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German lawmakers see way out of ECB court ruling conundrum: paper

FILE PHOTO: The European Central Bank (ECB) headquarters is pictured in Frankfurt, Germany, December 8, 2016. REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski

BERLIN (Reuters) - A cross-party group of German lawmakers want to work with the European Parliament to resolve a challenge from Germany’s top court to the European Central Bank’s flagship policy programme, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung reported.

The German Constitutional Court last month gave the ECB three months to explain the proportionality of its bond purchases or risk losing Germany’s Bundesbank -- one of 19 national central banks that are members of the ECB -- as a participant. It also called on the German parliament and government to challenge the ECB on the matter.

The ruling poses a conundrum for Berlin, which is bound to respect the Karlsruhe court but at the same time does not want to erode the independence of the ECB, whose unprecedented economic stimulus programme has kept the euro zone intact.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung said in an advance release from Sunday’s edition that an idea floated by Sven Simon, a member of the European Parliament with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU), was emerging as a potential solution.

Simon has suggested that the Bundestag, the lower house of parliament in Berlin, should demand a statement of clarification from the European Parliament, rather than the ECB.

Unlike national parliaments, the European Parliament has the right to put questions to the ECB, and the ECB president gives testimony to the European legislature in regular hearings.

Simon has therefore written to the ECB asking it to make its internal deliberations on the effects of its policy action public. If it did so, it would, in Simon’s view, make it clear that it had in fact carried out the audit that Karlsruhe requires, the newspaper reported. The bank is obliged to reply.

The CDU and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU) support the proposal, along with their Social Democrat (SPD) coalition partners, and the opposition Greens and liberal Free Democrats (FDP), the paper added.

Writing by Paul Carrel; Editing by Kevin Liffey