BERLIN (Reuters) - A core policy of a new anti-euro party was criticized as “economically insane” by German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble in an interview published on Sunday.
Support for the Alternative fuer Deutschland (AfD), which wants Germany to quit the euro and reintroduce the deutsche mark, is at 2 percent, according to a survey by Emnid pollsters also released on Sunday.
“For Germany, it would be economically insane to exit the euro,” Schaeuble told German weekly Focus, adding that Switzerland’s struggle with its soaring franc proved how problematic it could be to have a stronger currency.
Schaeuble warned support for the AfD could still cost the ruling coalition crucial votes in September’s elections.
Political analysts say it would be difficult for the AfD, launched a few months ago by a group of renegade academics, journalists and businessmen, to get above the five percent threshold needed to enter parliament in September.
But Schaeuble said that the elections in Lower Saxony in January, in which the center-left opposition edged Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives out of power in an extremely tight race, had shown how crucial each vote was.
“We need each vote. That is why we are dealing with the AfD,” the minister said. “We will not do so arrogantly but in the firm belief that a common currency is in Germany’s best interest.”
A majority of Germans continue to back the euro, opinion surveys regularly show, but the AfD is trying to tap into concerns about the mounting costs of bailouts for heavily indebted countries in the southern euro zone.
Analysts say a strong result for the AfD in September could influence German euro zone policy by making Berlin even less willing to back future bailouts.
Yet Schaeuble told Focus that even thinkers who had been critical of his government’s bailout policy, such as Germany’s best-known economist Hans-Werner Sinn, believed in the euro.
Sinn distanced himself from the AfD in an interview with Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung published on Sunday.
“I believe that it is worth fighting for the euro as such,” Sinn said. “But I believe it is a big error to keep weak southern European countries in the euro at all costs.”
“You do not thereby help these countries and you reduce the probability that the euro will survive,” he said, adding that struggling economies such as Cyprus and Greece should temporarily leave the euro.
Schaeuble said the AfD was merely a protest party, feeding on voters’ fears about the crisis. “A party, that is only against something, cannot be taken seriously. And it will not be successful in Germany,” he said.
Reporting By Sarah Marsh; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle