THE SUPREME COURT has asked the European Court of Justice to issue urgent rulings on three questions dealing with whether the planned new permanent European bailout fund is legal under existing EU law.
The court today reached an agreement with independent TD Thomas Pringle, and the government, on referring the three issues to Europe’s highest court as a matter of “exceptional urgency”.
The referral came after Pringle took a Supreme Court appeal to his appeal against the Irish government’s ratification of the European Council decision allowing the EU’s existing treaties to be amended so that the European Stability Mechanism could come into being.
The Donegal South-West TD had also sought an injunction stopping the government from ratifying the European Stability Mechanism Treaty itself. That Treaty has been approved by the Oireachtas, but the government has yet to deposit formal ratification papers in Brussels.
The Supreme Court proceedings have been adjourned until the ECJ gives its response to the three questions, which are as follows:
- Is the EU Council decision of March 25th 2011 to amend article 136 of the TFEU valid and does it violate treaty or EU law principles?
- If the decision of March 25th 2011 is valid, is a member state entitled to join the ESM before the decision comes into force?
- Is the terms and operation of the ESM Treaty compatible with the principles and provisions of the EU Treaties?
Pringle said he was “extremely pleased” to have secured the referral, saying he had only taken the case because he was “very concerned” about the legality of the ESM treaty under Irish and European law.
The Irish Times reported that the Supreme Court had reserved judgment on a parallel question of whether the ESM is in breach of the Irish Constitution, which Pringle said may be the case given the potentially infinite financial obligations it could place on the State.
The Court is likely to rule shortly on whether to grant an injunction stopping the Irish government from proceeding with the ratification of the ESM Treaty pending the outcome of the case.
Unusually, all seven members of the Supreme Court were hearing Pringle’s case in its three days of hearings – a sign of the gravity of the matters before it.
The ESM can still come into effect without Ireland’s ratification, but it cannot be established without German approval, which has also been deferred until its own Constitutional Court has ruled on whether the treaty breaches German law.