The Germans have decided that their law takes precedence over what passes for EU “law”:
A ruling by Germany’s constitutional court has sparked serious fears of the unravelling of the European Union.
It’s a delayed judgment from an old fight that has hit the EU at its most vulnerable. A group of German academics, including a former leader of the far-right party Alternative für Deutschland, Bernd Lucke, took a case in 2015 to challenge the bond-buying programme of the European Central Bank (ECB).
They hardly hoped to win, but thought they could make a political point. During the euro zone crisis, as now, the ECB was buying the debt of economically weaker EU countries to bid down their borrowing costs and rescue them from the threat of a debt spiral, and directing national central banks to do likewise.
This is an emergency measure taken to hold the euro zone together when its economic imbalances threaten to tear it apart, but it has long been hated by German conservatives who believe it harms savers and pension funds.
Last week, the German constitutional court unexpectedly sided with them. It ruled that the ECB failed to conduct a “proportionality” analysis of the effect of its bond-buying policies on “public debt, personal savings, pension and retirement schemes, real estate prices and the keeping afloat of economically unviable companies”.
In a pithy 110-page judgment, the court ordered the German central bank to stop buying bonds if the ECB failed to produce such an assessment within three months. This immediately raised fears it could jeopardise current bond-buying efforts, and cause a run on Italian debt.
This is perilous to the euro zone, but not as damaging to the EU as another part of the ruling, which has tugged at a thread that some fear may lead to the unravelling of its very order.
The German court stated that it was free to ignore an earlier ruling from the European Court of Justice (ECJ) on the issue because “the Court of Justice of the European Union exceeds its judicial mandate”. This is contrary to the concept of the primacy of EU law. Under this precept, if laws of a member state are in conflict with EU law, EU law takes precedence, and the ECJ is the final authority to adjudicate on it. For the European Commission, agreeing to this is what it means to be a member state.
The Germans have effectively declared the EU to be nothing more than a treaty that nation-states can ignore at will. It’s a bit of a surprise, as I would have expected the Italians to be the next to leave the would-be Fourth Reich, with the Hungarians and Poles as dark horses.
The nations are rising at last.