The stage has been set for one of the most fierce internal EU legal battles in recent years following a decision by the European Commission to take the EU’s member states to court over their refusal to punish France and Germany for breaching the eurozone rules last November. The commission has asked for a fast-track procedure, meaning a decision could come within six months.
If the European Court of Justice upholds the Commission’s ruling, the two countries could face massive fines. There is also a risk that relations between Brussels and the council of member governments could be severely damaged.
This ‘no-win’ outcome was tacitly acknowledged when several commissioners – mainly from the larger member countries – argued against pursuing the case, although no vote was taken.
Last November, the commission recommended disciplinary procedures against France and Germany because of repeated violations of the rule stating that a country’s budget deficit must be smaller than 3 per cent of its GDP. But finance ministers overruled Brussels, calling into question the political authority of the commission in economic and monetary affairs.