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One Man's Fight To Block The Euro's Rescue

Professor Markus Kerber: "I am the sort of guy who says, 'I will never surrender.'"
Professor Markus Kerber: "I am the sort of guy who says, 'I will never surrender.'"
BRUSSELS -- He's one law professor going up against the might of the German state.

But Markus Kerber takes pride in being a gadfly.

And despite suffering setbacks in his bid to stop his government from rescuing the euro, Kerber says he will continue his mission because -- if nothing else -- it's provoking healthy debate that should be at the heart of any democracy.

Earlier this month, Berlin scored a victory against Kerber when the country's constitutional court ruled that the initial bailout of Greece in 2010 as well as the subsequent backing of Ireland and Portugal through the temporary eurozone rescue fund -- the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) -- was legal.

Today's German parliamentary vote in favor of giving additional powers to the EFSF rescue fund marked another defeat for Kerber.

But speaking to RFE/RL in Brussels before the vote, the EU law professor from the Technical University in Berlin said he's determined to keep fighting.

"I will never lose my heart. I am the sort of guy who says, 'I will never surrender,'" Kerber said.

'Fire In The House'

Kerber, along with the think tank Europolis, consisting of 55 German entrepreneurs and academics, has filed numerous constitutional complaints about the way Germany is trying to prop up the common currency.

"Fiscal sovereignty -- the right to dispose of your own resources -- was at stake. There was fire in the house," Kerber said, "and that is why we acted and brought the case to the constitutional court."

Even though he claims he expected the outcome, Kerber says he was heartened by the fact that the court ruled the German government must in future get the OK of the parliament’s budget committee before approving any future rescue deal. In his view, MPs are now personally responsible for their decisions and the court must sooner or later decide the boundary of sustainable debt.

And Kerber is already bracing for more legal battles. He has challenged the decision of the constitutional court in the European Court of Human Rights. He is also considering ways of probing the European Central Bank's (ECB) decision to buy Italian and Spanish bonds, arguing that it is getting involved in fiscal policy instead of focusing on monetary issues.

And the expansion of the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), if finally approved by all eurozone members, will provide more fodder for legal battles.

"It is not at all excluded that the retrofitted European Financial Stability Facility, which is incomparably more dangerous than the first one, could be an object of further constitutional inquiry," Kerber said.

A Eurozone 'Refit'

Despite seeming hell-bent on destroying the euro, Kerber underlines that he doesn't think it is politically wise or economically reasonable for Germany to revert back to its old national currency, the deutschmark. Instead, he believes the eurozone should be "refitted" so that the countries with economically sounder policies have a bigger say.

"Don't forget that the trade-surplus countries have nothing more to say than the fragile countries within the ECB," he said. "So there is a growing discrepancy between power and liability. And in as much as the donor states don't have a bigger say, the situation can no longer be managed."

That his legal moves already have slowed down the political process of saving the euro and can seem downright counterproductive is another claim that the professor doesn't agree with, adding that proper parliamentary debates and democracy must come ahead of just rubber-stamping bailout deals.

"No, parliamentary debate has ever been counterproductive," Kerber said. "I might remind you of the fact that the German parliament discusses as well the question of peace and war. Whenever the German Army is sent anywhere, there is a very ample debate. Nothing is more interesting, thrilling, thought-provoking and worthy of democracy than debate."
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    Rikard Jozwiak

    Rikard Jozwiak is the Europe editor for RFE/RL in Prague, focusing on coverage of the European Union and NATO. He previously worked as RFE/RL’s Brussels correspondent, covering numerous international summits, European elections, and international court rulings. He has reported from most European capitals, as well as Central Asia.

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