German eurosceptics prepare challenge to Greek aid

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Five German eurosceptics will launch an appeal in the country's top court Friday in a bid to block billions of euros (dollars) in loans from Berlin to debt-stricken Greece, said one of the plaintiffs.

The group is challenging legislation proposed by Chancellor Angela Merkel to release some 22.4 billion euros (28.7 billion dollars) over three years to Athens, including 8.4 billion euros this year.

They will argue in the constitutional court that the loans contravene a German law that the country must have a stable currency, as well as articles in the European treaties that no nation may assume the debts of another.

"The Lisbon Treaty forbids one member state from helping another in financial distress," plaintiff Joachim Starbatty told AFP.

Four members of the group -- Wilhelm Hankel, Wilhelm Noelling, Karl Albrecht Schachtschneider and Starbatty -- launched an unsuccessful legal challenge in 1998 against the introduction of the euro.

The quartet is this time joined by Dieter Spethmann, a businessman.

"It is about more than the German payment of 8.4 billion euros," they wrote in a statement.

"It is about the stability of the currency... and therefore about the economic and social fate of all citizens in the union."

Schachtschneider said in a recent interview that Greece should leave the eurozone.

"The drachma (the former Greek currency) should come back and be devalued. And then the country should join the queue of those wanting to join the euro," he told Focus online.

Earlier this week, German Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger dismissed their chances, saying the appeal was "unfounded."

Legal sources in Karlsruhe, where the court is based, said it would likely refuse to take up the case and could pass it to European legal authorities as it concerns the euro area.

Germany's parliament is poised to vote on the bill on Friday before it passes to the upper house and then the president for signature before becoming law the same day.

Its passage is assured as Merkel and her partners, the pro-business Free Democrats, hold a majority in both chambers.

© 2010 AFP

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