German Lawmakers Win Bid Over Government Informing on ESM

Germany’s top court ruled the government failed to adequately inform parliament about negotiations held last year on the European Stability Mechanism, siding with a group of opposition lawmakers.

The Federal Constitutional Court said in a ruling today the government’s constitutional duty to have parliament participate in matters of European Union integration also covers the ESM. The ruling doesn’t affect the implementation of the permanent bailout fund, which German lawmakers are scheduled to vote on June 29.

The constitution obliges “the government to inform lawmakers comprehensively and at the earliest possible time,” the court in Karlsruhe said. “The information must enable parliament to early and effectively influence the government’s decision making.”

This is at least the third ruling from Germany’s top court limiting Chancellor Angela Merkel’s discretion to adopt EU bailout policies without consulting lawmakers. The judges in February limited the powers of a parliamentary committee set up to approve emergency actions by the European Financial Stability Facility, saying more lawmakers need to be involved. In September it ruled the Bundestag, the lower house of parliament, must keep authority over budgetary aspects of the EFSF, the region’s temporary bailout fund.

Competitiveness Pact

Merkel’s government violated lawmakers’ rights by not providing them an EU commission draft ESM framework in February 2011 or the April 2011 draft of the ESM treaty, the court said in a statement on its website. Merkel also should have disclosed to them her so-called competitiveness pact proposal before presenting it at a Feb. 4, 2011 summit, according to the ruling.

“The decision has no impact on the euro-agreements that have already been taken,” the German Finance Ministry said, adding the ruling clears up the extent of information rights.

The government argued the constitution’s rules on EU integration policies don’t cover the ESM, because it was set up through a treaty between governments, outside EU mechanisms.

The judges rejected that argument, saying that under the constitution, “EU matters do include such treaties if they add to, or are particularly close to, the law of the EU.”

The ESM is closely interwoven with European integration, the court said. The European Commission, as well as the European Court of Justice, will gain special roles within the bailout mechanism’s framework, which will also alter a basic EU treaty, the judges said.

“Today is a good day for democracy,” the opposition Green party’s parliamentary group in the Bundestag, which brought the case, said on its website. The court clearly “outlawed illegal constructions” in European matters.

The ruling must have an impact on negotiation between Merkel and her opposition on the German legislation regarding the fiscal pact, scheduled for tomorrow, the group said. Lawmakers must get a bigger role in its implementation, it said.

Today’s case is: BVerfG, 2 BvR 4/11.

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