The ECB is, of course, not subject to German law. As an EU institution it answers to the European Court of Justice. But this ruling is binding on the Bundesbank. I doubt that Jens Weidmann, its president, will want to fob off the German judges with a superficial response.
The ruling only allows the Germans to take part in the asset purchase programme for another three months unless they find a way to comply. Theoretically, the ECB could proceed without Germany. But I would strongly advise against it because that could precipitate a eurozone break-up.
Since its 1993 ruling upholding the legality of the Maastricht treaty, the German constitutional court has become more radical. But it avoided outright confrontation, until last week.
I find the most troubling aspect of this ruling is the assertion that the ECJ was also transgressing its competences by approving the bond buying and has gone ultra vires, in the Latin jargon of German constitutional lawyers.
This part of the ruling raises deeply troubling issues for the relationship between the EU and its member states. The German court accepts the principle that EU law overrides national law for areas they specifically recognise lie within the EU’s competence. But they reserve the right to decide whether the EU and the ECJ are operating inside or outside their legal remits. It sets a troubling precedent.
The smartest response to this ruling would be for the EU to address the problems of the eurozone head on: lack of convergence between north and south, debt sustainability and, most important right now, the issuance of mutualised debt to finance a recovery fund.
The emerging reality for EU member states is they gave up the essence of sovereignty when they accepted the idea of a European constitution. They can still go through the motions of national elections and get to issue their own debt but when it comes to big decisions about the fate of their economies, they now have little choice but to fall in line with the ECB.Click HERE to subscribe to Fuller Treacy Money Back to top