The EU's top court today threw out German objections to the European Central Bank's 2012 controversial programme of buying up government bonds, saying it was compatible with EU law.

"This programme for the purchase of government bonds on secondary markets does not exceed the powers of the ECB," the European Court of Justice said.

The court was responding to legal action by a 35,000-strong group from Germany including politicians and academics, who had sought to dismantle the bond-buying scheme created in 2012, but never used. 

In a statement explaining the ruling, the court said safeguards must be built in to ensure any such programme did not break rules that prohibit central banks from financing governments. 

The judgement is a milestone in a long-running dispute about printing money and the limits of central bank powers between the ECB and sceptics in Germany, the largest of 19 states in the euro zone. It represents a victory for the ECB.

Germany's Constitutional Court, asked to rule on complaints by the group of Eurosceptic politicians and lawyers, had said there was good reason to believe the OMT (Outright Monetary Transactions) plan broke rules forbidding the ECB from funding governments. 

The German court referred the case to the European court for its view but implicitly reserved the right to give its final ruling.