Because they say so!

von Maximilian Steinbeis

Dear Friends of Verfassungsblog

Was that a threat? In a large op-ed in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung this week (May 11, p.6, not online so far), the Speaker of the German Parliament Norbert Lammert made a rather blunt statement towards the Federal Constitutional Court, recommending the justices to apply some "smart restraint" unless they do not want to see the constitution itself amended to eliminate the problems the legislators keep having with regard to the Karlsruhe Court: "A legislator who is limited in his creative possibilities will try to defend himself" and write, what he cannot enact under constitutional law, right into the constitution itself.

These are not empty words. While the current grand-coalition four-fifth majority in the Bundestag is unlikely to realize any major constitutional reforms before the elections in September, the anger in Parliament against the Court will certainly outlive the legislature and make the required two-thirds majority in both chambers a realistic goal. In some areas, such as electoral law or European politics, the people’s representatives feel their scope of movement so tightly constrained by court-ordered constitutional requirements that they feel they can hardly do anything any more at all without triggering an alarm in Karlsruhe: Every time we make a political decision and take responsibility, the Karlsruhe Eight put on their scarlet caps and frown. Tsk-tsk, wrong again. How dare they?

Parliament threatening the Constitutional Court – doesn’t this resemble the sort of behaviour we know from Hungary and Poland? That would be a serious misunderstanding, though. First of all, the word threat is misplaced here ...

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