Brussels has launched legal action against the German constitutional court after its judges tried to challenge the supremacy of EU law and a ruling by the EU’s highest court regarding the purchase of bonds by the European Central Bank.
The unprecedented infringement procedure follows a verdict last year by the German Constitutional Court which ruled that the ECB had overstepped its mandate with bond purchases, even though the European Court of Justice had already cleared the program of the ECB.
Although the move was resolved without disrupting the ECB’s efforts to stimulate the eurozone economy, the European Commission said on Wednesday it was taking action because the German court had set a “serious precedent” that could undermine the EU and pave the way for other Member States. courts to challenge the hegemony of the ECJ.
The committee said it had sent Germany a formal notice for “violating fundamental principles of EU law”, and gave it two months to respond. If this answer is not satisfactory, the procedure could go to the ECJ.
Brussels is also fighting with Poland over alleged rule of law violations and on Wednesday launched a separate infringement case against the Hungarian government after removing Klubradio, an independent radio station, in February.
The committee, in a move that dramatically stepped up efforts to strengthen media freedoms in the EU, said Hungary’s decision was taken “on highly questionable grounds” and was “disproportionate and non-transparent”. Under Prime Minister Viktor Orban, media pluralism in Hungary has been drastically reduced.
The action against Germany is the last round in a long battle between the EU and the German Constitutional Court over the rule of EU law.
Steffen Seibert, spokesperson for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, said: âWe will be looking very closely at the committee’s objections. When asked whether Germany had set a bad example for the EU when it came to the treaty breach procedure, he replied that other countries had been subjected to it as well.
“I certainly wouldn’t want to downplay it in any way, but we’re not the only ones.”
The fiercely independent court in Karlsruhe has long seen itself as the ultimate arbiter of the legality of EU law in Germany, especially in areas related to fiscal and monetary policy.
Tensions have often peaked following the ECB’s decision to launch mass bond buying programs in the euro area since 2015 and to increase buying last year in response to the Covid pandemic. 19.
This action concerns a decision of German judges last May according to which the Luxembourg Court of Justice had violated its mandate with an “incomprehensible” decision justifying the purchases of bonds by the ECB.
The Karlsruhe judges also asked the ECB to produce a “proportionality assessment” within three months to justify the bond purchases or the risk of Germany withdrawing its participation in euro area monetary policy.
The feud was resolved last summer after the ECB produced a valuation backed by the German government and the German central bank.
Despite this, the committee said that Germany’s decision to declare the ECJ exceeding its powers (ultra vires) had “deprived a judgment of the European Court of Justice of its legal effect in Germany, violating the principle of the rule of law. EU law “.
Dennis Kolberg, spokesman for the German Ministry of Finance, said: âThese are fundamental questions concerning the distribution of responsibilities between European courts. The German government believes that it is important to have a good cooperative relationship between the courts.