Less than a month after that verdict, Germany, now at risk of infringement proceedings, begins to face the parliamentary classrooms with its consequences, devastating for the credibility of the European institutions and embarrassing for the reputation of the national ones. Today Berlin is in a difficult position to respect the autonomy of the ECB, the jurisdiction of Luxembourg and the constitutional sentence of Karlsruhe, in open contrast with each other. The threefold dilemma therefore ended up at the center of the work of the Bundestag which, together with the federal government, was dragged into the dispute by the judges because it was constitutionally called to contrast the “disproportionate” policies of the ECB. Alternatively, after three months, the German Central Bank must strictly exit the Frankfurt purchasing programs. It would be the breaking of the euro.
Many experts called to help the German Parliament to get out of the impasse: among others, Christian Calliess (Freie Universität Berlin), Claus-Dieter Classen (Universität Greifswald), Marcel Fratzscher (DIW), Martin Höpner (Max-Planck- Institut für Gesellschaftsforschung), Franz C. Mayer (Bielefeld), Dirk Meyer of the Federal University of the Armed Forces. The documents filed before the hearings showed that everyone agrees on one point: the Court’s verdict cannot and must not be ignored by the Bundestag or by the Federal Government. At the same time, everyone seems to agree that the Bundesbank, being independent of German politics, cannot have indications from Parliament and executive. Therefore, it cannot receive input to urge the ECB to justify its work or be invited to exit the purchasing programs.
Experts are aware that the ECB cannot do anything that jeopardizes its independence in the eyes of other Member States. If Eurotower responds to the German institutions, other countries could doubt its work or the real effectiveness of the judgments of the Luxembourg Court. MEP Sven Simon (titled in his capacity to participate in the EU affairs committees) announced that he had sent today a letter to Eurotower asking to “justify the proportionality” of its PSPP program. Within six weeks an answer should arrive which will prove to be useless, formally, to get out of the legal stalemate. The Karlsruhe verdict has expressly established that the ECB must justify itself through a new decision of the Governing Council, a letter will certainly not be enough.
At the end of a debate that lasted more than three hours, no one was able to provide an exhaustive solution. However, as financial law expert Sebastian Grund reported in his faithful report of the hearings, some overall guidelines have emerged. Several economists and jurists agreed with the proposal made by liberal and SPD parliamentarians to request the inclusion of the proportionality assessment in the ECB’s annual report.
Few, however, expressed approval for the Court’s judgment, and only one, Professor Meyer of the Federal University of the Armed Forces, supported a line of break with the policies of the ECB, coming to hypothesize a single currency valid only for northern Europe . Already in his document filed with the German Parliament, Meyer has advanced proposals such as that of submitting the plans of the ECB to the parliamentary control of the National Commission or, alternatively, the exit of the Bundesbank from Quantitative easing. The Helmut Schmidt professor also proposed to change the “weight” of the States in the Eurotower Governing Council, giving representatives of the national central banks voting rights equal to the share of their countries in the capital of the ECB.
On the political front, some members of the CDU and the ultra-right of AfD defended the German ruling, while the left and the Greens warned of the legal and institutional implications. However, most experts agreed on the need to keep low tones and not feed the clash between Karlsruhe and Frankfurt / Luxembourg, since the risk of an infringement procedure is there and is serious. Summing up: the debate is only at the beginning and there is no clear idea on how to get out of it without anyone getting hurt. As well summarized by Grund, the common idea is that through solicitations of MEPs, hearings and annual reports, the ECB can explain its work so that the German Court judges it adequate and wipes out the dust of the clash with Frankfurt. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that someone will have to “force” his judgment as there is no formally unassailable solution capable of satisfying all the players involved, both in Berlin and in Brussels. But that the fate of the euro must pass – even – for a parliamentary commission in Berlin speaks volumes about the serious crisis of values facing the whole Eurozone.