Enlarge image

Federal Court of Auditors in Bonn: "Highly risky under constitutional law"


Christoph Hardt / imago images/Future Image

Following the Karlsruhe ruling, the Federal Court of Auditors considers the federal budgets for 2023 and 2024 to be "extremely problematic from a constitutional point of view". This emerges from the statement of the Court of Audit for the expert hearing on Tuesday in the Budget Committee of the Bundestag. If the Bundestag were to adopt the 2024 budget and the economic plan of the Economic Stabilisation Fund (WSF) "without significant changes with regard to the requirements of the Federal Constitutional Court, the Federal Court of Auditors would consider this to be highly risky under constitutional law".

Thiess Büttner, a financial scientist at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, sees a gap of at least 52 billion euros in the budget planning. This would then also apply to the WSF, from which the government finances the gas and electricity price brakes, for example, through credit authorizations from 2022. "If one adds the originally planned deficit in the special fund ›Climate and Transformation Fund‹, there is a need for consolidation in the budget planning for the coming year of 52 billion euros," Büttner writes.

In his statement, law professor Henning Tappe also expresses concerns about the practice of the government filling the WSF 2022 with loans, some of which will not be used until 2023 and 2024. "A budget law that permits income from loans to finance expenditures that will only have to be paid in the future fails to comply with the constitutional principles of maturity and annuality," Tappe writes. "Expenditure which is entered in the budget as 'current' expenditure by means of an allocation to a reserve or to a special fund, so that it is available in later financial years and only then expended, is difficult to reconcile with these principles."

Heidelberg constitutional law expert Hanno Kube, who co-represented the CDU/CSU lawsuit against the climate fund, also writes: "The current draft of the 2024 budget law could be unconstitutional." As a result, "the Budget Act 2024 and the accompanying Budget Financing Act are not ready for a decision in the short term".

Budget decision in the Budget Committee planned for Thursday

Economist Jens Südekum, on the other hand, does not see next year's core budget directly affected by the Karlsruhe ruling. As long as there is a spending freeze in the Climate and Transformation Fund, the 2024 budget could be adopted. However, a supplementary budget is likely to be adopted soon. Because open questions about the verdict could not realistically be clarified by the end of the year, the budget should still be decided first, he advises.

The budget committee of the Bundestag wants to hear experts on Tuesday on the effects of the Constitutional Court ruling on the budget planning for 2024. The traffic light coalition of SPD, Greens and FDP wants to decide on Thursday in the budget committee the budget, which is to be passed by the Bundestag on December 1, according to current planning.