The move, if signed off by the European Commission on Wednesday, would mark a major escalation in a dispute with the court in Karlsruhe centered on the legality of the European Central Bank’s government bond-buying program.
Germany’s Constitutional Court ruled in May 2020 that the ECB’s program would be illegal under German law unless the central bank could prove the purchases were justified.
That ruling defied a previous decision by the Court of Justice of the European Union. In effect, the German court challenged the EU court decision, an unprecedented legal step that raised concerns that it could encourage other countries to also sidestep EU law.
While the Bundesbank has since stepped in to provide the rationale to the German government and parliament for the bond-buying program, drawing the legal dispute to an end, the latest step shows Brussels doesn’t consider the case closed.
The Commission plans to formally launch an infringement procedure, a measure it can take against an EU member country if it considers that country has violated EU law. Germany would then have a few months to respond in writing.
If the response fails to satisfy Brussels’ concerns, the EU’s executive arm — led by Ursula Von der Leyen, a former German defense minister — could take the country to the Court of Justice of the European Union.
German EU lawmakers were quick to react to the news. Markus Ferber, an MEP from the European People’s Party, tweeted that kicking off an infringement process against Karlsruhe would be “difficult to understand.”
Ferber questioned the logic of pursuing the German government, as it was a defendant in the original court case.
But Green MEP Sven Giegold said the move was needed for legal clarity.
Describing it as a step toward “safeguarding the European legal community,” he said in a statement: “The infringement proceedings are not a punishment for Germany, but serve to settle the dispute between the courts.”