Europe's battle to resolve its long-running debt
crisis faces a new challenge Monday as critics of plans to shore up
the financial system take their case to Germany's highest court.
In a press conference in Berlin, Hubert Aiwanger, the chairman of the independent voter group Freier Waehler, described Europe's new permanent euro bailout fund, the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) "as a putsch against the German constitution."
His comments came just days after the German parliament backed plans to create the ESM, and approved the introduction of Europe's fiscal pact on budget discipline.
Within a short time of Friday's parliamentary vote on the ESM and the fiscal pact, a flood of objections began rolling into the German constitutional court in Karlsruhe.
This also threatens to delay the launch of the new measures, with the court not set to begin hearing the objections until July 10.
Those filing petitions have, in essence, argued that the ESM and the fiscal pact overstep the limits the German constitution lays down for European integration.
Many also argue that the new steps can only be introduced is they are backed by a referendum.
Among the groups challenging the constitutionality of the measures is Europe Needs More Democracy, which said it lodged its petition with the court on behalf of 12,000 German citizens.
They have been joined by Germany's taxpayers' association, former justice minister Herta Daeubler-Gmelin, legal expert Karl Albrecht Schachtschneider, and a member of Chancellor Angela's Merkel's ruling coalition, Peter Gauweiler.
He claims that Berlin could eventually be forced to make an even bigger contribution to the ESM than is presently expected.
The hard-left Linke party have also sought to have the court strike down the fiscal pact on the grounds that it would result in deep cuts in public spending.
The fiscal pact was agreed to by 25 of the European Union's 27 member states at a summit earlier this year. Britain and the Czech Republic have decided against signing it.
However, only a handful of parliaments - including Greece, Latvia, Slovenia, Sweden, Denmark and now Germany - have so far ratified the pact, which includes a commitment to balancing national budgets.
In the meantime, the launch of the ESM, which was originally scheduled for July 1, has been postponed.
Last week the Constitutional Court asked President Joachim Gauck to delay signing the ESM and the fiscal pact into law so it can rule on a slew of appeals to the ratification process.
This could mean that the two crucial pieces of legislation would not be formally signed into law until later next month.
Merkel's coalition had hoped that, by securing the support of the opposition in Friday's vote, it might help to reduce the potential risks arising from the court challenges.
But Aiwanger told reporters that Germany's political leaders had plunged the country into a whirlpool from which they would be unable to escape.
In line with Schachtschneider, the Freier Waehler argue that the overriding principle of the crisis shoudl be that each is liable for his own debt.
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