In Praise of Uncertainty

The Bundesverfassungsgericht’s PSPP decision will have immense consequences. I have no reason to doubt the alarm raised by so many informed and respected commentators. But here’s one small thing that has been lost in the debate so far. The Court’s decision to go its own way on a question of European law might be seen as evidence of the influence of the common law tradition in the European legal system. That’s no bad thing, and it’s probably unavoidable in any case.

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Unquestioned supremacy still begs the question

Earlier this week, 32 leading scholars of EU law and politics signed the statement that national courts cannot override CJEU judgments, in response to a demonstration by the BVerfG that it actually can. We share the signatories’ concern that Weiss might (and most probably will) be used as a pretext for refusing to comply with the CJEU’s rulings and the EU rule of law requirements in Member States such as Poland or Hungary. We are also critical of the conclusion to which the BVerfG arrived in its decision, though we accept some of its premises (i.e., that the national disapplication of EU acts may be justified in some rare and exceptional cases). However, even though we are not all constitutional pluralists, we take issue with some aspects of the reasoning behind the original statement and question the doctrinal and empirical arguments it invokes in favour of EU law’s unconditional supremacy.

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National Courts Cannot Override CJEU Judgments

The European Union is a community based on the rule of law. The EU legal order is the backbone that holds the EU together, and the German Federal Constitutional Court’s ruling in Weiss poses a profound threat to that legal order. This threat goes far beyond the potential consequences of the Weiss ruling for European monetary policy. We write this statement to express our shared view that the German Court’s assertion that it can declare that a CJEU judgment “has no binding force in Germany” is untenable and must be forcefully rejected. We also write to challenge those versions of scholarship on constitutional pluralism and constitutional identity that would defend the authority of any national court to make such a ruling and that helped (even if unintentionally) encourage it to do so.

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The Bundesbank is under a legal obligation to ignore the PSPP Judgment of the Bundes­verfassungs­gericht

If there is a situation undermining the rule of law, then it is exactly this: The Bundesbank is under a legal obligation to ignore the PSPP Judgment of the Bundesverfassungsgericht (under EU law), and the Bundesbank is under a legal obligation to follow the PSPP Judgment of the Bundesverfassungsgericht (under German constitutional law). How has it come to this?

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The Right Question about the FCC Ultra Vires Decision

Instead of re-opening the old debate on the merits and demerits of constitutional pluralism, the FCC decision should be actually taken up as an opportunity to concentrate on another systemic feature of the EU constitutional governance. The decision of the FCC is not a sign that we have a problem with constitutional pluralism in Europe but warns us that we have a major constitutional problem with the constitutional role of the ECB.

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Constitutional Pluralism between Normative Theory and Empirical Fact

It has been recently floated in legal academia and the blogosphere that it is high time for constitutional pluralism to bow out of the European scene. The reason? It has been alleged to be (1) “fundamentally flawed and unsustainable” for allowing the application of EU law to be selective and unequal and (2) prone to abuse by autocrats, as demonstrated by the ongoing dismantling of democracy and the rule of law in Hungary and Poland where national (“constitutional”) identity is invoked all too often to justify patently illiberal policies. Is constitutional pluralism really to blame? What is this beast anyway?

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