The European Union’s top court faced the most stinging attack in its 68-year history -- not from Brexiteers, but from its German counterpart.
In a long-awaited ruling on the European Central Bank’s quantitative easing program, Germany’s constitutional court in Karlsruhe accused the EU Court of Justice of overstepping its powers when it backed the ECB’s controversial policy.
The German court said the EU judges’ ECB Wins EU Top Court Fight Over Legality of QE Program (2)">December 2018 ruling that QE was in line with EU rules was “objectively arbitrary” and is “methodologically no longer justifiable.” It gave the ECB a three-month ECB 3 Months to Fix QE Program (1)">ultimatum to fix flaws in the measure.
“This is a declaration of war on the ECJ, and it will have consequences,” said Joachim Wieland, a law professor at the University of Administrative Sciences, who sees the real challenge in the future relationship between the EU court and national constitutional tribunals. “It’s an invitation for other countries to simply ignore decisions that they don’t like.”
German Judges Give ECB Three Months to Fix Flaws in QE Program
The ruling is a direct challenge to the supremacy of the EU judges, whose rulings are binding across the 27-nation bloc. The German court said this no longer applies in extreme examples when the EU tribunal fails in its duties.
The bigger issue is that the ruling has opened a Pandora’s box on the EU legal order, said Guntram Wolff, director of the Brussels-based Bruegel think tank.
Calling an ECJ judgment “ultra vires,” or going beyond one’s legal powers, “is a huge issue for the integrity of EU law,” Wolff said in an email. “Every national court can now challenge the EU court by saying what the German court is doing, is also applicable to us.”
It’s not only the toughest criticism the Luxembourg-based EU judges have faced by one of the bloc’s most senior courts, it also creates a risk that other nations will start to doubt their authority.
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