Eurozone crisis steps face key test in court
KARLSRUHE GERMANY’S top court began hearing objections on Tuesday to key measures aimed at combating Europe’s debt crisis and the government warned of disastrous consequences if the court ruled against the plans.
The constitutional court’s hearing follows a wave of submissions claiming that the eurozone’s new bailout fund - the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) - and an agreement to toughen budget rules were not compatible with German law.
Many also argue that the new steps can only be introduced if they are backed in a referendum. German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble warned that stopping the bailout fund would result in a “serious economic dislocation leading to unpredictable consequences” for Germany. “Doubts about the constitutional possibility or (Germany’s) readiness to avert the threats to the stability of the eurozone could result in a significant strengthening of the symptoms of the current crisis,” Schaeuble told the court.
Based in the west German city of Karlruhe, the court is hearing objections to the ESM and the fiscal pact on budget discipline that have been lodged by a cross section of German society - from academics, through to political figures and ordinary citizens.
This includes the More Democracy group, which says it represents 23,000 people who have signed a petition claiming national “parliaments are being dis-empowered.” They have been joined by Germany’s taxpayers’ association, former justice minister Herta Daeubler-Gmelin and constitutional expert Karl Albrecht Schachtschneider.
Some members of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s centre-right ruling coalition have added their voice to critics of the plan. Peter Gauweiler, a member of the Christian Social Union, the Bavarian sister party to Merkel’s Christian Democrats, said the eurozone plans would “open the door to liability and transfer union.” Gauweiler argued that Germany could only join the plan if it is approved in a referendum.
A ruling is expected this month.
Last month, the court asked German President Joachim Gauck to delay signing the ESM and the fiscal pact into law following parliamentary approval so it can rule on the appeals.
This could mean that the two crucial pieces of legislation would not be formally signed into law until later next month. In his opening remarks, the head of the Constitutional Court, Andreas Vosskuhle warned that even in unusual crisis situations the German constitution should not be ignored.