Pride and prejudice at heart of German dilemma

As the Bavarian march struck up, Hilde Kutritz clasped her giant tankard of beer and threw a hard stare towards the man climbing on to the stage. Along with 2,000 others, Mrs Kutritz had come to hear for herself what Karl-Heinz Schneider, candidate to be mayor, would do for Augsburg, 30 miles west of the Bavarian capital, Munich.

"We want someone who understands our problems - who knows us, who we know and can trust," she said. "We are fed up with the politicians far away, they cannot help."

Around her, the crowd was cheering. Mr Schneider was talking of the town's loss of jobs, of immigration and new cheap labour coming into Germany from Eastern Europe.

He spoke of the need to build new industry and roads. The problems he raised are problems facing Europeans everywhere. But not once did Mr Schneider mention "Europe". Europe is not a vote-winner in Bavaria.

Germany, Bavarians complain, is paying for the rest of Europe. And they fear plans for a single currency. "What will happen to the deutschmark? What about my savings?" asked an elderly woman. "Brussels can do nothing for ordinary people," said Alfred Ebert, a retired textile worker. "We have lost thousands of jobs in Augsburg."

"We have to fight for Bavaria. We are a kingdom. King Ludwig II is here in our hearts, " declared the manager of the bar, pointing to a badge of his hero- King pinned to his lederhosen.

Such displays of nationalist sentiment, combined with open scepticism about Europe, are a recent phenomenon in Germany. Germans have always believed that their post- war future as Europe's biggest power, living at peace with its neighbours, could only be secured as part of political and economic union. If the fears pronounced in an Augsburg beer-tent suggest that the pro-European consensus is collapsing, then Europe's leaders should take note.

It is no surprise that Germany's suspicions of Europe should erupt most virulently in Bavaria. Known as the Texas of Germany, the "free state" of Bavaria, twice the size of Belgium, has always defended its independence, and boasts that it existed as an entity well before France or Germany.

After the Second World War the region was still largely agrarian, but fought hard to build up its prosperity as a centre of the motor industry and high-tech engineering. These days, the neon signs for BMW, Siemens and Mercedes are as much a part of Munich's skyline as the onion domes and spires.

Now, however, as elsewhere in Germany, unemployment is rising, reaching 15 per cent in certain pockets. Companies are relocating to escape the effects of the strong mark and to take advantage of cheap labour.

Siemens has cut 20,000 jobs in the last two years, launching 30 joint ventures in China, and new plants in Eastern Europe. BMW has opened a plant in South Carolina, as well as plants in eastern Europe, and it has plans for a factory in Vietnam.

The people feel at the mercy of decision-makers far away, whether they be directors of multi-national companies, bureaucrats in Brussels, or even the government in Bonn.

There is little doubt that anxiety about the single currency is the prime source of concern. Bavarians are not so much "anti-European" as fearful of where Europe is leading. Few have anything good to say about sinking a strong mark into an uncertain monetary union.

With its long eastern border, Bavaria always saw the political value of European integration, as a safeguard against Communism. Yet they are also swift to say that, if Germany were really to face a new military threat from the east, the country would look to the US - not to Europe - for protection.

In principle, Bavaria supports the EU's plans to accept new members among its Eastern European neighbours as a means of furthering stability. At the same time, however, there is deep anxiety about economic competition. "My farmers are already not happy," says Mr Bocklet, citing a 20-per- cent loss of income during last year's devaluation of the Italian lire. "Poland already produces as many potatoes as the EU put together and at half the cost."

Porcelain and textile factories in the region have been put out of business by competitors to the east, and there are constant fears about immigration.

Bavaria has taken in nearly half the 300,000 refugees who fled to Germany from the former Yugoslavia. "Immigration. Foreign policy. These are areas where the EU should act. But on these issues, it does nothing," says Heinz Mittendorfer at the regional council.

For ordinary Bavarians, the frustrations point to the need to snatch back power for their regions. All the German states already insist on scrutinising EU legislation, each having an office in Brussels. But for Bavaria this is no longer good enough. There must be "bottom-up" federalism, they say.

The state has even put its own paper to the Inter-Governmental Conference starting in Turin next week, calling for new limits on Brussels' powers under the "subsidiarity" rules.

"You must understand we are not nationalistic," says Mr Bocklet. "That is a very bad word here. But we are close to our culture to our Bavarian roots. We do not need a political union by integration - but by common interest." On that point, even John Major, who proposes a "partnership of nations", might agree.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in the win over QPR
footballInternet reacts to miss shocker for Liverpool striker
Voices
Sol Campbell near his home in Chelsea
voices
News
Kimi the fox cub
newsBurberry under fire from animal rights group - and their star, Kimi
Arts and Entertainment
Ella Henderson's first studio album has gone straight to the top of the charts
music
News
<p>Jonathan Ross</p>
<p>Jonathan Ross (or Wossy, as he’s affectionately known) has been on television and radio for an extraordinarily long time, working on a seat in the pantheon of British presenters. Hosting Friday Night with Jonathan Ross for nine years, Ross has been in everything from the video game Fable to Phineas and Ferb. So it’s probably not so surprising that Ross studied at Southampton College of Art (since rebranded Southampton Solent), a university known nowadays for its media production courses.</p>
<p>However, after leaving Solent, Ross studied History at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, now part of the UCL, a move that was somewhat out of keeping with the rest of his career. Ross was made a fellow of the school in 2006 in recognition of his services to broadcasting.</p>
TV

Rumours that the star wants to move on to pastures new

Life and Style
fashion
News
Paul Nuttall, left, is seen as one of Ukip's key weapons in selling the party to the North of England
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Russell Brand labelled 'left-wing commie scum' by Fox News
TV
Arts and Entertainment
BBC's Antiques Roadshow uncovers a TIE fighter pilot helmet from the 1977 Star Wars film, valuing it at £50,000
TV

TV presenter Fiona Bruce seemed a bit startled by the find during the filming of Antiques Roadshow

News
people

Comedian says he 'never laughed as hard as I have writing with Rik'

Sport
Steven Caulker of QPR scores an own goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Queens Park Rangers and Liverpool
football
Arts and Entertainment
artKaren Wright tours the fair and wishes she had £11m to spare
News
i100
Life and Style
Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh been invited to take part in Women Fashion Power, a new exhibition that celebrates the way women's fashion has changed in relation to their growing power and equality over the past 150 years
fashionKirsty and Camila swap secrets about how to dress for success
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
booksNew book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Operational Risk Manager - Asset Management

£60,000 - £80,000: Saxton Leigh: Our client is an leading Asset Manager based...

Year 5/6 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Sheffield: Permanent Year 6 TeacherThe job:This...

KS1 & KS2 Teachers

Negotiable: Randstad Education Sheffield: KS1+KS2 Teachers required ASAP for l...

Year 2 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Sheffield: Year 2 Teacher The position is to wo...

Day In a Page

Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past