HOME

TheInfoList




The European Central Bank (ECB) is the prime component of the
Eurosystem The Eurosystem is the monetary authority In finance Finance is the study of financial institutions, financial markets and how they operate within the financial system. It is concerned with the creation and management of money and investment ...
and the
European System of Central Banks The European System of Central Banks (ESCB) consists of the European Central Bank (ECB) and the national central bank A central bank, reserve bank, or monetary authority is an institution that manages the currency and monetary policy of a ...
(ESCB) as well as one of seven
institutions of the European Union The institutions of the European Union are the seven principal decision-making bodies of the (EU). They are, as listed in Article 13 of the : * the , * the (of Heads of State or Government), * the (of national Ministers, a Council for ea ...
. It is one of the world's most important central banks. The ECB Governing Council makes
monetary policy Monetary policy is the policy adopted by the monetary authority In finance and economics, a monetary authority is the entity that manages a country’s currency and money supply, often with the objective of controlling inflation targeting, infla ...

monetary policy
for the
Eurozone The eurozone, officially called the euro area, is a monetary union of 19 Member state of the European Union, member states of the European Union (EU) that have adopted the euro (Euro sign, €) as their primary currency and sole legal tender. Th ...

Eurozone
and the
European Union The European Union (EU) is a political and economic union of that are located primarily in . The union has a total area of and an estimated total population of about 447million. has been established through a standardised that apply in ...

European Union
, administers the
foreign exchange reserves Foreign exchange reserves (also called forex reserves or FX reserves) are cash In economics Economics () is the social science that studies how people interact with value; in particular, the Production (economics), production, distr ...
of EU member states, engages in foreign exchange operations, and defines the intermediate monetary objectives and key
interest rate An interest rate is the amount of interest In finance Finance is the study of financial institutions, financial markets and how they operate within the financial system. It is concerned with the creation and management of money and investm ...
of the EU. The ECB Executive Board enforces the policies and decisions of the Governing Council, and may direct the national central banks when doing so. The ECB has the exclusive right to authorise the issuance of
euro banknotes The euro (currency symbol, symbol: euro sign, €; ISO 4217, code: EUR) is the official currency of 19 of the Member state of the European Union, member states of the European Union. This group of states is known as the eurozone or euro area ...

euro banknotes
. Member states can issue
euro coins There are eight euro coin denominations, ranging from one cent to two euro The euro (currency symbol, symbol: euro sign, €; ISO 4217, code: EUR) is the official currency of 19 of the Member state of the European Union, member states of the ...

euro coins
, but the volume must be approved by the ECB beforehand. The bank also operates the
TARGET2 TARGET2 (Trans-European Automated Real-time Gross Settlement Express Transfer System) is the real-time gross settlementReal-time gross settlement (RTGS) systems are specialist funds transfer systems where the transfer of money Image:National- ...
payments system. The ECB was established by the
Treaty of Amsterdam The Treaty of Amsterdam, officially the Treaty of Amsterdam amending the Treaty on European Union, the Treaties establishing the European Communities and certain related acts, was signed on 2 October 1997, and entered into force on 1 May 1999; it ...
in May 1999 with the purpose of guaranteeing and maintaining
price stabilityPrice stability is a goal of monetary In a 1786 James Gillray caricature, the plentiful money bags handed to King George III are contrasted with the beggar whose legs and arms were amputated, in the left corner">174x174px Money is any item or ...
. On 1 December 2009, the
Treaty of Lisbon The Treaty of Lisbon (initially known as the Reform Treaty) is an international agreement that amends the two treaties A treaty is a formal, legally binding written agreement between actors in international law International law, also ...
became effective and the bank gained the official status of an EU institution. When the ECB was created, it covered a
Eurozone The eurozone, officially called the euro area, is a monetary union of 19 Member state of the European Union, member states of the European Union (EU) that have adopted the euro (Euro sign, €) as their primary currency and sole legal tender. Th ...

Eurozone
of eleven members. Since then, Greece joined in January 2001, Slovenia in January 2007, Cyprus and Malta in January 2008, Slovakia in January 2009, Estonia in January 2011, Latvia in January 2014 and Lithuania in January 2015. The current President of the ECB is
Christine Lagarde Christine Madeleine Odette Lagarde (; née Lallouette, ; born 1 January 1956) is a French politician and lawyer who is the current President of the European Central Bank, a position she has held since 1 November 2019. Prior to this appointment an ...

