February 1, 2015 / 1:02 PM / in 3 years

Greek turmoil an unexpected boon for German AfD eurosceptics

Bernd Lucke, chairman of eurosceptic German party "Alternative fuer Deutschland" or Alternative for Germany (AfD) delivers his speech during a party meeting in Bremen January 31, 2015.Fabian Bimmer

BREMEN, Germany (Reuters) - The new Greek government's anti-bailout stance has sent shudders through much of Europe but Germany's euroskeptic AfD party can hardly believe its good fortune ahead of a regional election as a breakup of the euro zone suddenly appears possible.

Syriza, which took power last week, rejects German-led austerity. That could boost the Alternative for Germany (AfD), set up in 2013 to tap anger over bailouts. The mood at an AfD congress in Bremen was ebullient as many talked of a 'Grexit'.

"We all obviously want Greece to leave the euro zone," AfD founder Bernd Lucke told Reuters. "Now we're a bit more hopeful that this could even come true."

A central element in the policy stance of the AfD is the need to break up the euro zone, which it sees as the only way to solve Europe's economic problems. Some members talk about splitting the euro zone into northern and southern blocs.

Lucke said of the new prime minister Alexis Tsipras: "I'm thankful to this socialist troublemaker for standing up and showing everyone that the euro zone doesn't work."

Syriza's tough talk plays into the hands of the AfD, said Alexander Gauland, a regional party leader. He said the turmoil could help the party in a Hamburg regional election on Feb. 15 after it won seats and some 10 percent in three eastern states.

"The voters are going to see that what we've warned about is now really happening in Athens," Gauland told Reuters.

Frauke Petry, an AfD leader and one of the few women at the congress packed with balding men, said the turmoil in Greece put issues championed by the AfD back on the agenda.

"I ask myself how long we want to keep playing this game of continually supporting the euro - it's the wrong strategy," she told Reuters.

Grassroots members also took a hard line on Greece. Software engineer Falk Kuebler, 65, said the crisis had brought hostility back to Europe. "I almost hope Syriza pushes it too far this time," he said, adding that would put a spotlight on Greece.

Eugen Vehling, 76, said he became a die-hard European after World War Two but the crisis was ruining Europe.

Northern and southern European states have totally different views on finance so the euro was doomed from the start, he said.

"Greece would be better off with its own currency, the drachma or a 'southern euro' that people believe in," he said.

Additional reporting by Erik Kirschbaum and Petra Wischgoll; Editing by Stephen Powell

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