The outgoing President of the Federal Constitutional Court justifies the judgment on the ECB’s loan program. The court is legitimized and obliged to intervene in the case of particularly serious violations of competence by the European institutions, says Voßkuhle.
Andreas Voßkuhle, outgoing President of the Federal Constitutional Court, in an interview with “Zeit” rejected the criticism of his court’s judgment on bond purchases by the European Central Bank. “We are firmly convinced that this decision is a good decision for Europe because it strengthens the link to the law. That will become apparent in the medium and long term,” says Voßkuhle. “We see that our judgment weighs on many, and we are not happy about that. But we are committed to law and justice.”
“Justified and committed”
Voßkuhle disagreed with the view that the European Court of Justice should always have the final say on questions of European law. “According to our established jurisprudence and the jurisprudence of many other constitutional courts of the EU member states, the constitutional courts are legitimate and obliged to intervene in rare exceptional cases in the event of particularly serious violations of competence by the European institutions”.
Voßkuhle also did not want to see any loss of authority by the European Court of Justice. It is “completely commonplace that courts disagree,” he explains. The decision of the constitutional court is “a contribution to the dialogue,” says Voßkuhle. “Some formulations in it, for example the word ‘arbitrary’, may seem harsh to laypeople, but lawyers know how to correctly assess them.
The constitutional lawyer, whose twelve-year term ended on May 6, also dismissed the criticism that the recent judgment could make the governments in Poland and Hungary feel strengthened in their dispute over the rule of law. “The Poles do what they do, regardless of what we do,” says Voßkuhle. The German constitutional court should not be guided by “how Polish or other politicians could possibly react to a decision”.
Germany threatens EU proceedings
The Karlsruhe constitutional judges had classified the multi-billion euro purchases of government bonds by the European Central Bank (ECB) as partially unconstitutional. With their judgment, they opposed the European Court of Justice (ECJ), which came to the end of 2018 in its decision that the purchases do not violate EU law. According to the Karlsruhe judgment, the EU Commission does not rule out infringement proceedings against Germany. According to the EU treaties, it can take legal action in the form of such proceedings against EU countries that do not implement EU law.
From the perspective of constitutional judge Peter Huber, such proceedings against Germany would exacerbate the conflict. This would bring “a significant escalation that could plunge Germany and other member states into a constitutional conflict that is difficult to resolve,” Huber told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. The unlimited priority of EU law is not compatible with the eternity guarantee of the Basic Law and many other constitutions. “In the long run, that would weaken or endanger the European Union,” he warned.