Christine Lagarde
.
Headquartered Headquarters (commonly referred to as HQ) denotes the location where most, if not all, of the important functions of an organization are coordinated. In the United States, the corporate headquarters represents the entity at the center or the top ...
in
Frankfurt Frankfurt, officially Frankfurt am Main (; Hessian A Hessian is an inhabitant of the German state of Hesse. Hessian may also refer to: Named from the toponym *Hessian (soldier), eighteenth-century German regiments in service with the Brit ...

Frankfurt
, Germany, the bank formerly occupied the Eurotower prior to the construction of its new seat. The ECB is directly governed by
European Union law European Union law is a system of rules operating within the member states of the European Union The European Union (EU) is a political and economic union of Member state of the European Union, member states that are located primarily ...
. Its capital stock, worth €11 billion, is owned by all 27 central banks of the EU member states as
shareholder A shareholder (in the United States often referred to as stockholder) of a is an or (such as another , a , a or ) that is registered by the corporation as the legal owner of of the of a or . Shareholders may be referred to as members of a ...
s. The initial capital allocation key was determined in 1998 on the basis of the states' population and GDP, but the capital key has been readjusted since. Shares in the ECB are not transferable and cannot be used as collateral.


History


Early years of the ECB (1998–2007)

The European Central Bank is the ''de facto'' successor of the
European Monetary Institute The European Monetary Institute (EMI) was the forerunner of the European Central Bank upright=1.2, Seat of the European Central Bank The European Central Bank (ECB) is the central bank of the Eurozone, a monetary union of 19 Member state ...
(EMI). The EMI was established at the start of the second stage of the EU's
Economic and Monetary Union An economic and monetary union (EMU) is a type of trade bloc A trade bloc is a type of trade pact, intergovernmental agreement, often part of a regional intergovernmental organization, where barriers to trade (tariffs and Non-tariff barriers to tr ...
(EMU) to handle the transitional issues of states adopting the euro and prepare for the creation of the ECB and
European System of Central Banks The European System of Central Banks (ESCB) consists of the European Central Bank (ECB) and the national central bank A central bank, reserve bank, or monetary authority is an institution that manages the currency and monetary policy of a ...
(ESCB). The EMI itself took over from the earlier European Monetary Co-operation Fund (EMCF). The ECB formally replaced the EMI on 1 June 1998 by virtue of the
Treaty on European Union The Treaty on European Union (2007) is one of the primary Treaties of the European Union, alongside the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union The Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) is one of two treaties formi ...
(TEU, Treaty of Maastricht), however it did not exercise its full powers until the
introduction of the euro The euro The euro (symbol A symbol is a mark, sign, or that indicates, signifies, or is understood as representing an , , or . Symbols allow people to go beyond what is n or seen by creating linkages between otherwise very differ ...
on 1 January 1999, signalling the third stage of EMU. The bank was the final institution needed for EMU, as outlined by the EMU reports of
Pierre Werner Pierre Werner (29 December 1913 – 24 June 2002) was a Luxembourgian politician in the Christian Social People's Party (CSV) who was the 18th Prime Minister of Luxembourg, Prime Minister from 1959 to 1974 and from 1979 to 1984. Training and e ...
and
President President most commonly refers to: *President (corporate title) A president is a leader of an organization, company, community, club, trade union, university or other group. The relationship between a president and a Chief Executive Officer, chi ...
Jacques Delors Jacques Lucien Jean Delors (born 20 July 1925) is a French politician who served as the 8th President of the European Commission from 1985 to 1995. He served as Minister of the Economy, Finances and Industry (France), Minister of Finance of Franc ...
. It was established on 1 June 1219 The first President of the Bank was
Wim Duisenberg Willem Frederik "Wim" Duisenberg (; 9 July 1935 – 31 July 2005) was a Dutch politician of the Labour Party (PvdA) and economist who served as President of the European Central Bank from 1 June 1998 until 1 November 2003. Duisenberg studied ...

Wim Duisenberg
, the former president of the Dutch central bank and the
European Monetary Institute The European Monetary Institute (EMI) was the forerunner of the European Central Bank upright=1.2, Seat of the European Central Bank The European Central Bank (ECB) is the central bank of the Eurozone, a monetary union of 19 Member state ...
. While Duisenberg had been the head of the EMI (taking over from
Alexandre Lamfalussy Alexandre, Baron Lamfalussy (HungarianHungarian may refer to: * Hungary, a country in Central Europe * Kingdom of Hungary, state of Hungary, existing between 1000 and 1946 * Hungarians, ethnic groups in Hungary * Hungarian algorithm, a polynomial ...
of Belgium) just before the ECB came into existence, the French government wanted
Jean-Claude Trichet Jean-Claude Trichet (; born 20 December 1942) is a French economist An economist is a practitioner in the social sciences, social science discipline of economics. The individual may also study, develop, and apply theories and concepts from ec ...

