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The ultimate guide to Germany's top Euro election candidates

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The ultimate guide to Germany's top Euro election candidates
Who will you vote for? Photo: DPA
14:46 CEST+02:00
The European elections are less than a month away and all EU citizens (probably even Brits) will have a chance to vote. We take a look at the German runners and riders.

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You've probably seen the heavily photoshopped election posters adorning lampposts all over Germany's streets, with messages from parties and candidates searching for your support.

And if you are an adult EU citizen who is resident in Germany then you have the right to vote for German candidates at your local polling booth on May 26th. Note that the deadline for registering to vote is May 5th. Read more about how to register and vote here.

But have you decided who you are voting for? Do you even know who the candidates are? If not – don't worry – you're not alone. In fact, half of Germans have no idea who the candidates standing for election to the European parliament are.

SEE ALSO: One in two Germans don't know top European election candidates

Luckily, Germany has a relatively simple method of voting for its MEPs. Unlike in national elections, there are no constituencies. Elected candidates represent the whole country, so wherever you are in the country your voting slip will look the same. Each party puts forward a list of names and you vote for the party rather than individual candidates.

Each list has the candidates' names starting with their Spitzenkandidat (lead candidate) followed by nine other people put forward by the party.

But who are the candidates on the party lists? This brief guide will give you an overview of the Spitzenkandidaten of the parties that are leading in polling and what they stand for.

Manfred Weber (CSU/CDU)

Manfred Weber. Photo: DPA

Somewhat confusingly, the Christian Union (Angela Merkel's centre-right party) are the only ones who have a different candidate list in each state. This is partly to do with the fact that they are split between the CSU in Bavaria and the CDU in the rest of the country.

Their highest profile candidate is Manfred Weber, a fresh-faced Bavarian who could well take over from Jean-Claude Junker as President of the European Commission after the elections. That's because Weber is leader of the European People's Party, which is set to remain the largest party in Brussels after the election and can therefore nominate its leader as the new commission president.

SEE ALSO: Germany's Weber picked as lead candidate to head European Commission

At just 46 years of age, Weber belongs to the younger generation of conservative politicians. He certainly doesn't hide his ambition to make Brussels ever more powerful in European policy making. Ahead of campaigning, he published a 12-point plan for reforming the EU which includes a 10,000-man border force to be built up within three years, ending accession talks for Turkey – and even finding a cure for cancer.

Manfred Weber on tour recently in Malta.

Weber has also backed eastern Europe in a clash with the government over the controversial Nordstream 2 gas pipeline which will bring Russian gas to Germany.

Critics say that Weber is promising things he can't deliver: the President of the Commission doesn't have policy making powers – that is the job of heads of governments in the European Council. But he has responded by saying that voters want European politicians with vision and ambition.

Definitely a candidate to vote for if you are conservative by persuasion but convinced that Europe needs to form an ever closer political union in order to prosper.

Katarina Barley (SPD)

Katarina Barley. Photo: DPA

Barley is something unusual – a leading German politician who has volunteered to go to Brussels, the traditional graveyard of political careers. In fact no other German cabinet minister has ever switched to Brussels, as the Justice Minister is about to do.

But Barley says that she is European to the core and that in its hour of need, the EU is calling her. The politician is not afraid to mince her words, even calling for a second Brexit referendum.

Her father is British, her mother is German and her children are half Spanish, due to the background of her ex-husband. Barley says that this pan-European identity means that European politics is her true passion.

In one respect the Social Democrat candidate is similar to Weber. Both candidates have said that they want to do away with the European Council's unanimous voting system which makes decision making so hard. The SPD woman and the CSU man both want simple majorities to suffice, which would hand Brussels way more power over national decision making.

But whereas Weber sees this as a useful tool to reach agreement on right-wing hot button issues such as border security, Barley hopes it could help tackle tax evasion. She points out that German proposals for a continent-wide tax on Facebook, Google and other digital giants has repeatedly been blocked by a handful of small EU members that have lured the social media behemoths with rock bottom taxes.

The SPD's Katarina Barley tweeted recently from Mainz on her 'Come Together' tour. The SPD's election message is: 'Europe is the answer'.

Barley also wants the whole EU to have a social security system, minimum wage inclusive, like the German model. She says that this would help slow down migration inside the EU which has led to resentment in richer countries against migrants from Poland, Romania and the poorer east.

Ska Keller (Greens)

Ska Keller. Photo: DPA

Unsurprisingly, the environment is the central column of the Green party's election campaign. Their lead candidate, Ska Keller, is already an experienced MEP and says that she wants to introduce a European tax on carbon emissions to tackle global warming.

Ska Keller in Cottbus answering voters' questions.

The Greens have been surging in popularity in recent months domestically, while the Friday's for Future and Extinction Rebellion protests have brought renewed attention to climate change, meaning the European elections could not have come at a better time for the Greens.

SEE ALSO: 'Grandma, what's a polar bear?' Students speak out at Berlin climate demo

Keller has also taken on several policy positions close to those of the SPD. She has voiced support for a European minimum wage, universal standards on health insurance and closing loopholes on tax evasion.

Jörg Meuthen (AfD)

Jörg Meuthen. Photo: DPA

The eurosceptic Alternative for Germany (AfD) have somewhat ironically named their leading politician as their Spitzenkandidat for Brussels, despite staunchly believing that key decision making needs to stay in Berlin.

SEE ALSO: Dexit: One in 10 Germans in favour of leaving the EU

Meuthen is the party's co-leader but has been an MEP since 2017. His opinions on the EU are more nuanced than those of eurosceptics on other parts of the continent. While he criticizes the creation of the Euro as the cause of divisions between individual member states, he hails the single market as a great achievement of European co-operation.

Nonetheless, he is clearly of the view that European integration has gone far enough. Like other Eurosceptics, he wants decision making powers to be returned to national parliaments while maintaining the EU as a common economic area.

The AfD is focussing its campaign on a 'Europe of Fatherlands'.

Of course, his party, the AfD have also spoken out in favour of following the UK's lead and leaving the EU if their demands can't be met, a so-called Dexit.

Let's see what happens next.

Nicola Beer (FDP)

Nicola Beer. Photo: DPA

The pro-business FDP have been struggling in polling of late and seem unlikely to make much of an impact at the European elections. In a mark of how seriously they are taking the contest though, they too have sent in one of their senior figures as Spitzenkandidat.

The Free Democrats' campaign spotlights business. They want to set up a European-wide apprenticeship agency, for example.

Beer was the party general secretary until deciding to run for Brussels. She is one of the few female faces at the top of the party. Avowedly pro-European, she wants to do more to encourage student exchanges between the member states.

Martin Schirdewan und Özlem Demirel (Die Linke)

Martin Schirdewan und Özlem Demirel. Photo: DPA

On the far left of the political spectrum, Die Linke (The Left) have often been sharply critical of Germany's role in Europe, criticizing its austerity policies towards Greece and the effect of the Euro on smaller states' economies.

The Left want a 'Europe for the people' and a crackdown on corruption.

In a sign that European politics is not much a priority for the party, they are sending two relative unknowns in as their leading duo. Demirel, 34, and Schweridan, 43, are calling for Europe to stop all weapons exports. They also want a European law that would enable states to take properties away from owners who leave them empty.

What about the rest?

There are a whole swath of more eccentric parties to choose from. At the last election in 2014, a satirical party managed to get its leader elected as did a neo-Nazi group. Thanks to the proportional representation system and low voter turnout, fringe parties can scrape into the European parliament with only a few hundred thousand votes.

Are you voting in the European Parliament elections? Did you find this story useful or do you have any other story suggestions? Let us know.

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