German turmoil over EU bailouts as top judge calls for referendum
Published 27/09/2011 | 09:15
GERMANY’S top judge has issued a blunt warning that no further fiscal powers may be surrendered to Europe without a new constitution and a popular referendum, vastly complicating plans to boost the EU's rescue machinery to €2 trillion (£1.7 trillion).
Andreas Vosskuhle, head of the constitutional court, said politicians do not have the legal authority to sign away the birthright of the German people without their explicit consent.
"The sovereignty of the German state is inviolate and anchored in perpetuity by basic law. It may not be abandoned by the legislature (even with its powers to amend the constitution)," he said.
"There is little leeway left for giving up core powers to the EU. If one wants to go beyond this limit – which might be politically legitimate and desirable – then Germany must give itself a new constitution. A referendum would be necessary. This cannot be done without the people," he told newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine.
The extraordinary interview comes just days before the Bundestag votes on a bill to revamp the EU's €440bn bail-out fund (EFSF), enabling it to purchase EMU bonds pre-emptively and recapitalise banks.
Tensions are running high after it emerged over the weekend that officials are working on plans sketched by the US Treasury and the European Commission to "leverage" the firepower of the EFSF to €2 trillion, in conjunction with lending from the European Central Bank.
Carsten Schneider, finance spokesman for the Social Democrats, demanded that Chancellor Angela Merkel and finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble clarify their "true intentions " before the vote on Thursday.
"A new multi-trillion programme is being cooked up in Washington and Brussels, while the wool is being pulled over the eyes of Bundestag and German public. This is unacceptable," he said.
Prince Hermann Otto zu Solms-Hohensolms-Lich, the Bundestag's deputy president and finance chief for the Free Democrats (FDP) in the ruling coalition, expressed outrage over the secret plans.
"Unless the German finance minister can give an immediate assurance that there will be no leveraged formula, I will not vote for this law. We might as well dispense with months of negotiations if all this means is that the Bundestag will be circumvented and served cold left-overs," he said.
The accusation that German leaders are conspiring with EU officials to emasculate the Bundestag is highly sensitive, going to the core of the raging debate in recent months over EU encroachments on German democracy.