Germany’s top constitutional court rejected bids to block ratification of a permanent euro-area rescue fund, while ruling the country’s 190 billion-euro ($245 billion) contribution can’t be increased without legislative approval.
The Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe dismissed motions that sought to block the 500 billion-euro European Stability Mechanism and a deficit-control treaty championed by Chancellor Angela Merkel. The court said a cap of about should be set on potential German liabilities, unless parliament backs the allocation of extra funds.
“We are an important step closer to our goal of stabilizing the euro,” German Economy Minister and Vice Chancellor Philipp Roesler told reporters in Berlin after the ruling today. “It has always been the goal of this government” to establish a “clear limit and to include parliament in all important decisions.”
The legal challenge delayed efforts by Merkel and other euro-area policy makers to stem the region’s debt crisis. In the neighboring Netherlands, Prime Minister Mark Rutte, a Merkel ally, is seeking re-election today.
Stocks and the euro rose after the ruling. The single currency gained 0.3 percent to $1.2889 at 11:42 a.m. in Berlin, while the Stoxx Europe 600 Index rose 0.8 percent.
Much in the crisis hinges on the permanent ESM, which is designed to go into operation as the temporary European Financial Stability Facility is phased out through next year. The bailout fund would work in tandem with the European Central Bank in buying bonds to lower yields for states such as Spain and Italy.
Last week, ECB President Mario Draghi said the ECB was ready to buy unlimited quantities of short-dated government bonds of nations signed up to rescues from the ESM or EFSF. While rejecting a last-minute request for an emergency injunction over the Draghi announcement, the court said it would review a challenge to the ECB bond-buying programs during additional proceedings in the case.
“Some uncertainties” about the limit on Germany’s contribution to the ESM and the scope of the German parliament’s say over the fund were reviewed as part of the ruling, chief justice Andreas Vosskuhle said when delivering the ruling. The judges also said that Germany must state when ratifying that it won’t be bound by the treaty unless these reservations are efficiently met.
Today’s cases were filed after German lawmakers approved the ESM and the fiscal pact, a deficit-control treaty designed to impose budget discipline on European Union member states. About 37,000 people signed up to endorse a constitutional complaint filed by political group “Mehr Demokratie e.V.” Other plaintiffs include opposition party Die Linke as well as Peter Gauweiler, a lawmaker from Merkel’s CSU Bavarian sister party.
The lower house, or Bundestag, “must remain the place to autonomously decide about revenues and expenditures,” the court wrote in the judgment. Germany may not agree to “permanent international mechanisms, which would be tantamount to taking over liabilities incurred by other states, particularly when they amount to consequences that are hard to calculate.”
For today’s ruling, the court chose six cases. The judges only had to decide whether to halt ratification of the treaties while reviewing the suits more closely.
The German judges heard oral arguments on July 10 from groups challenging the viability of the EU’s fiscal pact and the ESM, which both houses of parliament approved with two-thirds majorities on June 29. The complaints by a group of lawmakers, academics and political groups sought an injunction while the court reviews the cases in detail.
The challengers argued that the crisis-fighting legislation transfers constitutionally mandated authority from German lawmakers and undermines democratic rule.
Previously, the court cleared each step of European integration. Last year, the judges cleared the Greek bailout and the EFSF, while saying Germany may not agree to take over unlimited future liabilities incurred by other EU member states.