German court delays bailout fund debate

One of Germany’s top courts has blocked the use of a parliamentary committee to approve urgent decisions about the Eurozone's bailout fund, in a sign that quick decision-making on moves to tackle the region’s crisis will face more obstacles.

The Constitutional Court put an injunction in place while it investigates whether the planned use of a small closed-door committee of nine German lawmakers to consider urgent matters relating to the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) infringed other politicans’ rights.

The parliamentary leader of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative bloc, Peter Altmaier, said the suspension meant parliament's entire lower house would need to decide on urgent matters relating to the EFSF.

But he said the court's action – pending a final ruling on a complaint from two opposition lawmakers alleging the committee's powers breach Germany's basic law – would not tie the hands of either the Bundestag or the EFSF.

"The German parliament will ensure that, until the main ruling, Germany's ability and the EFSF's ability to act are secured," he said.

The move is seen as another way of making it harder for Eurozone leaders to take swift actions to resolve fast-moving developments in the region.

Germany has frequently been accused of dragging out its decision-making, most recently when Chancellor Angela Merkel had to obtain a mandate from parliament to negotiate on the EFSF at a summit in Brussels on Wednesday.

A court spokeswoman said a final ruling could come by late December.