Opinion: a good decision for Europe | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 28.02.2012
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Opinion: a good decision for Europe

The German constitutional court has decided that urgent decisions about the eurozone bailout should not be made by a special committee alone. DW's Daphne Grathwohl believes that's a pro-European verdict.

Is the decision of the German constitutional court anti-European? Will the German constitution be used to implement special measures to save the euro? Will an efficient mechanism be put in place to tackle the debt crisis? It seems that this ruling will bring forth such reactions.

Deutsche Welle Daphne Grathwohl

DW's Daphne Grathwohl

But that is not the case: the judges have boosted the rights of the German parliament, as laid out in the constitution and the basic principle of parliamentary democracy. In its budgetary responsibility, the German parliament has an important right. The Bundestag cannot give up that responsibility to a tiny body made up of nine people, especially not when it's a question of large sums and controversial measures. Notably the Bundestag has to take account of its budgetary duties in future.

Only exceptional cases

The judges did concede, however, that the select committee would be allowed to convene in exceptional cases, involving decisions about buying sovereign bonds on the secondary market. The court said that such transactions required confidentiality, to avoid volatility caused by insider trading and betting on the financial markets. The judges noted that the euro crisis had been heightened by such speculation. It makes sense therefore that investors would not have access to such information and that a small, confidential special committee should be able to act in such instances. It also avoids any information leaking from the German parliament. Of course, you can't safeguard against all disclosures, because there are too many people involved, both in Europe and around the world.

But such decisions must be the exception. That is not anti-European, but democratic. In the end it's about measures that are controversial not only among the general public, but also among politicians. So the lawmakers should be fully informed about such measures, and they should be able to participate in the decision process. Only then, when the democratically elected representatives are included in important decision making can the rest of the population be reassured. Whether they will actually succeed, is another question. But they must certainly be seen to try.

Against a deficit of democracy

A group of nine people, convened in a small chamber and sworn to confidentiality as they decide over the payment of rescue funds - or other internationally binding commitments - breaks the rules of transparency and thus acts in defiance of the rights granted to the people and their representatives. This amounts to a deficit of democracy that could have dangerous consequences.

The resolution of the euro crisis is a goal towards which all Europeans strive and one that we all have to work to achieve: On the one hand you have the people in Europe's indebted states who have to deal with austerity measures and structural reforms. But on the other hand you have the people in Europe's - still - prosperous states who help in solidarity, because they too profit from Europe's monetary union. This applies particularly to Germany.

The protests in indebted states like Greece, but also those lawmakers in Germany who opposed the bailouts, show that Europe doesn't see with one eye; on the contrary, we have seen for a long time now that strong resentments between EU nations have led to reciprocal prejudices, to the idea that other states have more advantages than one's own nation.

Necessary backing

Having said that, protests and criticism are understandable, especially since nobody - not even heads of state or government or economic experts - has come up with a viable solution to the crisis.

But here, in particular, the people have to make an effort to inform themselves and work on solutions to Europe's greatest current problem. Decisions made in the small chamber will then, more than ever, be rejected by the majority of the people - regardless of which EU country they belong to.

Any decision reached by the Bundestag may prove more difficult than those reached by the special panel. But the latter will reach its decision devoid of the influence from insiders, as it is based on officials elected by the people. This is as democratic as it gets and certainly more legitimate than many current EU practices.

The likelihood that parliamentary representatives make the difficult decisions in favour of the rescue of the euro is much higher when parliamentarians are informed and involved. It is for this reason that we can safely call Tuesday's ruling in Karlsruhe Europe-friendly.

Author: Daphne Grathwohl / ji
Editor: Gabriel Borrud

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