Jean-Claude Trichet
, former head of the , to be the ECB's first president. The French argued that since the ECB was to be located in Germany, its president should be French. This was opposed by the German, Dutch and Belgian governments who saw Duisenberg as a guarantor of a strong euro. Tensions were abated by a
gentleman's agreement ''Gentleman's Agreement'' is a 1947 American drama (film and television), drama film based on Laura Z. Hobson's best-selling 1947 Gentleman's Agreement (novel), novel of the same name. It concerns a journalist (played by Gregory Peck) who poses ...
in which Duisenberg would stand down before the end of his mandate, to be replaced by Trichet. Trichet replaced Duisenberg as president in November 2003. Until 2007, the ECB had very successfully managed to maintain inflation close but below 2%.


The ECB's response to the financial crises (2008–2014)

The European Central Bank underwent through a deep internal transformation as it faced the global financial crisis and the
Eurozone debt crisis The European debt crisis (often also referred to as the eurozone crisis or the European sovereign debt crisis) is a multi-year debt crisis that has been taking place in the European Union since the end of 2009. Several eurozone member states (Gr ...
.


Early response to the Eurozone debt crisis

The so-called ''
European debt crisis The European debt crisis, often also referred to as the eurozone crisis or the European sovereign debt crisis, is a multi-year debt crisis Debt crisis is a situation in which a government (nation, state/province, county, or city etc.) loses the ...
'' began after Greece's new elected government uncovered the real level indebtedness and budget deficit and warned EU institutions of the imminent danger of a Greek
sovereign default A sovereign default is the failure or refusal of the government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a State (polity), state. In the case of its broad associative definition, gov ...
. Foreseeing a possible sovereign default in the eurozone, the general public, international and European institutions, and the financial community reassessed the economic situation and creditworthiness of some Eurozone member states, in particular Southern countries. Consequently, sovereign bonds yields of several Eurozone countries started to rise sharply. This provoked a self-fulfilling panic on financial markets: the more Greek bonds yields rose, the more likely a default became possible, the more bond yields increased in turn.


= Trichet's reluctance to intervene

= This panic was also aggravated because of the inability of the ECB to react and intervene on sovereign bonds markets for two reasons. First, because the ECB's legal framework normally forbids the purchase of sovereign bonds (Article 123. TFEU), This prevented the ECB from implementing
quantitative easing Quantitative easing (QE) is a monetary policy whereby a central bank purchases predetermined amounts of government bonds or other financial assets (e.g., municipal bonds, corporate bonds, stocks, etc.) in order to inject money into the economy to ...
like the Federal Reserve and the Bank of England did as soon as 2008, which played an important role in stabilizing markets. Secondly, a decision by the ECB made in 2005 introduced a minimum credit rating (BBB-) for all Eurozone sovereign bonds to be eligible as collateral to the ECB's open market operations. This meant that if a private rating agencies were to downgrade a sovereign bond below that threshold, many banks would suddenly become illiquid because they would lose access to ECB refinancing operations. According to former member of the governing council of the ECB Athanasios Orphanides, this change in the ECB's collateral framework "planted the seed" of the euro crisis. Faced with those regulatory constraints, the ECB led by Jean-Claude Trichet in 2010 was reluctant to intervene to calm down financial markets. Up until 6 May 2010, Trichet formally denied at several press conferences the possibility of the ECB to embark into sovereign bonds purchases, even though Greece, Portugal, Spain and Italy faced waves of
credit ratingA credit rating is an evaluation of the credit risk of a prospective debtor (an individual, a business, company or a government), predicting their ability to pay back the debt, and an implicit forecast of the likelihood of the debtor Default (financ ...

credit rating
downgrades and increasing interest rate spreads.


