Few topics are less glamorous than German constitutional law, but sometimes world historical events have obscure triggers
. I wonder if last week’s German Constitutional Court ruling
on the European Central Bank (ECB)’s bond buying programme may be one of them. The German court ruled that the ECB is acting outside its jurisdiction by pursuing massive quantitative easing (another previously obscure but now important
This matters because it puts the EU on a potentially fatal collision course with Germany, its largest and richest member. The EU legal system is built on a fudge, as this superb thread
explains: all EU members agree that the European Court of Justice is superior to national courts on matters of EU law - but who gets to decide whether a given area is
a matter of EU law is much murkier. Here the German court is claiming this authority - but if all member states did this (and the more autocratic ones are increasingly tempted
), the whole EU project would collapse.
I’ve argued before
that this may be a century of secessions: the models of political economy that gave today’s polities coherence are being undermined by technology and globalisation. That was the core argument in this case: what’s good for Germany may not be good for the EU and vice versa. The EU was quick to smack the ruling down
- and the most likely outcome is another legal fudge
. But fudges can hold only when no one has the incentive to probe them too carefully - and this court case suggests that era is long gone.