BERLIN — Germany’s highest court heard calls Wednesday from opponents of a European Union-Canada trade deal for an injunction aimed at putting the signing of the accord on ice. The country’s vice chancellor warned that the consequences could be serious.
The Federal Constitutional Court held a hearing on four complaints against the trade deal with Canada, known as CETA. Tens of thousands of citizens joined in two of those complaints.
A ruling is expected on Thursday.
The plaintiffs want the government to be forced to vote against approving the accord at an EU meeting Oct. 18 pending full consideration by the court of their contention that it violates the principles of democracy.
Current plans call for CETA to be signed at the end of this month and for much of it to take effect on a provisional basis.
Its opponents are deeply suspicious of a proposed trade deal — the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP — with the United States, which is still being negotiated, and view CETA as a blueprint for that accord.
Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, who is also Germany’s economy minister, told the court that putting off CETA’s signing could effectively torpedo the accord, news agency dpa reported.
“I don’t want to imagine what that could mean for Europe,” he added, arguing that the rest of the world would no longer have any confidence in Germany’s and the EU’s ability to stick to deals.
Gabriel has swung his center-left party, the junior partner in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s governing coalition, behind CETA but has argued that negotiations on the proposed U.S. deal have effectively failed.