December 2nd 2021
The European Commission decided Thursday to end legal proceedings against Germany over a controversial constitutional court ruling, after receiving assurances from Berlin that the supremacy of EU law is being respected.
In a short announcement alongside a number of other legal decisions, the Commission said it was “appropriate” to close the case because Germany had “formally declared” that it recognizes the supremacy of EU law and the authority of the bloc’s highest juridical body, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), “whose decisions are final and binding.”
The dispute broke out in May 2020 when the German constitutional court in Karlsruhe ruled that the European Central Bank’s 2015 bond-buying program would be illegal under German law unless the central bank could prove the purchases were justified. Controversially, the German court dismissed a previous CJEU ruling that allowed the bond purchases, saying it was “not comprehensible,” “objectively arbitrary” and “ultra vires,” or beyond the EU court’s authority.
The Commission reacted in June this year by launching the first step in a so-called infringement procedure against Germany, which could ultimately have led to financial penalties.
Brussels is also locked in a fierce rule of law dispute with Poland, whose constitutional court has challenged the supremacy of EU law in a much more open and far-reaching way.
In its decision Thursday, the Commission noted with satisfaction that the German government had provided assurances that recognize the supremacy of EU law.
The Commission said the German government “considers that the legality of acts of Union institutions cannot be made subject to the examination of constitutional complaints before German courts, but can only be reviewed by the Court of Justice.” It’s a common practice that national constitutional courts, when dealing with complaints concerning EU competencies, refer the case to the CJEU for guidance.
Controversially, the Commission also noted that “the German government … commits to use all the means at its disposal to avoid, in the future, a repetition of an ‘ultra vires’ finding, and take an active role in that regard.”
It remains, however, uncertain how the German government could provide such an assurance, given that it has no say over the constitutional court, which is an independent juridical body.
A spokesperson for the constitutional court in Karlsruhe had no comment on that point, or the Commission’s decision more broadly.Want more analysis from POLITICO? POLITICO Pro is our premium intelligence service for professionals. From financial services to trade, technology, cybersecurity and more, Pro delivers real time intelligence, deep insight and breaking scoops you need to keep one step ahead. Email [email protected] to request a complimentary trial. (Source : https://www.politico.eu)