Monday, September 10, 2012

Why ECB Bond-Buying Plans Undermine Democracy

by Armin Mahler


September 10, 2012

The ECB's plan to restart its bond-buying program is possibly the most important decision of the euro crisis. But the bank is not subject to control by national parliaments. Europe's leaders seem to consider saving the euro to be more important than preserving democracy.

Anyone who breaks a law can hardly excuse his actions by claiming that he is acting within the scope of the law. In any case, it won't help him much -- unless his name is Mario Draghi and he is the president of the European Central Bank (ECB).

The ECB is politically independent, but it is not above the law. It is only independent within its mandate, which is clearly defined by the European treaties: The central bank is tasked with safeguarding price stability in the euro zone -- no more and no less.

Draghi wants more, though; he wants to save the European common currency at all costs. The euro, he says, is "irreversible."

Many similar statements have already been made over the course of the euro rescue. There is no alternative to the measures that have been agreed, said German Chancellor Angela Merkel. But aside from the fact that there are always alternatives, the chancellor has been democratically legitimized; anyone who disagrees with her actions can punish her at the polls in the next election.


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