ECB's market interventions (2010–2011)

In a remarkable u-turn, the ECB announced on 10 May 2010, the launch of a "Securities Market Programme" (SMP) which involved the discretionary purchase of sovereign bonds in secondary markets. Extraordinarily, the decision was taken by the Governing Council during a teleconference call only three days after the ECB's usual meeting of 6 May (when Trichet still denied the possibility of purchasing sovereign bonds). The ECB justified this decision by the necessity to "address severe tensions in financial markets." The decision also coincided with the EU leaders decision of 10 May to establish the European Financial Stabilisation mechanism, which would serve as a crisis fighting fund to safeguard the euro area from future sovereign debt crisis. The ECB's bond buying focused primarily on Spanish and Italian debt. They were intended to dampen international speculation against those countries, and thus avoid a contagion of the Greek crisis towards other Eurozone countries. The assumption is that speculative activity will decrease over time and the value of the assets increase. Although SMP did involve an injection of new money into financial markets, all ECB injections were "sterilized" through weekly liquidity absorption. So the operation was neutral for the overall money supply. In September 2011, ECB's Board member
Jürgen Stark Jürgen Stark (born 31 May 1948 in Gau-Odernheim, Germany ) , image_map = , map_caption = , map_width = 250px , capital = Berlin , coordinates = , largest_city = capital , languages_type = Official language , languages = German l ...
, resigned in protest against the "Securities Market Programme" which involved the purchase of sovereign bonds from Southern member states, a move that he considered as equivalent to
monetary financing Debt monetization or monetary financing is the practice of a government borrowing money from the central bank to finance public spending instead of selling bonds to the private sector or raising taxes. It is often informally and pejoratively called ...
, which is prohibited by the EU Treaty. The ''
Financial Times Deutschland The ''Financial Times Deutschland'' was a German-language financial newspaper based in Hamburg en, Hamburgian(s) , timezone1 = Central European Time, CET , utc_offset1 = +1 , timezone1_DST ...
'' referred to this episode as "the end of the ECB as we know it", referring to its hitherto perceived "hawkish" stance on inflation and its historical
Deutsche Bundesbank The Deutsche Bundesbank (), literally "German Federal Bank", is the central bank A central bank, reserve bank, or monetary authority is an institution that manages the currency and monetary policy of a State (polity), state or formal mone ...
influence. As of 18 June 2012, the ECB in total had spent €212.1bn (equal to 2.2% of the Eurozone GDP) for bond purchases covering outright debt, as part of the Securities Markets Programme. Controversially, the ECB made substantial profits out of SMP, which were largely redistributed to Eurozone countries. In 2013, the
Eurogroup The Eurogroup is the recognised collective term for informal meetings of the finance ministers of the eurozone The eurozone, officially called the euro area, is a monetary union of 19 Member state of the European Union, member states of the ...
decided to refund those profits to Greece, however the payments were suspended over 2014 until 2017 over the conflict between
Yanis Varoufakis Ioannis "Yanis" Varoufakis ( el, Ιωάννης Γεωργίου "Γιάνης" Βαρουφάκης, Ioánnis Georgíou "Giánis" Varoufákis, ; born 24 March 1961) is a Greek-Australian economist and politician. A former academic, he has been ...

Yanis Varoufakis
and ministers of the Eurogroup. In 2018, profits refunds were reinstalled by the Eurogroup. However, several NGOs complained that a substantial part of the ECB profits would never be refunded to Greece.


Role in the Troika (2010–2015)

The ECB played a controversial role in the "
Troika Troika or troyka (from Russian тройка, meaning 'a set of three') may refer to: Cultural tradition * Troika (driving), a traditional Russian harness driving combination, a cultural icon of Russia * Troika (dance), a Russian folk dance Polit ...
" by rejecting all forms of debt restructuring of public and private debts, forcing governments to adopt bailout programmes and structural reforms through secret letters to Italian, Spanish, Greek and Irish governments. It has further been accused of interfering in the Greek referendum of July 2015 by constraining liquidity to Greek commercial banks. In November 2010, it became clear that Ireland would not be able to afford to bail out its failing banks, and
Anglo Irish Bank Anglo Irish Bank was an Irish bank A bank is a financial institution that accepts Deposit account, deposits from the public and creates a demand deposit while simultaneously making loans. Lending activities can be directly performed by the ...
in particular which needed around 30 billion euros, a sum the government obviously could not borrow from financial markets when its bond yields were soaring to comparable levels with the Greek bonds. Instead, the government issued a 31bn EUR "promissory note" (an IOU) to Anglo – which it had nationalized. In turn, the bank supplied the promissory note as collateral to the
Central Bank of Ireland The Central Bank of Ireland ( ga, Banc Ceannais na hÉireann) is Ireland Ireland ( ; ga, Éire ; Ulster-Scots: ) is an island upright=1.15, Great_Britain.html"_;"title="Ireland_(left)_and_Great_Britain">Ireland_(left)_and_Gre ...

