The eurozone's permanent rescue fund (ESM) and the fiscal pact for EU budget discipline are under review by Germany's highest court. Christoph Degenhart, a constitutional lawyer and one of the plaintiffs, takes stock.
Deutsche Welle: What was your impression of the hearing - it actually went on for quite a long time?
Christoph Degenhart: The fact that the hearing took so long – after all, we heard the case for 11 hours, which nobody had expected – shows that the judges take our concerns and objections very, very seriously. They want to have a thorough look at the case.
In how far is this proceeding different from other proceedings to save the euro?
I wasn't directly involved in past proceedings on rescuing the euro. But I believe that we succeeded in communicating to the court that these new measures to save the euro - if that's how you want to word it, in reality, banks are being rescued – have reached a different dimension from previous efforts.
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble is concerned that the court appears to be taking longer to decide in what are supposed to be fast-track proceedings. He has warned of turbulences on the markets triggered by delaying the ESM's implementation. What's your take on this?
To begin with, the markets are no constitutional criteria. All I can say is, after the hearing in Karlsruhe, I couldn't detect particular skittishness on the stock markets, nor had stock prices crashed. Instead, German Central Bank President Jens Weidmann said markets had already "factored in" this delay. Reaction on the markets to these developments is standard. I think concerns are wildly exaggerated. We can discuss this again in three weeks' time - the date a decision is due for these fast-track proceedings. If the finance minister's prophesies come true, there would be total chaos, and the end of the world would be near. But as you will see: that is not going to happen.
I'll take you by your word. We'll talk again in three weeks. But back to Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann, who said in the hearing that the consequences the court has to weigh in the course of the accelerated proceedings are "highly speculative." And in fact, very few objective figures have been named - only those the parties involved need to substantiate their positions. So how valid can the Constitutional Court's weighing of consequences really be?
It is precisely because no one can present a sustainable calculation that the consequences evoked are purely speculative. On the other hand, we must take into account the damage an immediate implementation of the ESM and fiscal pact treaties would have for democracy. These consequences can be validly documented. So, we have the stronger arguments on our side, even where calculating the consequences is concerned.
Christoph Degenhart is a constitutional lawyer and an expert on constitutional law and media law. He teaches at the University of Leipzig in eastern Germany. On behalf of the citizens' group "More Democracy", he and former Justice Minister Herta Däubler-Gmelin represent about 23,000 plaintiffs in the proceedings before Germany's highest court, the Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe, against the ESM treaty and the fiscal pact.
Interview: Daphne Grathewohl /db
Editor: Gregg Benzow