* Complaints highlight unease over debt crisis measures
* Court likely to reject case but reaffirm Bundestag role
By Gareth Jones
BERLIN, April 19 Germany's Constitutional Court
will hold a public hearing on June 11 and 12 on complaints
against the euro zone's bailout fund, the European Stability
Mechanism (ESM) and the European Central Bank's bond-buying
The complaints, seven in total, reflect German unease about
the mounting costs of dealing with the three-year debt crisis
and fears that the ECB bond-buying programme may violate the
taboo against direct central bank financing of state budgets.
The court, based in Karlsruhe, southwestern Germany, ruled
in a preliminary verdict last September that the ESM did not
violate German law and could go ahead, though it insisted on
veto rights for the German parliament.
That same month, the ECB announced plans to buy "unlimited"
amounts of bonds from stricken euro zone states to reduce their
borrowing costs, provided they sign up to strict reform
programmes from the ESM rescue fund.
The ECB has not yet activated the programme as struggling
euro zone states, already implementing tough austerity measures,
are reluctant to accept the onerous conditions of the programme,
but the pledge alone has been sufficient to bring down their
borrowing costs over recent months.
Speaking after the court's statement on Friday,
constitutional law expert Gunnar Beck said he did not expect
Karlsruhe to uphold the complaints, given its past record on not
blocking moves towards European integration, despite the legal
concerns over the bond-buying programme.
"There is no doubt that the EU treaties ... rule out bond
purchases whenever they might facilitate state financing through
the printing press and allow indebted states to obtain better
rates than they would otherwise," said Beck, a German lawyer and
academic now based at London University.
"There is no historic precedent where the German
constitutional court has directly challenged the German
government over an issue of European policy," said Beck, a
longtime critic of euro zone bailouts.
"I have no doubt the court will (submit to the government's
wishes) in one form or another when it comes to the ECB bond
purchases," he added.
Tanja Boerzel, a political scientist at Berlin's Free
University, agreed that the court would probably not challenge
the ECB's bond-buying plans, though she said it may also
reaffirm the role of the German parliament in the process.
"This is about whether the ESM and the ECB's programme
undermine the budgetary sovereignty of the German Bundestag
(lower house). That is the essence of democracy and the judges
will probably emphasise this, as they have in the past, and
perhaps come up with something specific," Boerzel said.
The court will not give a final verdict on the complaints at
the June hearings.
Political analysts say a verdict is unlikely before
Germany's September election when Chancellor Angela Merkel, her
popularity boosted by what voters see as her competent handling
of the euro zone crisis, is expected to win a third four-year