German Constitutional Court ruling and primacy of EU law 

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On Tuesday, JURI and AFCO took stock of the impact of the 5 May 2020 German Constitutional Court ruling on the EU legal order and examined potential courses of action.

The hearing brought together MEPs from the two competent European Parliament Committees and a number of experts, with a view to discussing the legal and constitutional consequences of the ruling from an EU law perspective. Markus Ludwigs (Julius-Maximilians-Universität in Würzburg), Renáta Uitz (Central European University in Budapest), Diana Urania Galetta (University of Milan) and Joseph H.H. Weiler (NYU School of Law & Harvard Centre for European Studies) presented their views and answered MEPs’ questions during the ensuing discussion.

The discussion focused mainly on the validity of the judgment in light of a series of issues around its legal reasoning and the way it applied (or failed to apply) general principles of EU law, such as the principles of conferral and proportionality, the delimitation competences between the EU and the member states, and the uniform and equal application of EU law. MEPs inquired about ways to redress the situation and manage consequences on the EU’s legal system. Several MEPs and guest speakers examined the option of an infringement procedure being launched by the Commission, while also aiming to reduce the probability of similar instances in the future by improving legal dialogue.

References were made to the impact that a potential treaty review could have in addressing EU legal order issues and the role of the upcoming Conference on the Future of Europe in this regard. Many highlighted that action is required to prevent the erosion that can take place if diverging views on the supremacy of EU law, the rule of law, national constitutional identities and the future of the EU itself go unchecked.

Antonio Tajani (EPP, IT), Chair of the Committee on Constitutional Affairs said during his opening remarks: “We understand that the issue of the limits of the European competences is a difficult one, but we also observe that the idea that each national supreme or constitutional court could decide on its own on those limits and on whether it considers itself bound by the European law or not, would destroy all idea of unity of the European legal order. This could be fatal to the Union, which is a union based on the law”.

Adrián Vázquez Lázara (Renew, ES), Chair of the Committee on Legal Affairs said: “The judgement of the German Constitutional Court raises vital issues for the future of the European Union and the functioning of its legal system. Our committees will lend continuity to the discussion and work on innovative and moderate proposals to find a balance between the legitimate duty of member states’ constitutional courts as protectors of their national constitutions and the indispensable role of the CJEU as supreme interpreter of the EU Law”.

Watch a recording of the hearing here.

Background

On 5 May 2020, the Second Senate of the German Federal Constitutional Court delivered a judgement concerning the implementation in Germany of the bond-buying programme of the European Central Bank (ECB), declaring that the public assets purchases programme (PSPP) exceeds the competences of the ECB. Although this ruling does not affect the ability of the ECB and the European System of Central Banks (ESCB) to continue the implementation of the programme, it has put in question the role and attributions of the European Court of Justice (CJEU) in the constitutional architecture of the European Union, and to a certain extent, the primacy of EU law.