Nathan de Arriba-Sellier
A glimpse at the title of this book, and one could easily be tempted to think that it is yet another book on an all too topical area of EU law. Evidently, it is a book about the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), but it is not just any book about EMU. In this volume, the author offers a comprehensible and in-depth review of post-sovereign debt crisis measures, from the critical perspective of accountability. The monograph is the result of the author’s PhD thesis defended at Oxford University, and conducted under the supervision of Paul Craig. For the sake of full disclosure, I feel obliged to mention that I know the author and have been working close to him, at least prior to the implementation of social distancing measures.
The Economic and Monetary Union is not an unfamiliar subject for any EU lawyer. And there is rarely a week that passes by without related headlines. In this context, the author delivers a much-needed analysis of how the post-crisis EMU framework is faring with regard to democratic legitimacy, political and legal accountability. Don’t expect an umpteenth lengthy discussion of the economic or political desirability of the post-crisis measures; ten years after the crisis, the author fortunately cuts to the chase and goes to the essential: teaching us something.
At the core of his book are economic governance, the Banking Union and judicial review of economic and monetary policy. By reviewing these issues, the author does not avoid difficulties, which makes the book particularly stimulating. For instance, on the subject of economic governance, the author documents and compares in a very readable and in-depth manner the policy recommendations addressed to Germany and Greece in the years following the crisis, cutting through thousands of technical report pages. Notwithstanding, the richest part of the book corresponds to the last chapters, dedicated to the legal accountability of post-crisis measures. With the landmark PSPP decision of 5 May of the German Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht) in mind, the retrospective and critical analysis of the judicial review is a thrilling read, which provides much food for thought for the reader, who will be smoothly taken through dozens of EU and national court decisions, covering no less than 11 Member States, small and big, creditors and debtors alike.
Despite the book’s many qualities, one can only regret that at times, it feels like the author’s own opinion and appraisal is understated and downplayed. This may be the result of the author’s personal style, a subtle exercise of Socratic maieutic; but it may prove insufficient to satisfy the reader’s boundless curiosity, excited over the course of the book by the strength of the analysis. This issue is only partly redressed in the last chapter of the book, which ends on a series of recommendations. Whereas this represents for some books the least interesting element, this is not the case here. The author does not only formulate noteworthy recommendations but discusses in parallel some of the reform proposals that were on the table prior to the COVID-19 crisis.
Despite the fast-changing policy perspectives, the book and its recommendations manage to remain a solid grid of analysis for the current and future mutations of the Economic and Monetary Union. For that, one may only be grateful to the author for this remarkable scholarly work.
Nathan de Arriba-Sellier is a PhD Researcher at Erasmus University Rotterdam and Leiden University.