Under the shadow of Brexit and an increase of populism in the member states of the European Union, the industry federations and biggest companies of Germany are promoting the advantages of an open Europe with campaigns that urge their employees to vote in the European Parliament elections scheduled this coming May.
This week, the Bavarian industry federation (VBW) launched its campaign, with posters that say: “Vote for Europe on May 26th. It’s about freedom, it’s about prosperity, it’s about our Europe.”
Bertram Brossardt, the VBW chief, stated: “We want to do everything we can to make sure that citizens vote and vote for Europe.”
The federation fears that anti-European voices have already gained popularity. Brossardt stated: “They insist on isolation and protectionism, they want to split Europe. We have to fight back against that.”
Other industry associations are also getting politically active. The Central Association of German Trades have started a “Yes to Europe” campaign, and the Chemical Industry Federation is set to stage a series of “European dialogues” where employees can meet with MEPs and discuss the importance of the European Union.
AFP reports that energy giants RWE and EON, steel company Thyssenkrupp, and Volkswagen are also asking their employees to vote for a strong, democratic EU.
The Hertie School of Governance’s Andrea Roemmele, stated: “Developments such as Brexit, increasing populism, Euroscepticism, and nationalism pose an enormous economic risk, especially for companies of this size.”
Roemmele said that big firms want a strong EU that will be able to assert its interests globally, while “nationalist efforts, such as those we see in the USA under President Trump, mean declining revenues.”
A new study of 5,000 Germans by the Heinrich Böll Foundation discovered that a majority of people see the European Union in a positive light.
Christine Pütz, the study author, stated: “Germans see the benefits of EU membership first and foremost politically and, secondarily, economically.”
She added: “77% believe that Germany can achieve its political goals with rather than without the EU.”
In an interview with Deutschlandfunk, a public broadcaster, Pütz said that one surprising outcome of the study was “how clearly German citizens are campaigning for more involvement by Germany in Europe.”