Central Bank of Ireland
, so it could access emergency liquidity assistance (ELA). This way, Anglo was able to repay its bondholders. The operation became very controversial, as it basically shifted Anglo's private debts onto the government's balance sheet. It became clear later that the ECB played a key role in making sure the Irish government did not let Anglo default on its debts, in order to avoid a financial instability risks. On 15 October and 6 November 2010, the ECB President
Jean-Claude Trichet Jean-Claude Trichet (; born 20 December 1942) is a French economist An economist is a practitioner in the social sciences, social science discipline of economics. The individual may also study, develop, and apply theories and concepts from ec ...

Jean-Claude Trichet
sent two secret letters to the Irish finance Minister which essentially informed the Irish government of the possible suspension of ELA's credit lines, unless the government requested a financial assistance programme to the
Eurogroup The Eurogroup is the recognised collective term for informal meetings of the finance ministers of the eurozone The eurozone, officially called the euro area, is a monetary union of 19 Member state of the European Union, member states of the ...
under condition of further reforms and fiscal consolidation. Over 2012 and 2013, the ECB repeatedly insisted that the promissory note should be repaid in full, and refused the Government's proposal to swap the notes with a long-term (and less costly) bond until February 2013. In addition, the ECB insisted that no debt restructuring (or
bail-in A bailout is the provision of financial help to a corporation or country which otherwise would be on the brink of failure bankruptcy Bankruptcy is a legal process through which people or other entities who cannot repay debts to creditors may s ...
) should be applied to the nationalized banks' bondholders, a measure which could have saved Ireland 8 billion euros. In April 2011, the ECB raised interest rates for the first time since 2008 from 1% to 1.25%, with a further increase to 1.50% in July 2011. However, in 2012–2013 the ECB sharply lowered interest rates to encourage economic growth, reaching the historically low 0.25% in November 2013. Soon after the rates were cut to 0.15%, then on 4 September 2014 the central bank reduced the rates by two thirds from 0.15% to 0.05%. Recently, the interest rates were further reduced reaching 0.00%, the lowest rates on record. The European Central Bank was not ready to manage the money supply under the crisis of 2008, therefore, it started using the instrument of quantitative easing only in 2015. In a report adopted on 13 March 2014, the
European Parliament The European Parliament (EP) is one of three Legislature, legislative branches of the European Union and one of its seven Institutions of the European Union, institutions. Together with the Council of the European Union, it adopts European legi ...

European Parliament
criticized the "potential conflict of interest between the current role of the ECB in the Troika as ‘technical advisor’ and its position as creditor of the four Member States, as well as its mandate under the Treaty". The report was led by Austrian right-wing MEP
Othmar Karas Othmar Karas (born 24 December 1957) is an Austrian politician who has been serving as a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) since 1999. He is a member of the Austrian People's Party (ÖVP), which in turn affiliates with the European People's P ...

Othmar Karas
and French Socialist MEP Liem Hoang Ngoc.


The ECB's response under Mario Draghi (2012–2015)

On 1 November 2011,
Mario Draghi Mario Draghi (; born 3 September 1947) is an Italian economist An economist is a practitioner in the social sciences, social science discipline of economics. The individual may also study, develop, and apply theories and concepts from econ ...

Mario Draghi
replaced Jean-Claude Trichet as President of the ECB. This change in leadership also marks the start of a new era under which the ECB will become more and more interventionist and eventually ended the Eurozone sovereign debt crisis. Draghi's presidency started with the impressive launch of a new round of 1% interest loans with a term of three years (36 months) – the Long-term Refinancing operations (LTRO). Under this programme, 523 Banks tapped as much as €489.2 bn (US$640 bn). Observers were surprised by the volume of the loans made when it was implemented. By far biggest amount of was tapped by banks in Greece, Ireland, Italy and Spain. Although those LTROs loans did not directly benefit EU governments, it effectively allowed banks to do a
carry tradeThe carry of an asset is the Rate of return, return obtained from holding it (if positive), or the cost of holding it (if negative) (see also Cost of carry). For instance, commodities are usually negative carry assets, as they incur storage costs or ...
, by lending off the LTROs loans to governments with an interest margin. The operation also facilitated the rollover of of maturing bank debts in the first three months of 2012.


