German activists have taken their protest against the EU-Canada trade deal CETA to the country's Constitutional Court, arguing that it runs counter to the constitution and the rule of law.
German NGOs Foodwatch, Campact and Mehr Demokratie (More Democracy) have mobilized 125,000 people to participate in the action, filed Wednesday with Germany's highest court in Karlsruhe.
It is the largest ever case to be heard by the court. Power of attorney documents for those participating in the action were transported to Karlsruhe by lorry in 70 cardboard boxes on Tuesday.
CETA would eliminate 98 per cent of tariffs, allowing the free flow of goods and services between Canada and EU member states. Critics say it would give multinational corporations undue power in European markets.
The activists object to a dispute resolution mechanism proposed under CETA that would allow companies to bypass national courts and instead argue their case at international arbitration panels.
They hope to scupper a plan for the temporary implementation of CETA in late October, which EU officials hope will assuage fears about its implications.
A decision on this is expected before an EU-Canada summit scheduled for late October, said Anne Daenner, a spokeswoman for Mehr Demokratie.
The move comes as public support for CETA and the much larger Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the EU and the US is flagging on both sides of the Atlantic.
German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel, who also serves as deputy chancellor to Angela Merkel, last week voiced his opposition to TTIP while simultaneously backing CETA.
"Certain people have declared TTIP as dead for the sole purpose of pushing through CETA," Lena Blanken of Foodwatch told dpa, adding that "CETA is TTIP through the back door."
The action brings together Foodwatch, a consumer protection organization, Campact, an anti-globalization group, and Mehr Demokratie, which lobbies for greater public participation in politics.
The number of participants in a constitutional court case has no impact on its outcome. On Saturday, a 70-year-old music teacher from the western state of North Rhine Westphalia filed a similar claim against CETA with 68,000 participants.