Europe flabbergasted after top German court halts recovery fund

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has been instructed by Germany's Constitutional Court not to sign off on a law ratifying the EU's coronavirus recovery fund because of a constitutional complaint against Germany's participation in the programme. The complaint was filed by a group led by former Alternative for Germany leader Bernd Lucke, who argues that it is illegal for the EU to take on joint debt to finance the package. This is about more than just a formality, European journalists conclude.

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Le Figaro (FR) /

Court is just doing its job

No one should be surprised that the judges want to review the matter, former banker Jean-Michel Naulot writes in Le Figaro:

“This procedure ignores a key component of the EU Treaty, Article 5, which states that there can be no such thing as an unassigned competence - in this case joint borrowing. And it sidesteps the two articles which explicitly prohibit the recourse to borrowing (Articles 310 and 311 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union). Is it any wonder that the German Constitutional Court is suspending ratification pending in-depth examination? It's just doing its job. ... The European recovery plan is another illustration of the democratic deficit of the European Union.”

Radio France Internationale (RO) /

Repercussions are difficult to calculate

In his column for the Romanian edition of Radio France International, journalist Ovidiu Nahoi points out that there is more at stake here than just an annoying delay:

“At best, the court will rule that the recovery package is valid, even if we don't know how long that will take. What's more, the wait could be prolonged if the judges seek an opinion from the European Court of Justice, which could delay the entry into force of the long-awaited plan by another few months. Of course, one can't rule out a court decision that would destroy the entire project, with consequences that are difficult to calculate.”

Contributors (RO) /

The Eurosceptics' arsenal is huge

Populist groups are prepared to go to shocking lengths to achieve their ends, Contributors laments:

“All we can hope is that such an initiative will not emerge in other EU countries. ... The arsenal of Eurosceptic parties is worrying, and they will restort to any means to thwart the EU. This has already been evident during the coronavirus pandemic with the spread of fake news and misinformation, and now with populist messages that are even delaying the entry into force of the EU's economic recovery plan.”

Financial Times (GB) /

New Constitutional Court judges needed

Germany's Constitutional Court judges have an old-fashioned conception of the law, the Financial Times criticises:

“The Karlsruhe court has in the past 20 years taken extreme interpretations of the right to vote and the principle of national budgetary sovereignty - two unamendable tenets of the German constitution - while downplaying other elements of the constitution, allowing for delegation of powers to the EU for the purposes of EU integration. The court's doctrinal thinking is far outside the European mainstream. The problem cannot be easily resolved given the difficulty of changing the constitution. The best hope might be a changing of the guard on the court itself and the eventual appointment of judges with a more balanced assessment of the constitution and how to reconcile it with Germany's obligations to the EU.”