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Gauweiler and the Outright Monetary Transactions Programme: The Mandate of the European Central Bank and the Changing Nature of Economic and Monetary Union: European Court of Justice, Judgment of 16 June 2015, Case C-62/14 Gauweiler and others v Deutscher Bundestag

  • Alicia Hinarejos
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University of Cambridge. I am grateful to Thomas Beukers, Michael Blome-Tillmann, Pedro Cruz Villalón, Steve Peers, Daniel Sarmiento, Jukka Snell, Kaarlo Tuori, Mattias Wendel, and the editors of EuConst. All errors remain my own.

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1 ECJ 16 June 2015 ECLI:EU:C:2015:400, Peter Gauweiler and others v Deutscher Bundestag. The Programme had already been the object of an unsuccessful challenge before the General Court; the action was considered inadmissible: ECJ 10 December 2013, Case T-492/12, von Storch and Others v ECB. An appeal was equally unsuccessful: ECJ 29 April 2015, ECLI:EU:C:2015:300, von Storch and Others v ECB.

2 BVerfG, 2 BvR 2728/13 et al., Order of 14 January 2014. For commentary on the German decision see, inter alia, Beukers, T., ‘The Bundesverfassungsgericht Preliminary Reference on the OMT Program: “In the ECB We Do Not Trust. What About You?”’, 15 German L J (2014) p. 343; Bast, J., ‘Don’t Act Beyond your Powers’, 15 German L J (2014) p. 167; Goldmann, M., ‘Adjudicating Economics: Central Bank Independence and the Appropriate Standard of Judicial Review’, 15 German L J (2014) p. 265; Kumm, M., ‘Rebel without a Good Cause: Karlsruhe’s Misguided Attempt to Draw the CJEU into a Game of Chicken and What the CJEU Might Do about It’, 15 German L J (2014), p. 203; Mayer, F. C., ‘Rebels without a Cause: A Critical Analysis of the German Constitutional Court’s OMT Reference’, 15 German L J (2014) p. 111; Wendel, M., ‘Exceeding Judicial Competence in the Name of Democracy: The German Federal Constitutional Court’s OMT Reference’, 10 Eur Constitutional L Rev (2014) p. 263.

3 For further commentary on the ECJ decision, see, inter alia, Editorial, ‘On Courts of Last Resort and Lenders of Last Resort’, 2 EuConst (2015) p. 1; Claes, M. and Reestman, J. H., ‘The Protection of National Constitutional Identity and the Limits of European Integration at the Occasion of the Gauweiler Case’, 16 German L J (2015) p. 917; Fabbrini, F., ‘After the OMT Case: The Supremacy of EU Law as the Guarantee of the Equality of the Member States’, 16 German L J (2015) p. 1003; Sauer, H., ‘Doubtful it Stood: Competence and Power in European Monetary and Constitutional Law in the Aftermath of the CJEU’s OMT Judgment’, 16 German L J (2015) p. 971; Simon, S., ‘Direct Cooperation Has Begun: Some Remarks on the Judgment of the ECJ on the OMT Decision of the ECB in Response to the German Federal Constitutional Court’s First Request for a Preliminary Ruling’, 16 German L J (2015) p. 1025; Wilkinson, M., ‘The Euro Is Irreversible! ... Or is it?: On OMT, Austerity and the Threat of “Grexit”’, 16 German L J (2015) p. 1049.

4 See ECB press release on the technical features of the OMT programme at: <www.ecb.europa.eu/press/pr/date/2012/html/pr120906_1.en.html>, accessed 19 October 2015.

5 Speech by Mario Draghi, President of the European Central Bank, at the Global Investment Conference in London, 26 July 2012. Available at <www.ecb.europa.eu/press/key/date/2012/html/sp120726.en.html>, accessed 19 October 2015.

6 Art. 123(1) TFEU: ‘Overdraft facilities or any other type of credit facility with the European Central Bank or with the central banks of the Member States in favour of Union institutions … central governments, regional, local or other public authorities … shall be prohibited, as shall the purchase directly from them by the European Central Bank or national central banks of debt instruments’.

7 For an in-depth discussion see Wendel, supra n. 2, p. 272 ff.

8 The German Court requires an interpretation that keeps the Outright Monetary Transactions Programme from interfering with European Financial Stability Facility/European Stability Mechanism conditionality. It also requires a limit on the quantity of bonds that can be bought, on how long they can be held, and on the possibility of taking part in a debt cut.

9 The original arrangement was supposed to be rule-based and therefore non-political, with important consequences for its democratic legitimacy. This goes back to the ordoliberal vision of the EU and the European economic constitution. See e.g. Sauter, W. and Schepel, H., State and Market in European Union Law. The Public and Private Spheres of the Internal Market before the EU Courts (Cambridge University Press 2009) p. 1-21 for a brief overview of the European economic constitution; K. Tuori, ‘The European Financial Crisis: Constitutional Aspects and Implications’, EUI Working Paper, (2012) Law 2012/28; Joerges, C., ‘The Market without the State? The “Economic Constitution” of the European Community and the Rebirth of Regulatory Politics’, 1 Eur Integration Online Papers (1997) No 19. This view also underlies the BVerfG’s approach to Economic and Monetary Union in its Maastricht Decision: EMU integration, as structured at Maastricht, was an apolitical process that had an adequate level of democratic legitimacy: BVerfG, 2 BvR 2134/92 and 2159/92, Decision of 12 October 1993 (Maastricht).

