Today (Tuesday) and tomorrow, Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court (FCC) will hear argument in yet another case over yet another innovation adopted by the EU in the wake of the continuing sovereign debt crisis. Cases of this sort have become annual events. In 2011, the FCC dealt with the Greece bailout; in 2012, with the European Stability Mechanism (ESM). The key issue this time around is the European Central Bank (ECB) and more precisely, the permissible scope of its “outright monetary transactions” (OMT)—that is, bond purchases or sales in secondary markets, or what we call “Open Market” transactions. No dramatic decision is to be expected—certainly not before September, when Germany goes to the polls. (By uniform consensus among the European elites, the EU project is too important to be injected into national electoral politics.) Still, the case is worth watching, both because the financial markets have the usual jitters and because the case highlights, yet again, increasingly disturbing features of the European project.
We seem to be approaching the outer limits of constitutional government. Let’s recap: the country’s political elites, already having forfeited a great deal of public confidence, enact a scheme of enormous consequence. No one knows what exactly those consequences will be or whether the enactment will solve the problem at hand: virtually everything of importance is left to administrative bodies and their discretion. On that account, and on account of the backdoor maneuvering and political bullying that produced the enactment, the scheme prompts public alarm and, in short order, constitutional challenges.