Die Linke says preparing “legal check”
By Sarah Collins | Friday 13 April 2012
Germany’s left-wing Die Linke party, a member of the European Parliament’s United Left (GUE-NGL) group, has said it is probing the legality of the ‘fiscal compact’ in advance of a possible legal challenge. Gabi Zimmer (Germany), a Die Linke member and GUE’s recently appointed president, said, on 13 April, that her group would “fight against” the introduction of the treaty, which she says will strangle social policy across the bloc. “The fiscal treaty, the austerity policy and all the measures decided by the troika and by the Council are only looking at the role of the euro,” she said. “The aim of policy in the EU must be to help and support people.”
The treaty was signed in January by all EU countries except the UK and the Czech Republic. It asks governments to introduce a balanced budget rule in their constitutions and an automatic spending brake if deficit limits are breached. However, Zimmer says the treaty may be illegal because it is not based in EU law but relies on an EU institution, the Court of Justice, to police its implementation (under Article 8, EU members can take their partners to court for failing to uphold the balanced budget rule). “Die Linke is preparing a legal check to look at if the rights of the European Parliament are broken and is there a legal chance to go to the European court,” Zimmer said, who hopes to complete the probe within four weeks, before a referendum on the treaty is held in Ireland, on 31 May.
A delegation of GUE MEPs - including Zimmer, Irish Socialist Party MEP Paul Murphy and Sinn Fein deputy Bairbre de Bruin - will travel to Ireland this month to join the anti-treaty campaign. Though the latest opinion polls point to a ‘yes’ vote, a coalition of Irish politicians is lashing out at what they are calling the “austerity treaty” and its “blackmail clause” that would cut off bailout funding from countries that reject it (a provision included in a recital to the treaty). “This is not fair,” Zimmer says.
If Die Linke’s lawyers give the go-ahead for a legal challenge, Zimmer says she will also push for bailout states to be allowed to opt out of the treaty’s balanced budget rule during emergencies. “We are looking at what could be the special circumstances - which could also be used for Greece - where you would not use the Stability and Growth Pact as a basis for the fiscal compact,” she said. “We have seen what it means when you cut all the expenditures for social life,” she said.
Zimmer, who replaced former GUE leader Lothar Bisky (Germany) when he stepped down in March for health reasons, is attempting to maximise GUE’s influence in Parliament by entering into strategic partnerships with left-leaning and Liberal parties on issues such as the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) and data protection rules, where their views are aligned. Given that her group holds only 34 of Parliament’s 754 seats - 4.5% of the total - she says she will also look for support outside Parliament, from trade unions and social movements, which she says can be effective in pressuring MEPs for change.