BERLIN (Reuters) – Changes to the composition of Germany’s top court are likely to make it less confrontational towards the European Central Bank following a ruling about bond purchases that sent shockwaves around Europe, according to two sources close to the court.
FILE PHOTO: Germany’s Constitutional Court President Andreas Vosskuhle arrives for the verdict of the court about the attempt by the country’s 16 federal states to ban the far-right NPD in Karlsruhe, Germany, January 17, 2017. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach/File Photo
In its ruling last month, the Constitutional Court gave the ECB three months to justify bond purchases under its flagship stimulus programme or lose the Bundesbank as a participant, raising questions about the future of the euro.
While Berlin is likely to have the final say on whether the ECB’s justification is sufficient, the plaintiffs behind the case have signalled they could bring fresh legal action against new ECB stimulus plans, which could lead to more market turmoil.
However, there will be a changing of the guard at the German court in Karlsruhe on Monday.
A key change will be a new judge joining a bench widely seen to have a narrow Eurosceptic majority: Astrid Wallrabenstein, who was nominated by the pro-European Greens and has suggested there should be a thaw in relations with the European Court of Justice (ECJ), which cleared the ECB’s plan.
She will take the place on the bench vacated by Andreas Vosskuhle, president of the court whose term has expired and is leaving. His role as president will go to Stephan Harbarth, a conservative lawmaker from 2009-2018.
“She is a lot more Europe-friendly than Vosskuhle,” said the first source, a constitutional law professor who is well connected at the court and knows Wallrabenstein. “So my forecast is that in future, such decisions like that on the ECB will no longer be taken.”
Wallrabenstein’s appointment could help pave the way towards a more conciliatory tone from the court, which experts say has a history of provoking crises before softening its stance.
“Typically what happens is the court does something that make people think it’s overreached and then they back off a bit,” said Justin Collings, historian of the German constitutional court at Brigham Young University in Utah.
A spokesman for the court said he could not speculate on the direction of forthcoming decisions from the court in view of the personnel changes and each decision was taken on its own merit and by a group of eight judges in confidence.
‘MORE THAN A MATCH’
The constitutional court is divided into two senates, each with eight judges, which handle different cases. Wallrabenstein will join the second senate, which made the May 5 ruling on the ECB’s bond purchases.
Although the second senate voted 7-1 to pass the ruling, they aim for consensus. The arrival of Wallrabenstein promises to shift the balance, at least over time, said the second source, who is close to the…
Go to the news source: Changing of guard at top German court signals de-escalation for ECB