The rules governing the EU Growth and Stability Pact were complex enough already. Today's ruling by the European Court has left the situation more confused than ever.

For years, France and Germany have been able to repeatedly dodge their commitments on budgetary restraint, with the backing of other member states who - for their own reasons - favoured lax interpretation of the Pact's rules. The Commission has repeatedly proved powerless to stop them.

So the essence of the dispute that has led to today's Court ruling is "Who really decides? The Commission or the Council?".

And the essence of the judgement is "Both - and neither".

The Court says the Council does not have the right to hold the excessive deficit procedures in abeyance - which it did. And it is not entitled to modify the nature of the Recommendations duly issued to Member States on how to correct their excessive deficit - which it also did.

At first glance, this might suggest that the Commission has come out on top, since the Council is found to have clearly acted in breach of the rules.

But the Commission also saw its prerogatives sharply trimmed. Its demand that the Council decisions should be reached on Commission Recommendations was thrown out by the Court.

So while the Council may not adopt Conclusions in future, it can...

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