= "Whatever it takes" (26 July 2012)

= Facing renewed fears about sovereigns in the eurozone continued Mario Draghi made a decisive speech in London, by declaring that the ECB "...is ready to do ''whatever it takes'' to preserve the Euro. And believe me, it will be enough." In light of slow political progress on solving the eurozone crisis, Draghi's statement has been seen as a key turning point in the eurozone crisis, as it was immediately welcomed by European leaders, and led to a steady decline in bond yields for eurozone countries, in particular Spain, Italy and France. Following up on Draghi's speech, on 6 September 2012 the ECB announced the
Outright Monetary TransactionsOutright Monetary Transactions ("OMT") is a program of the European Central Bank under which the bank makes purchases ("outright transactions") in secondary, sovereign bond markets, under certain conditions, of bonds issued by Eurozone The eur ...
programme (OMT). Unlike the previous SMP programme, OMT has no
ex-ante The term ''ex-ante'' (sometimes written ''ex ante'' or ''exante'') is a phrase meaning "before the event". Ex-ante or notional demand refers to the desire for goods and services which is not backed by the ability to pay for those goods and services ...
time or size limit. However, the activation of the purchases remains conditioned to the adherence by the benefitting country to an adjustment programme to the ESM. The program was adopted with near unanimity, the Bundesbank president Jens Weidmann being the sole member of the ECB's Governing Council to vote against. Even if OMT was never actually implemented until today, it made the "Whatever it takes" pledge credible and significantly contributed in stabilizing financial markets and ended the sovereign debt crisis. According to various sources, the OMT programme and "whatever it takes" speeches were made possible because EU leaders previously agreed to build the
banking union The banking union of the European Union The European Union (EU) is a political and economic union of Member state of the European Union, member states that are located primarily in Europe. Its members have a combined area of and an estim ...
.


Low inflation and quantitative easing (2015–2019)

In November 2014, the bank moved into its new premises, while the Eurotower building was dedicated to host the newly established supervisory activities of the ECB under the
Single Supervisory Mechanism The Single Supervisory Mechanism (SSM) is the first pillar of the European banking union and is the legislative and institutional framework that grants the European Central Bank (ECB) a leading supervisory role over banks in the European Union, ...
. Although the sovereign debt crisis was almost solved by 2014, the ECB started to face a repeated decline in the Eurozone inflation rate, indicating that the economy was going towards a deflation. Responding to this threat, the ECB announced on 4 September 2014 the launch of two bond buying purchases programmes: the Covered Bond Purchasing Programme (CBPP3) and Asset-Backed Securities Programme (ABSPP). On 22 January 2015, the ECB announced an extension of those programmes within a full-fledge "
quantitative easing Quantitative easing (QE) is a monetary policy whereby a central bank purchases predetermined amounts of government bonds or other financial assets (e.g., municipal bonds, corporate bonds, stocks, etc.) in order to inject money into the economy to ...
" programme which also included sovereign bonds, to the tune of 60 billion euros per month up until at least September 2016. The programme was started on 9 March 2015. On 8 June 2016, the ECB added corporate bonds to its asset purchases portfolio with the launch of the corporate sector purchase programme (CSPP). Under this programme, it conducted net purchase of corporate bonds until January 2019 to reach about €177 billion. While the programme was halted for 11 months in January 2019, the ECB restarted net purchases in November 2019. As of 2021, the size of the ECB's quantitative easing programme had reached 2947 billion euros.


Christine Lagarde's era (2019– )

In July 2019, EU leaders nominated
Christine Lagarde Christine Madeleine Odette Lagarde (; née Lallouette, ; born 1 January 1956) is a French politician and lawyer who is the current President of the European Central Bank, a position she has held since 1 November 2019. Prior to this appointment an ...

Christine Lagarde
to replace Mario Draghi as ECB President. Lagarde resigned from her position as managing director of the
International Monetary Fund The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is an international financial institution, headquartered in Washington, D.C. ) , image_skyline = , image_caption = Clockwise from top left: the Washington Monument The ...

International Monetary Fund
in July 2019 and formally took over the ECB's presidency on 1 November 2019. Lagarde immediately signaled a change of style in the ECB's leadership. She embarked the ECB's into a strategic review of the ECB's monetary policy strategy, an exercise the ECB had not done for 17 years. As part of this exercise, Lagarde committed the ECB to look into how monetary policy could contribute to address climate change, and promised that "no stone would be left unturned." The ECB president also adopted a change of communication style, in particular in her use of social media to promote gender equality, and by opening dialogue with civil society stakeholders.


