Hundreds of Germans protest against euro rescue steps
KARLSRUHE, Germany (Reuters) - Hundreds of protestors marched up to Germany's top court in Karlsruhe on Saturday, urging it to reject the euro zone's new rescue fund in its keenly-awaited ruling this week and voicing growing unease with bailouts.
Around 700 protestors chanting "We are the people" took to the streets, calling upon the German constitutional court to recognize that the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) impinges on parliament's budgetary sovereignty.
"This ESM is not compatible in my view with democracy, freedom and sovereignty," said protestor Philipp Porep.
Others brandished placards with the words "Merkel, who should pay for this?", "Stop ESM" and "Stop EU inflation and debt union", reflecting growing unease in Germany with European bailouts and crisis measures.
A Reuters poll released on Friday showed legal experts surveyed unanimously expected the court on September 12 to throw out a temporary injunction request against the ESM and the fiscal compact for budget discipline in Europe.
But if the court backed the request, it would have a devastating impact on bond and currency markets, pushing the 17-state currency zone deeper into turmoil by casting doubt on its ability to launch further rescue bids of heavily-indebted southern member states.
The experts polled all expected the court to qualify its approval, with 12 saying it will set strong conditions, in part to limit German exposure to bailouts and strengthen parliamentary oversight.
The ESM was meant to succeed the existing temporary European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) from July and erect a 700 billion euro ($896 billion) firewall to prevent the euro zone's sovereign debt crisis from spreading further.
But Karlsruhe threw a spanner in the works by deciding in mid-July to take two months to look into complaints that the ESM and the fiscal pact that gives EU institutions intrusive powers to enforce the currency area's budget rules, violate the German constitution.
That left the fate of the new rescue fund in limbo. Without ratification by the biggest economy it cannot go into force.
The group "More democracy" which has gathered 37,000 signatures for its injunction request said it did not want to participate in Saturday's march out of respect for the court.
"The facts are now on the table, and now it is up to the judges to decide," said spokeswoman Anne Daenner. "And it is now actually not a political question but a legal one."
($1 = 0.7812 euros)
(Reporting By Reuters Television; writing by Sarah Marsh; Editing by Sophie Hares)
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