by N. Peter Kramer
The German Constitutional Court’s decision last week, casting aside a European Court of Justice ruling on monetary policy, marked the most overt and significant challenge ever posed to the EU’s highest court. In a statement on Friday, the ECJ warned the bloc’s legal order may be in jeopardy. An expert described this as a ‘cry for help’. And the ‘help’ was there! Ursula von der Leyen, European Commission President said on Sunday, ‘the final word on EU law is always spoken in Luxembourg (the seat of the ECJ, EBR). Nowhere else.’ In her statement Von der Leyen, a fellow party member of Angela Merkel, threatened the government of her home country with infringement proceedings. Von der Leyen was, until she was chosen for the Commission job in November, Minister of Defence in the German government lead by Merkel. It is particularly thorny that the Commission President adopted the idea for infringement from a German Green MEP!
A professor at the European University Institute School of Transnational Governance, Miguel Maduro, said in the Financial Times, ‘This is an open challenge by the German Constitutional Court to the ECJ, and that is why it is such a gamble’. The German court asked Merkel’s government to ensure that the ECB has to carry out a ‘proportionality assessment’ of its bond buying programme within three months. If a satisfactory assessment is not forthcoming, the German Bundesbank would have to withdraw from the programme. Can you imagine the effect?
An infringement, as Von der Leyen is pointing at, could mean that Germany loses voting rights as Member State, under Article 7 of the EU Treaty. In the past this mechanism has thrown the spotlight on Poland and Hungary in their existing legal battles with the European Commission. Both face proceedings under Article 7. Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecky told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that the German court ruling was ‘one of the most important’ in the history of the EU and shows that ‘the ECJ does not have unlimited powers’.
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