The European Parliament and the Fiscal Compact


The debate on the Fiscal Compact focuses mainly on the question whether it is in accordance with the German Constitution. So far, however, the debate lacks a European dimension. This is all the more surprising since the Fiscal Compact calls into question fundamental European ideas of social justice and democracy.

The Compact permanently establishes a politics of austerity. It delimits democratic control over fiscal policies and undermines social rights. These changes conflict on many levels with the foundations of a social democracy shaped by the European Treaties as well as the European Charter of Fundamental Rights.

A one-sided debate focusing on national constitutional matters alone bears the risk that it will be framed as a battle of competences between Member States and the EU. Instead, we propose that the discussion should highlight the social and democratic foundations of the EU itself. The task is thus not to defend social and democratic values under the auspices of national sovereignty against the Union. Rather, they must be defended in Europe against an invasive and rapidly expanding policy of austerity.

While the German Constitutional Court could very well have addressed the issues of defending social and democratic values in the European Union, it decided not to do so. Instead it went on to define more and more spheres of public competences which are principally not transferable to the European level. It would, however, be more appropriate for the Court to see itself as the guardian of parliamentary control. Its role would then be to ensure that as long as there is no functional equivalent to parliamentary control of fiscal and social policies on the European level, the national parliaments can and have to exercise this control. It is unlikely, however, that the German Constitutional Court will interpret its role in this way when ruling on the Fiscal Compact ...

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