The case, with a record number of plaintiffs, was brought by activist groups with the aim of convincing the Constitutional Court to compel the German government to vote ‘no' on the deal when it is deliberated by the European Council next week.
If the deal is approved by the European Council, it will be signed at the end of the month, and if it is then voted through the European Parliament, it will be almost immediately implemented.
This immediate implementation is what had the plaintiffs concerned, arguing that it would happen before the Bundestag (German parliament) and other member state parliaments have had a chance to debate and vote on the deal themselves.
“The German government and the EU have made it clear from the beginning that they plan to push the deal through, even against the will of their own citizens - and now they are doing that,” said Klaus Ernst of Die Linke (the Left party) before the court decision.
But the judges decided on Thursday that the German government could allow the preliminary application of the deal before the Bundestag vote, but only if certain conditions are met. These included that Germany would still be able to withdraw from the agreement, should the Constitutional Court decide so later.
The court also stated that only certain parts of CETA which fall under EU responsibilities should be applied before Bundestag approval.
“If these conditions are complied with, there will be no serious disadvantages for the complainants, nor for the participatory rights of the German parliament, which would necessitate an interim measure,” the court wrote in its ruling.
The group of plaintiffs had brought a total of five suits against CETA, and the remaining cases are still to be reviewed by the Court.
Critics also claim the deal puts consumer and environmental protection at risk. The government claims that a trade area with almost no import duties will be an economic boon to Germany.
CETA and a similar deal with the United States, TTIP, have elicited continued disapproval within with German public. In September more than 160,000 people protested in seven German cities against the two deals.