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EU threatens to sue Germany as furious row risks ‘endangering’ bloc, warns top judge
May 14, 2020
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Peter M Huber, who drafted the German Constitutional Court’s opinion, said a legal challenge against Berlin “would trigger a significant escalation, potentially tipping Germany and other member states into a constitutional conflict that would be very difficult to resolve”. In the long run, it could “weaken or even endanger the European Union”, he added.
Germany’s top court last week ruled that the government and the European Court of Justice had failed to properly assess the ECB’s asset-buying programme.
The ruling by the Karlsruhe-based court disregarded a previous ECJ ruling on the issue.
It sparked a furious row after the opinion was considered a direct challenge to the EU’s top court.
Germany’s top court said the ECJ’s earlier ruling in favour of the ECB was dismissed as “incomprehensible” and “meaningless”.
The Karlsruhe court also ordered the German government and parliament to carry out a “proportionality assessment” of its bond-buying scheme to ensure its “economic and fiscal effects” did not outright other political objectives.
It also said the Bundesbank, Germany’s central bank, would have to stop buying bonds if the ECB failed to comply within a three-month transition period.
Mr Huber angrily hit out at the criticism of the court’s opinion, claiming he was “amazed at how one-sided and impassioned” it was.
He said the issue causing tensions across the EU for almost 50 years with “nearly all national constitutional and supreme courts had been taking issue” with the ECJ’s insistence of the primacy of EU over national law.
As long as there is no European superstate, member states must comply with their own conditional laws, he added.
European capitals “must be open to the primacy of application of European law, but they can also stipulate limits,” Mr Huber said.
An EU official insisted the ECJ should remain the final arbiter of the bloc’s laws and whether member states are implementing them correctly.
They said: “The case goes to the very heart, to the very basis of the European Union.
“The Union is based on uniform interpretation and application of law. Other we have no union.”
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Experts have warned that if national courts continue to rebel against the primacy of EU law, the entire system could collapse.
Ronan McCrea, a professor of constitutional and European law at University College London, said: “If national courts stop co-operating the whole system grinds to a halt.
“Member states have been upholding it all for 40 years. Maybe we became complacent about how weak the system to ensure it is.”
Veteran German Leader Angela Merkel has launched an attempt to rebuild relations between Berlin and Brussels.
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The Chancellor said she would respect the German judges’ decision but offered support to the ECB.
She said her priority was to have a “strong single currency”, adding the ruling should help convince Europe to push for even closer integration.
Mrs Merkel, however, promised to address questions about the ECB and ECJ’s credibility “in all conscience, in full responsibility for Germany and a pro-European ethos”.