The European Stability Mechanism (ESM) is the latest in a series of EU financial crisis legal resolution measures through
binding EU law. Various aspects of Euro-zone decision-making take place in the margins of the EU Treaties or are not strictly
provided for (Snyder, 2010). The legal form of the ESM Treaty was exceptional but not beyond the letter of the Treaties (De
Witte, 2012). However, some suggest that the use of a European Council decision to amend the treaties to create the ESM was
intended to avoid referenda in the Member States. Judicial review of the ESM had the capacity to unsettle controversial, fragile
and esoteric legal texts.
The ESM has been the subject of constitutional challenges and/or sovereignty analysis in
no less than five Member States by courts and parliamentary committee at various levels of the individual legal order (Germany,
Ireland, Estonia, Finland and the UK).
Only one of those five bodies - the Supreme Court of Ireland - decided to
ask the Court of Justice of the European Union for a preliminary ruling (Pringle v. Ireland, 2012). Some national high courts
(the German Bundesverfassungsgericht, the Estonian Riigikohus, seemingly, did not even consider the possibility of referring
a question, the two Member States Legislative Committees found that no questions worth referring were raised.
was little doubt in legal, political or economic circles that the Court of Justice in Pringle would "uphold" the validity
of the ESM Treaty, a legal formula which tested the limits of its jurisdiction via the preliminary reference mechanism. An
adverse decision would have delivered adverse consequences for markets and lending rates. However, the nature of the EU financial
crisis measures appeared to prompt minimal inter-court interaction or "dialogues" with the Court of Justice, less still constitutional
crisis or turmoil. The deployment of the preliminary reference tool has been a central one for EU integration. Constitutional
dialogues embody the formula du jour to assess integration through EU law. The ESM saga demonstrates how precarious and esoteric
arrangements for the euro-zone in law remain. More fundamentally, it demonstrates how the preliminary reference mechanism
has structural flaws which adversely affect the unity of EU law.
The paper considers caselaw in five Member States
national courts and legislatures hearing challenges to European financial crisis measures. We ask, why did some courts refer
and not others? What does this reveal about the structural flaws of the preliminary reference mechanism? More substantively,
we ask about the availability of depicting the EU multi-level constitutional legal order within the rubric of dialogue, given
this infrastructure? What does the ESM saga indicate about the controversial taxonomy of euro-zone law and its wider impact
on the character of postnational law?