Fruitless Labor

The ECB Lawsuit is Useless

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Not worried. Source: DPA Picture-Alliance

European lawmakers have largely left it up to the European Central Bank to hold together the euro zone. As a result, the ECB had no other choice but to employ every tool at its disposal to decisively counteract the threat of deflation, which is also a reflection of unresolved political problems. This follows from its mandate to maintain stable prices.

But the European project is actually in the wrong hands with the ECB. The governments in Berlin, Paris, Rome and the other euro countries should be the ones developing concepts to reduce economic tensions among them. This is a political issue, not the job of monetary policy. A few things have already happened in this regard, such as the establishment of the European bailout fund. But it hasn’t been enough to stabilize the euro zone for the long haul.

With the ECB’s monetary policy dragged before Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court, the conflict has been pushed even further into the legal sphere, where it has been shoved back and forth between the German and European levels. The whole thing will culminate in a verdict that has no relevance, because it will be too late. The plaintiffs know this. So what’s the point?

Digging in heels on the question of who is right is unproductive.

The lawsuit is a symbolic act. The objective is to express discontent, not just with the ECB but also with the euro. The plaintiffs’ arguments should certainly be taken seriously – they are clearly skeptical that a common currency can even function in the long term – but that political battle was already lost years ago. Instead of admitting defeat, they are shifting the battle to the legal level, which will can only end ineffectually.

Digging in heels on the question of who is right is unproductive. It would be better to offer solutions instead. Germany has repeatedly been the source of criticism of the ECB and European bailout programs, but it has offered few suggestions for improvement.

These attacks are often underscored by the unspoken view that the euro zone’s collapse wouldn’t necessarily be such a bad thing. The only problem is that there is not much political support in Germany for withdrawal. Besides, even if one questions whether the introduction of the euro was a good idea, it doesn’t mean that a collapse of the monetary union would now be a reasonable risk or a desirable objective.

Lawsuits against the ECB are ultimately a waste of intellectual resources.

To contact the author: wiebe@handelsblatt.com

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