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Siegfried Russwurm: “Xenophobia and prejudice are the very last thing our country needs”

Business leaders are concerned about the growing popularity of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, The Economist informs.

Karl Haeusgen, head of the Germany’s machinery association VDMA, expressed concern about the results of surveys conducted in Germany.

A party that wants to abolish the euro, rejects immigration and denies climate change is hurting Germany as a place for doing business.

Rainer Dulger, his counterpart at the German employers’ main association, stated that such high poll results of the AfD party upset him both personally and as a businessman. Another entrepreneur, Siegfried Russwurm, head of the biggest German industry association (bdi), claimed at the June east German economic forum in Bad Saarow that the country did not need “xenophobia and prejudice”.

The history of Germany in the post-war period contains an extremely small number of cases when business leaders expressed their opinion about a major political party in such an official way.

However, the policy pursued by the AfD can have such a disastrous effect on Germany that the heads of major business associations, as well as the heads of large companies, are sounding the alarm about the party’s success in the election polls.

The AfD was founded ten years ago as a party aimed only at Euroscepticism. Since then, it has evolved into an anti-immigration party similar to other European far-right political entities, only more radical economic policy views.

We see the EU as unreformable and deem it a failed project.

This is what is said in the party’s program on the elections to the European Parliament next year. Among the goals of the organisation is the abolition of the euro and the parliament itself, the re-establishment of the union as a “confederacy of European nations”. The party also aims to tighten border controls and increase the number of deportations.

In recent polls, the AfD party has risen to second place surprising many representatives of the German business elite. It still loses to the Christian Democratic Union, the main center-right opposition party, but now it wins against Social Democratic Party, which supports Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

In four of the five East German states, the AfD is considered the strongest party.

German business leaders are experiencing a shortage of qualified labour and are forced to attract foreign specialists due to the demographic problems of the country. Apart from the personnel crisis, the heads of companies face many other problems: a moderate recession, high energy prices, incomprehensible bureaucracy and worries caused by the war in Ukraine.

In a survey of 9,000 companies conducted by the Ifo economic research institute, 43% of firms reported suffering from a qualified stuff shortage in July, up from 42% in April. More than 75% of companies providing tax, legal and advisory services admitted experiencing a lack of qualified employees.

Thanks to the support of the German government in the amount of about 15 billion euros (16.4 billion US dollars) Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt, two eastern lands, managed to attract investments from Intel and TSMC, an American and Taiwanese chip manufacturer. Now they will need to expand the staff of qualified workers, but an Intel adviser is concerned that alleged local xenophobia may become a serious obstacle during the relocation of foreign specialists to Germany.

The Government is keeping this issue under control. Olaf Scholz said that Germans need to understand that “foreign skilled workers are not only needed, but really welcome”. He also promised to introduce the most modern immigration system in the world.

Today, employees and skilled workers…can choose where they go. And it’s often the supposedly soft factors that make the difference.

The government adopted on August 23 a law simplifying the rules for obtaining German citizenship. However, this is still not enough to offset the damage being caused by the AfD.

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