Photo Gallery Reckless Rhetoric from Europe's Populists

The tone of the euro crisis debate is getting shriller by the day, with Bavaria's finance minister providing the latest fuel for the flames by saying an example should be made of Greece. But politicians in other European countries are also fomenting stereotypes and resentment. SPIEGEL ONLINE presents 10 agitators who present a serious threat to the European project.
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Bavarian Finance Minister Markus Söder: The politician from the Christian Social Union, the conservative sister party to Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union, is known for his tub-thumping rhetoric and has stepped up a gear in the euro crisis with vitriolic comments about Greece. "An example must be made of Athens, that this euro zone can show teeth," he told the Bild am Sonntag tabloid newspaper this week. "Everyone has to leave Mom at some point and that time has come for the Greeks."

Foto: dapd
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Alexis Tsipras, the leader of Greece's leftist Syriza party: In his latest proposal, Tsipras argues the Greek government should refuse to talk to the so-called troika comprised of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund. He wants to "criminalize" the privatization of public enterprises. He has been labelled the "most dangerous man in Europe" since he became leader of the radical left and has been pressuring successive governments to abandon austerity measures that underpin Greece's continued access to international aid. What's his goal? Tsipras is banking on the fact that the euro treaties don't permit a country to be evicted from the euro zone -- so he has opted for uncompromising opposition.

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Silvio Berlusconi, entrepreneur and former Italian prime minister: His Popolo della Libertà (People of Freedom) party supports current Prime Minister Mario Monti but is secretly preparing for Italian elections next year. Berlusconi wants to win a fifth term as prime minister with the help of populist anti-euro rhetoric. He recently said the Italian central bank should simply print more euros to avoid instructions from Brussels. He has also threatened to reintroduce the lira. His newspaper Il Giornale last week printed the headline "Fourth Reich" above an article about the euro crisis alongside a picture of Angela Merkel raising her right arm.

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Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right Front National in France: The populist politician campaigned in this year's presidential election by warning about the supposed might of the EU. "Frau Merkel and her friends, Van Rompuy and the European Commission are in the final stages of creating a European Soviet Union," she thundered. "We are about to lose our status as a free nation." She too has called for the reintroduction of the Franc, but has recently toned down her statements on this issue, probably to avoid being lambasted by economists.

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Timo Soini, leader of the True Finns party and a member of the European Parliament: "For the EU we'll be the bad boys from the North," the right-wing populist said in 2011 during the election campaign. The Finns liked what they heard and his party got almost a fifth of the vote. That wasn't enough to enter government though, because a pro-EU coalition blocked the party's road to power. But Soini has nevertheless changed Finnish politics. Since the election, Finland has demanded that Greece provide collateral in return for Finnish aid. Soini wants that aid to stop. "Not a penny more," he says. "We've paid enough."

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Alexander Dobrindt, general secretary of the conservative Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU): "It's the end of the line for Greece," Dobrindt said recently. Previously, he had demanded that the Greek government should no longer pay its civil servants and pensioners in euros but in drachmas. The German politician has repeatedly made headlines with such provocative remarks -- something that is arguably part of his job as CSU general secretary. But Dobrindt's attacks on Athens and other southern European countries are now raising eyebrows even within his own party.

Foto: Peter Kneffel/ picture alliance / dpa
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Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) and a member of the European Parliament: He is the man who can cause an uproar in the otherwise dull European Parliament, where he called the Lisbon Treaty "the most spectacular, bureaucratic coup d'etat that the world had ever seen." He has described European Council President Herman Van Rompuy as having the "charisma of a damp rag." His remarks have had the desired effect. The UKIP did well in recent local elections in England and prominent Tories have defected to his party. In the polls, UKIP is just behind the Liberal Democrats who are part of Britain's coalition government. As a result, Farage is becoming an increasing problem for Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservatives.

Foto: Virginia Mayo/ ASSOCIATED PRESS
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Heinz-Christian Strache, head of the Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ): With crude comparisons and cheap rhetoric, Strache has led the FPÖ back to a place it hasn't been since Jörg Haider's resignation -- smack in the middle of Austrian society. Polls suggest that if Austrians were to vote today, one in five would cast ballots for Strache's FPÖ. And Strache can be counted on to court them with offensive quotes like: "We are the new Jews," a reference to attacks against Austria's male Burschenschaft fraternities, some of which hold an annual ball that is considered to be a gathering of right-wing extremists. But he also mixes slogans like that with anti-European Union populism. Strache doesn't want Austria to be "disposed of," or for it to be consumed by some behemoth "United States of Europe." He also claims that the permanent euro bailout fund, the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), will destroy "not only our state, but also our democracy and constitution." He says the ESM is tantamount to an ´Ermächtigungsgesetz, an allusion to the 1933 German law that allowed Hitler to rise to power.

Foto: ? Herwig Prammer / Reuters/ REUTERS
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Geert Wilders, head of the Dutch Freedom Party (PVV): He is the role model for many populists in Northern Europe, and it isn't only Muslims who his PVV party agitates against in the Netherlands. His party is at risk of losing big in elections in Holland next year, so he has increasingly been turning to anti-EU sentiment in order to gain in the polls. After the last EU summit in Brussels, Wilders accused Prime Minister Mark Rutte of being "slavishly on his knees for the Italian and Spanish mafia." In June 2011, Wilders delivered a huge drachma note to the Greek Embassy and called on the country to reintroduce its former currency. Wilders wants to see the return of the Dutch guilder and described the ESM as "a dictate from Brussels."

Foto: AFP/ ANP
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Viktor Orbán, Hungarian prime minister: He brings wrinkles of concern to the foreheads of many in Brussels. Orbán's statement that he would bow to Brussels' power but not to its arguments created considerable irritation. Following his new restrictive media law, a new constitution and a failed attempt to encroach on the Hungarian central bank's independence, fears are growing in Europe that Orbán's nationalist-liberal government could erode democratic rights over time. After the European Commission threatened to block subsidies to Hungary, the government in Budapest moved to modify a few laws. But Orbán said he still considered the outcome to be a personal success. "Hungary has prevailed," he said.

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