On 15 August 2017, the Bundesverfassungsgericht (BVerfG) referred the case against the European Central Bank’s policy of Quantitative Easing (QE) to the European Court of Justice (ECJ). The author argues that this event differs in several aspects from the OMT case in 2015 – in content as well as in form. The BVerfG recognizes that it is a legitimate goal of the ECB’s monetary policy to bring inflation up close to 2%, and that the instrument employed for QE is one of monetary policy. However, it doubts whether the sheer volume of QE would not distort the character of the program as one of monetary policy. The ECJ will now have to clarify the extent to which the ECJ’s findings in its OMT judgment are relevant for QE as well as the standard of review applicable to monetary policy. The author raises the questions of whether the principle of democracy under German constitutional law can actually provide the standard by which the ECB is to be measured, and how tight judicial review could be exercised over the ECB without encroaching upon its autonomy in monetary policy matters – and thus upon the very essence of central bank independence.
Policy Letter No. 58