Is there such a thing as an unconstitutional constitutional amendment? And if so, does the judge have the power to declare that amendment unconstitutional?
The question seems nonsensical or paradoxical, “rather like asking whether the Bible can be unbiblical”. Yet, if it is primarily the preserve of constitutional theorists – think of the American debate about the constitutionality of a proposed flag-burning amendment – it is nevertheless an issue with practical implications, as witnessed in the recent Pringle case before the CJEU. Here, the Court was asked to assess the validity of a Treaty amendment by reference to the European Union’s (EU) own Treaties. The Court rejected the argument that it did not have jurisdiction and affirmed its power to review the validity of the amendment. Continue reading
The Pringle case (Case C-370/12 Pringle) decided today is arguably the case of the year. In an accelerated procedure, the full court (all 27 judges!) answered a number of questions referred by the Irish Supreme Court on the competence of EU Member States under EU law to conclude the ESM Treaty. The ESM Treaty is a treaty under public international law concluded by the members of the eurozone to create a permanent crisis mechanism to safeguard the stability of the euro area. It is the latest answer to the ongoing sovereign debt crisis (dubbed the ‘eurocrisis’) experienced by a number EU Member States that have the euro as a currency.
Despite the good intentions of its creators, the idea of setting up a permanent international body competent to grant financial assistance (amongst other things) to eurozone members in financial difficulties goes somewhat against the foundations of the Economic and Monetary Union, which aims at ensuring price stability through sound government budgets. It is thus not surprising that a case was brought before the CJEU so that the latter had to rule on whether Member States can actually do this under EU law.