1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Germany: AfD to join far-right partners in EU parliament

July 28, 2023

Alternative for Germany (AfD) delegates at this year's party conference voted to strengthen ties with other far-right parties in the EU.

A delegate holds up a voting card with the word 'Ja!' (Yes) at the AfD 2023 Party Conference in Magdeburg, Germany
AfD delegates voted to join a far-right coalition with hopes of more EU money and a chance to hollow out Brussels from the insideImage: Frank Hoermann/SVEN SIMON/picture alliance

Members of the far-right populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) gathered in the eastern German city of Magdeburg Friday to begin their annual party conference, which will last until Sunday.

The party is currently polling well nationally, between 18% and 22%, as establishment parties struggle with voter resentment. The party's numbers are roughly twice what they were during 2021 federal elections. In Magdeburg, leadership implored members not to let up.

Party co-chair Tino Chrupalla said the numbers reflect a new "harmony" among leadership. "We will carry this harmony into the next election," he said, as he greeted some 600 delegates in attendance.

Chrupalla referenced upcoming state elections in Bavaria and Hesse, and voiced confidence about the broader prospect of growing political popularity, saying, "Next year we can win Saxony, Thuringia and Brandenburg" — all states in the east of the country where AfD has tended to perform best.

German far-right AfD party surges in opinion polls

AfD leader Chrupalla: Anyone but the Greens

He told those gathered that the party must prepare itself to govern, and warned, "We shouldn't make the mistake of committing ourselves solely to a coalition with the CDU" — referring to the center-right Christian Democratic Union, which has lurched farther right in an attempt to keep its voters from fleeing to the AfD.

Chrupalla went on to profess a readiness to work with any party willing to pursue "policy in the interest of citizens." He did make one exception, however, vowing not to work with the Green Party, which is currently part of Germany's ruling coalition alongside the Social Democrats (SPD) and the Free Democrats (FDP).

Earlier in the day, DW spoke with AfD deputy co-chair Beatrix von Storch, who suggested voting for the AfD was, "very legitimate … if you're disappointed with all the other parties."

Doubling down on the concept of protest votes being cast by citizens looking to force change, von Storch said, "This is a very strong signal for the government and also for the other opposition parties, the so-called CDU, that they have to think about how to make a different politics for Germany."

"We are not only very strong in the eastern part of Germany, here we are number one in the polls," she said, "but in the whole of Federal Republic of Germany, we are number two."

AfD, looking to dismantle the EU from the inside

Another major topic on the first day of the conference was that of political participation at the EU level.

Despite the desire of some within the euroskeptic party to initiate a "DEXIT" modeled on the ill-fated UK divorce from the EU, party leadership on Friday vowed to increase its work on the European level, something that was overwhelmingly supported by the majority of those present in Magdeburg.

Delegates voted to approve leadership's intention to join the far-right ID Group (Identity and Democracy) in the EU. Individual AfD MEPs are already part of the group, which was created in 2019 and includes right-wing populists from nine EU countries, but by officially joining the ID Group, AfD stands to receive more financing from Brussels.

The AfD plans to initiate its plan by September 15, saying ID represents, "a very good platform to continue to expand networking with AfD's European sister parties." EU financing is proportional to the number of MEPs a given party has seated in Brussels and Strasbourg.

Those within the party who oppose the approach say it threatens both the AfD's independence and its credibility as an anti-EU force. Those in favor say joining the ID Group will allow far-right politicians to battle the EU from within.

The ID group, which says its focus is fighting illegal immigration, currently has 62 members. Led by Marco Zanni of Italy's far-right Lega Party, which has the most members (25), the group includes France's National Rally (RN), Austria's Freedom Party (FPÖ), Belgium's Flemish Interest (VB) and similar far-right parties from the Czech Republic, Denmark and Estonia.

Currently, AfD has nine MEPs but is looking to up that number to around 20.

AfD Co-Chairs Tino Chrupalla (l) and Alice Weidel (r)
Long plagued by infighting, AfD Co-Chair Chrupalla (l) said harmony with Co-Chair Weidel helps party popularity Image: Sebastian Kahnert/dpa/picture-alliance

'Europe, we're coming to save Germany'

Saxony-Anhalt state AfD leader Martin Richard claimed the meeting in Magdeburg would send a clear signal, one that says, "Europe, we're coming to save Germany." Like the ID Group itself, the AfD is calling for a transfer of power back to individual countries, states and municipalities, seeking what it calls a "Europe of fatherlands."

Party Co-Chair Alice Weidel said nations are the "right vessel for democracies," claiming Europe had become bloated and inefficient.

"The country and Europe are leaning to the extreme right," said Left Party Chairman Martin Schirdewan on Friday. "At the same time the extreme right is holding a party conference under the banner of abolishing democracy and being anti-Europe."

Schirdewan said, "strong dissatisfaction with the ruling coalition and Berlin as well as a specifically east German feeling of being treated as second-class citizens are giving the AfD a dangerous boost… the coalition is not keeping its promises and the right is playing on people's frustration."

Making a plea for better social policies and a clear stance against the far right, Schirdewan said, "why the finance minister [Christian Lindner / FDP] would cut programs specifically aimed at fighting right-wing extremism now is incomprehensible."

js/lo (AFP, dpa, INA)