit of the market-friendly FDP from parliament meant Merkel was unable to continue her preferred centre-right coalition and instead had to turn to the centre-left Social Democrats to form a "grand coalition".
According to pollsters, the FDP's demise was at least partly due to the rise of a new anti-euro party, the Alternative for Germany (AfD). But Lindner warned against resorting to euroscepticism in order to stage a revival.
"If we went even a centimetre in the direction of the euro-haters, we would lose our economic competence and, above all, our soul," he said, noting the FDP favoured "more Europe" in sectors such as energy, data protection and market regulation.
However, Lindner attacked plans for a European-wide fund for struggling banks, saying it was tantamount to a "transfer union through the back door".
The new leader said the FDP was now more "independent than it has been in its entire history" as it would not define itself through proximity to another party.
The FDP had in recent decades favoured coalitions with the conservatives. But as Merkel's junior coalition partner, it often appeared inept and divided, unable to claim credit for any of Germany's economic success.
Lindner joined the FDP as a 14-year-old and fought an impressive campaign last year to keep the FDP in the assembly of Germany's most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW).
He said that being in the opposition outside of parliament meant it could wield "not only the foil but also the machete".
He urged the FDP, which has suffered from infighting, to close ranks: "If a political opponent attacks one of us, he will have to deal with the entire FDP." (Reporting by Thorsten Severin; Writing by Sarah Marsh; Editing by Kevin Liffey)
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