More and more people are signing up to a constitutional complaint against the euro bailout. But what verdict will Germany's highest court reach?
The response is huge - on the website of "Mehr Demokratie" ("More Democracy"), an association dealing with questions of European integration and democratization in the EU, visitor numbers are shooting through the roof. At the end of June, around 12,000 people had signed up. Two weeks later, nearly 30,000 people had put their name to a constitutional complaint against the EU's permanent bailout fund ESM and the fiscal pact. The merits of the lawsuit must now be decided by Germany's highest court, the Constitutional Court, in Karlsruhe.
"We are not the first, and - not yet - the most successful. The complaint against data retention [by the German government] had 35,000 signatories. But we want to beat that," Mehr Demokratie spokesman Michael Efler said.
Pouring water or gasoline on the euro crisis?
While the ESM will serve as a permanent rescue fund for the eurozone countries and will commit the signatory states to contribute a total of 700 billion euros ($857.1 billion), the fiscal pact is meant to force all the eurozone members to rein in their budget deficits.
"These are the right measures for a strong Europe, for a strong euro," German Economy Minister Philipp Rösler said on Friday, echoing the sentiments of the proponents of the two instruments, who include Chancellor Angela Merkel and Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble.
In the view of Mehr Demokratie, however, both instruments reach too far into the budgetary powers of the Bundestag and transfer responsibilities from Berlin to Brussels. Such a shift in the balance of power would require a constitutional amendment and, for that very reason, Mehr Demokratie is calling for a referendum. It was for this reason that the association, with the help of prominent supporters like former Justice Minister Herta Däubler-Gmelin, logged its constitutional complaints.
Online lawsuits not yet reality
Anyone who wants to can join. "It's not quite as easy as Facebook. You must first print out a document and fill it out, then sign it," Efler said. This gives power of authority for counsel to represent the complainant in Karlsruhe. "Electronically signed powers of attorney are not valid in court."
Because it is not simply a matter of expressing displeasure with political decisions, this form of seeking legal redress is very practical, Efler said: "The matter is highly complex. You have to prove before a court that the constitution has been violated here. That's where expert assistance is needed, even though in principle everyone can lodge an appeal before the Federal Constitutional Court."
Debt crisis, the most important issue
For the last four years, the euro and debt crisis has been inescapable, with many states struggling with its effects, and the media reporting continuously on it. According to figures from Friday's "political barometer" survey, more than half of Germans consider the crisis to be the most important political issue.
This concern is now combined with skepticism about the euro, which many Germans held right from the beginning: "It was a serious mistake to not ask the people at the time whether they wanted to give up the deutschmark and join the euro," Efler said. Critics now feel vindicated with the euro beginning to wobble. Added to this is a general dissatisfaction with democracy. "Many people don't feel like participants but spectators, while governments, driven by the financial markets, make decisions alone," he said. These are the reasons, in his view, why more and more people have joined in the constitutional complaint.
Author: Daphne Grathwohl/cmk/sgb
Editor: Richard Connor