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Top EU court hits back at German ruling on €2 trillion bond-buying scheme

The European Court of Justice warns the decision could jeopardise EU legal unity.

Image: DPA/PA Images

THE HIGHEST COURT court in the European Union has affirmed that it “alone has jurisdiction” to decide whether an EU institution has acted contrary to European law.

Released by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) this afternoon, the statement is a clear reaction to Germany’s highest national court, which handed down a controversial ruling this week relating to the European Central Bank’s flagship bond-buying programme.

Contradicting an earlier ECJ ruling from 2018, the German Federal Constitutional Court found on Wednesday that the ECB had failed to appropriately justify its €2 trillion ‘quantitative easing’ scheme, which began in 2015.

Unless the ECB can demonstrate within three months that the scheme is “not disproportionate” to its stated aim of creating price stability in the bloc, Germany’s own central bank could be required to withdraw from it.

This afternoon, the ECJ released a statement noting that it had “received many enquiries concerning the judgment delivered by the German Constitutional Court”.

Although it said in the statement that the ECJ would “never comment on a judgment of a national court,” it gives a clear warning about the implications of the German court’s decision.

“In order to ensure that EU law is applied uniformly”, the ECJ said, “the Court of Justice alone – which was created for that purpose by the member states – has jurisdiction to rule that an act of an EU institution is contrary to EU law.”

The ECJ advised that “divergences between courts of the member states as to the validity of such acts would indeed be liable to place in jeopardy the unity of the EU legal order and to detract from legal certainty”.

The German court’s ruling relates to the ECB’s ‘Public Sector Purchasing Plan’, initiated in 2015 to combat the lingering threat of deflation from the last eurozone recession.

Wednesday’s decision was a partial victory for the campaigners — including Bernd Lucke, the former leader of Germany’s right-wing Alternative für Deutschland party — who originally took the case, alleging that the ECB programme breached EU treaties.

In 2018, the ECJ threw out their complaint but the German Constitutional Court this week rejected its interpretation as “indefensible” and “arbitrary”.

The campaigners could now launch a similar challenge to the ECB’s latest bond-buying scheme, the Pandemic Emergency Purchasing Programme, which kicked off in March.

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