Germany's Constitutional Court on Friday suspended a parliamentary committee's right to approve urgent actions by the euro zone's bailout fund, potentially delaying decision-making in Europe's top economy on key moves to tackle the debt crisis.
The parliamentary leader of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative bloc, Peter Altmaier, said the court's decision meant parliament's entire lower house would need to decide on urgent matters relating to the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF).
But he said the court's action -- pending a final ruling on a complaint from two lawmakers alleging the committee's powers breach Germany's basic law -- would not tie the hands of either the Bundestag or the EFSF.
The German parliament will ensure that, until the main ruling, Germany's ability and the EFSF's ability to act are secured, he said.
Germany has been accused of dragging out its decision-making, most recently when Chancellor Angela Merkel had to obtain a mandate from parliament to negotiate on the EFSF at a summit in Brussels on Wednesday.
The Constitutional Court said in a statement it was temporarily suspending the use of the special committee to take decisions in urgent matters on behalf of parliament, while it investigates whether this infringes lawmakers' rights.
The two lawmakers lodged their complaint on Thursday, arguing that the special committee breaches the basic law as it transfers powers from a full session of the Bundestag to a small body in a matter concerning the budget.
The second senate of the Constitutional Court has decided ...that until a full decision is taken, the Bundestag's right of participation may not be replaced by the new committee, the Court said in statement.
A ruling by the same court last month gave a bigger say to German lawmakers on matters involving the bailout fund and Berlin now has to get approval from parliament's budget committee for participation in euro zone bailouts.
In an effort to speed along the decision-making process, the nine-person special committee was created to represent the larger 41-member budget committee in particularly urgent or confidential matters.
Analyst Christian Schulz from Berenberg Bank said if parliament as a whole had to approve changes to the EFSF it would make things more difficult, but he expected there would be a way to work around it.
The deal so far was that parliament would approve major changes, but any actions of the EFSF within its mandate such as bond purchasing on secondary markets could be approved by a smaller committee ... If that is not possible, and every individual small change has to be approved by parliament, then we have an extremely difficult process.
This issue is not of immediate concern but I am sure they will find a way to get around it. This isn't a decision that the committee is not legal, it is a statement that it may not legal and therefore cannot be used for the time being, he added.
(Reporting by Sarah Marsh, Alexandra Hudson, Matthias Sobolewski and Gernot Heller; Editing by John Stonestreet)