Germany: judges rule against billions for climate plan

A ruling by Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court has left the country’s government financially strapped: 60 billion euros originally earmarked for combating the Covid crisis should not have been reallocated to climate protection projects in the 2021 supplementary budget, the court has ruled. Finance Minister Christian Lindner (FDP) must now cancel the projects. The press has mixed feelings.

Zeit Online (DE) /

Judges’ job is the law, not the economy

Zeit Online agrees with the ruling:

“The government was of course cheating by planning to use money that was reserved for combating the Covid crisis for climate protection. Apparently, the traffic light coalition was counting on the Federal Constitutional Court not taking such a close look. After all, hardly any expert would doubt that it makes economic sense to spend money on climate protection and the transformation of the economy. That’s what other countries are doing. But judges don’t deal with the economy but with the law. And the law doesn’t count beans.”

Mark Schieritz
Der Standard (AT) /

A bombshell

This is a fail grade from an independent source for the parties of the traffic light coalition, says Der Standard:

“Don’t give the German ‘socialists’ any money, they don’t know how to budget — this joke which is popular in CDU and CSU circles was extended to include the FDP and the Greens on a key point last Tuesday. This is because the Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe handed down a ruling which is disastrous for the traffic light government. Or, to use the words of Chancellor Olaf Scholz: a real bombshell. ... So now there’s basically a judicial stamp for bad governance. ... It applies to Scholz and in particular to his Finance Minister Christian Lindner (FDP).”

Birgit Baumann
The Irish Times (IE) /

Too restrictive

Fiscal policy should be part of legitimate political decision-making, says The Irish Times:

“The government has limited options if it wishes to implement its programme. Amending the brake provision would require an impossible two-thirds majority in both houses. Others are suggesting the declaration of another state of emergency, this time, instead of coronavirus, in relation to the war in Ukraine. A legal challenge to this in Karlsruhe would be almost certain. ... It is arguable, however, that the enshrining of a deeply political outlook — rigid fiscal conservatism — in the constitution undermines the freedom of movement of democratically-elected governments.”

Financial Times (GB) /

Chance for a reboot in economic philosophy

The judgement could have a positive impact, The Financial Times points out:

“The belief in strict rules reflects a desire to take the politics out of economic management. That betrays politicians’ lack of confidence in one another — but most profoundly, in their own rectitude. That is the root of Germany’s ordoliberal economic philosophy, for historical reasons, but can be found through much of Europe. It is, however, an illusion. Economic policy is ineradicably political; the question is how to make it responsibly so. If this legal curveball provokes answers to that, in Germany and in the EU, it will have been well worth it.”

Martin Sandbu