Response to the COVID-19 crisis

However, Lagarde's ambitions were quickly slowed down with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic crisis. In March 2020, the ECB responded quickly and boldly by launching a package of measures including a new asset purchase programme: the €1350 billion
Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme The European Central Bank (ECB) is the prime component of the Eurosystem The Eurosystem is the monetary authority In finance Finance is the study of financial institutions, financial markets and how they operate within the financia ...
(PEPP) which aimed to lower borrowing costs and increase lending in the euro area. The PEPP was extended to cover an additional €500 billion in December 2020. The ECB also re-launched more TLTROs loans to banks at historically low levels and record-high take-up (EUR 1.3 trillion in June 2020). Lending by banks to SMEs was also facilitated by collateral easing measures, and other supervisory relaxations. The ECB also reactivated currency swap lines and enhanced existing swap lines with central banks across the globe


= Strategy Review

= As a consequence of the COVID-19 crisis, the ECB extended the duration of the strategy review until September 2021. On 13 July 2021, the ECB presented the outcomes of the strategy review, with the main following announcements: * The ECB announced a new inflation target at 2% instead of its "close but below two percent" inflation target. The ECB also made it clear it could overshoot its target under certain circumstances. * The ECB announced it would try to incorporate the cost of housing (imputed rents) into its inflation measurement * The ECB announced and action plan on climate change The ECB also said it would carry out another strategy review in 2025.


Mandate and inflation target

Unlike many other central banks, the ECB does not have a ''dual mandate'' where it has to pursue two equally important objectives such as price stability and full employment (like the US Federal Reserve System). The ECB has only one primary objective – price stability – subject to which it may pursue secondary objectives.


Primary mandate

The primary objective of the European Central Bank, set out in Article 127(1) of the
Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union A treaty is a formal, legally binding written agreement between actors in international law International law, also known as public international law and law of nations, is the set of rules, norms, and standards generally recognized as bi ...
, is to maintain
price stabilityPrice stability is a goal of monetary In a 1786 James Gillray caricature, the plentiful money bags handed to King George III are contrasted with the beggar whose legs and arms were amputated, in the left corner">174x174px Money is any item or ...
within the
Eurozone The eurozone, officially called the euro area, is a monetary union of 19 Member state of the European Union, member states of the European Union (EU) that have adopted the euro (Euro sign, €) as their primary currency and sole legal tender. Th ...

Eurozone
. However the EU Treaties do not specify exactly how the ECB should pursue this objective. The European Central Bank has ample discretion over the way it pursues its price stability objective, as it can self-decide on the inflation target, and may also influence the way inflation is being measured. The Governing Council in October 1998THE EUROPEAN CENTRAL BANK HISTORY, ROLE AND FUNCTIONS BY HANSPETER K. SCHELLER SECOND REVISED EDITION 2006, (print) (online) page 81 at the pdf online version defined price stability as inflation of under 2%, "a year-on-year increase in the
Harmonised Index of Consumer PricesThe Harmonised Index of Consumer Prices (HICP) is an indicator of inflation and price stability for the European Central Bank upright=1.2, Seat of the European Central Bank The European Central Bank (ECB) is the central bank of the Eurozon ...
(HICP) for the euro area of below 2%" and added that price stability "was to be maintained over the medium term". In May 2003, following a thorough review of the ECB's monetary policy strategy, the Governing Council clarified that "in the pursuit of price stability, it aims to maintain inflation rates below, but close to, 2% over the medium term". Since 2016, the European Central Bank's president has further adjusted its communication, by introducing the notion of "symmetry" in its definition of its target, thus making it clear that the ECB should respond both to inflationary pressure to deflationary pressures. As once said "symmetry meant not only that we would not accept persistently low inflation, but also that there was no cap on inflation at 2%." On 8 July 2021, as a result of the strategic review led by the new president
Christine Lagarde Christine Madeleine Odette Lagarde (; née Lallouette, ; born 1 January 1956) is a French politician and lawyer who is the current President of the European Central Bank, a position she has held since 1 November 2019. Prior to this appointment an ...

Christine Lagarde
, the ECB officially abandoned the "below but close to two percent" definition and adopted instead a 2% symmetric target.