10 Gauweiler, para. [18] ff.

11 Gauweiler, paras. [11]-[17].

12 Gauweiler, para. [41] ff.

13 Case C-370/12, Pringle, ECLI:EU:C:2012:756. On the judgment and its significance, see Hinarejos, A., The Euro Area Crisis in Constitutional Perspective (Oxford University Press 2015) Chapter 8, with further references.

14 Opinion of AG Villalón in ECJ 16 June 2015 ECLI:EU:C:2015:400 Gauweiler, para. [123] ff.

15 Ibid., para. [140] ff.

16 Ibid., para. [150]. It remains open whether this would have required an amendment to the ESM Treaty or simply a different interpretation in practice of the provisions within that Treaty concerning the Bank’s role.

17 Gauweiler, para. [66] ff.

18 Ibid., para. [93] ff.

19 For further discussion of other aspects of the judgment, see the articles cited supra n. 3.

20 Art. 127(1) TFEU. Parts of this section draw on material included in Hinarejos, supra n. 13, p. 17-19.

21 Hadjiemmanuil, C., ‘Democracy, supranationality and central bank independence’, in J. Kleineman (ed.), Central Bank Independence: The Economic Foundations, the Constitutional Implications and Democratic Accountability (Kluwer Law International 2001) p. 155.

22 Tuori, K. and Tuori, K., The Eurozone Crisis: a Constitutional Analysis (Cambridge University Press 2013) p. 221-231.

23 On the topic of judicial control of central banks, among them the European Central Bank, see Eeckhout, P. and Waibel, M., ‘The United Kingdom’, in U Neergaard et al. (eds.), Proceedings from the XXVI FIDE Congress Vol 1: The Economic and Monetary Union: Constitutional and Institutional Aspects of the Economic Governance within the EU (Djøf publishing 2014) p. 641 ff.

24 Tuori and Tuori make a very helpful distinction between experts, stakeholders and politicians; an expert body will lose credibility the more it seems to adopt features of a stakeholder or a politician: supra n. 22, p. 221-231.

25 On the different aspects of central bank independence and central bank intervention in the context of the euro crisis see Beukers, T., ‘The New ECB and its Relationship with the Eurozone Member States: Between Central Bank Independence and Central Bank Intervention’, 50 CML Rev (2013) p. 1579; Baroncelli, S., ‘The Independence of the ECB after the Economic Crisis’, in M. Adams et al. (eds), The Constitutionalization of European Budgetary Constraints (Hart 2014).

26 Majone, G., Rethinking the Union of Europe Post-Crisis (Cambridge University Press 2014) p. 134, 165, 173.

27 Tuori and Tuori, supra n. 22, p. 185.

28 Art. 123(1) TFEU: see n. 6. See also Editorial, ‘On Courts of Last Resort and Lenders of Last Resort’, 2 EuConst (2015) p. 1.

29 Art. 125 TFEU.

30 Wilsher, D., ‘Ready to Do Whatever it Takes? The Legal Mandate of the European Central Bank and the Economic Crisis’, 15 Cambridge Ybk of Eur Legal Studies (2013) p. 503.

31 Again, for an account of the ways in which this could be argued to have taken place, beyond the specific case of the Outright Monetary Transactions Programme see Beukers, supra n. 25.

32 Art. 130 TFEU. See also Dissenting Opinion of Judge Lübbe-Wolff, BVerfG, 2 BvR 2728/13 et al., Order of 14 January 2014 [2]. Most commentators have argued for review limited to a ‘rationality check’; see, inter alia, Bast, supra n. 2, p. 176; Goldmann, supra n. 2, p. 266; Kumm, supra n. 2, p. 214; Mayer, supra n. 2, p. 135; Wendel, supra n. 2, p. 301 ff.

33 See also Dahan, S. et al., ‘Whatever it takes? Regarding the OMT Ruling of the German Federal Constitutional Court’, 18 Journal of International Economic Law (2015) p. 137.

34 Tuori and Tuori, supra n. 22, p. 181 ff; Hinarejos, supra n. 13, Chapter 8, with further references.

35 See e.g. C. Joerges, ‘Where the Law Ends’ (2014) <www.verfassungsblog.de/where-the-law-ends/#.Vii2YkpyHTo> visited 22 October 2015. See Hinarejos, supra n. 13, Chapter 8 for further examples of this type of critique.

36 See n. 5 supra.

* University of Cambridge. I am grateful to Thomas Beukers, Michael Blome-Tillmann, Pedro Cruz Villalón, Steve Peers, Daniel Sarmiento, Jukka Snell, Kaarlo Tuori, Mattias Wendel, and the editors of EuConst. All errors remain my own.

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