How the European Court of Justice works
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The European Union triggered the unprecedented infringement proceedings after the Karlsruhe-based court challenged the supremacy of EU law. It ruled that the European Central Bank (ECB) bond-buying programme had overstepped its mandate, even though the European Court of Justice (ECJ) had approved the scheme. The issue was eventually resolved without disrupting the ECB’s efforts to stimulate the pandemic-stricken Eurozone economy.
The European Commission said it was taking action as the German court had set a “serious precedent” that could undermine the EU and pave the way for other states to challenge the ECJ’s powers.
Eurocrats sent a formal notice to Germany for “violation of fundamental principles of EU law”.
Berlin has two months to respond, and could be dragged in front of EU judges in Luxembourg if its response is unsatisfactory.
German MEP Gunnar Beck, legal affairs spokesman for the AfD’s EU Parliament delegation, said his country’s constitutional court had ruled correctly against the ECB’s stimulus programme.
He insisted that the EU is attempting to force the independent Karlsruhe court to “subordinate itself to the ECJ”.
“Which equates to a loss of sovereignty for Germany,” he added.
Mr Beck declared that the Federal Constitutional Court is there to “protect the citizen from violating contractual attacks of the EU”.
“This protection is not only permissible, but also mandatory.
“By the way, the relationship between the EU and national law is similar to that of many other national constitutional courts, among others in Denmark, Hungary or Poland.
“The EU is not sovereign, but the member states.”
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Brussels is also battling with Poland over alleged breaches of the rule of law and launched separate legal action against the Hungarian government after it pulled an independent radio off-air in February.
But the action against Germany is the latest in a high-profile string of battles between the EU and Karlsruhe court over the supremacy of EU law.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman said: “We will take a very close look at the commission’s objections.”
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Asked whether Germany had set a poor example, Steffen Seibert added: “I certainly wouldn’t want to play it down in any way but we’re not the only ones.”
The row emerged after last May German judges ruled that the ECJ had breached its mandate with an “incomprehensible” ruling justifying ECB bond purchases.
In response, the Commission said Germany’s decision to say the ECJ had gone beyond its powers had “deprived a judgement of the European Court of Justice of its legal effect in Germany, breaching the principle of the primacy of EU law”.
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