Secondary mandate

Without prejudice to the objective of price stability, the Treaty (127 TFEU) also provides room for the ECB to pursue other objectives:
"Without prejudice to the objective of price stability, the ESCB shall support the general economic policies in the Union with a view to contributing to the achievement of the objectives of the Union as laid down in Article 3 of the Treaty on European Union."
This legal provision is often considered to provide a "secondary mandate" to the ECB, and offers ample justifications for the ECB to also prioritize other considerations such as full employment or environmental protection, which are mentioned in the Article 3 of the Treaty on the European Union. At the same time, economists and commentators are often divided on whether and how the ECB should pursue those secondary objectives, in particular the environmental impact. ECB official have also frequently pointed out the possible contradictions between those secondary objectives. To better guide the ECB's action on its secondary objectives, it has been suggested that closer consultation with the European Parliament would be warranted.


Tasks

To carry out its main mission, the ECB's tasks include: * Defining and implementing monetary policy * Managing foreign exchange operations * Maintaining the payment system to promote smooth operation of the financial market infrastructure under the TARGET2 payments system and being currently developed technical platform for settlement of securities in Europe (
TARGET2 Securities T2S (TARGET2-Securities) is a European securities A security is a tradable financial asset. The term commonly refers to any form of financial instrument, but its legal definition varies by jurisdiction. In some countries and languages people c ...
). * Consultative role: by law, the ECB's opinion is required on any national or EU legislation that falls within the ECB's competence. * Collection and establishment of statistics * International cooperation * Issuing banknotes: the ECB holds the exclusive right to authorise the issuance of
euro banknotes The euro (currency symbol, symbol: euro sign, €; ISO 4217, code: EUR) is the official currency of 19 of the Member state of the European Union, member states of the European Union. This group of states is known as the eurozone or euro area ...

euro banknotes
. Member states can issue
euro coins There are eight euro coin denominations, ranging from one cent to two euro The euro (currency symbol, symbol: euro sign, €; ISO 4217, code: EUR) is the official currency of 19 of the Member state of the European Union, member states of the ...

euro coins
, but the amount must be authorised by the ECB beforehand (upon the introduction of the euro, the ECB also had exclusive right to issue coins). * Financial stability and prudential policy * Banking supervision: since 2013, the ECB has been put in charge of supervising systemically relevant banks.


Monetary policy tools

The principal monetary policy tool of the European central bank is collateralised borrowing or repo agreements. These tools are also used by the United States
Federal Reserve Bank A Federal Reserve Bank is a regional bank of the Federal Reserve System The Federal Reserve System (also known as the Federal Reserve or simply the Fed) is the central bank A central bank, reserve bank, or monetary authority is an ...
, but the Fed does more direct purchasing of financial assets than its European counterpart. The collateral used by the ECB is typically high quality public and private sector debt. All lending to credit institutions must be collateralised as required by Article 18 of the Statute of the ESCB. The criteria for determining "high quality" for public debt have been preconditions for membership in the European Union: total debt must not be too large in relation to gross domestic product, for example, and deficits in any given year must not become too large. Though these criteria are fairly simple, a number of accounting techniques may hide the underlying reality of fiscal solvency—or the lack of same.


Difference with US Federal Reserve

In the United States Federal Reserve Bank, the Federal Reserve buys assets: typically, bonds issued by the Federal government. There is no limit on the bonds that it can buy and one of the tools at its disposal in a financial crisis is to take such extraordinary measures as the purchase of large amounts of assets such as
commercial paper Commercial paper, in the global financial market, is an Unsecured debt, unsecured promissory note with a fixed Maturity (finance), maturity of rarely more than 270 days. In layperson terms, it is like an "wikt:IOU, IOU" but can be bought and so ...
. The purpose of such operations is to ensure that adequate liquidity is available for functioning of the financial system. The
Eurosystem The Eurosystem is the monetary authority In finance Finance is the study of financial institutions, financial markets and how they operate within the financial system. It is concerned with the creation and management of money and investment ...
, on the other hand, uses collateralized lending as a default instrument. There are about 1,500 eligible banks which may bid for short-term repo contracts. The difference is that banks in effect borrow cash from the ECB and must pay it back; the short durations allow interest rates to be adjusted continually. When the repo notes come due the participating banks bid again. An increase in the quantity of notes offered at auction allows an increase in liquidity in the economy. A decrease has the contrary effect. The contracts are carried on the asset side of the European Central Bank's balance sheet and the resulting deposits in member banks are carried as a liability. In layman terms, the liability of the central bank is money, and an increase in deposits in member banks, carried as a liability by the central bank, means that more money has been put into the economy. To qualify for participation in the auctions, banks must be able to offer proof of appropriate collateral in the form of loans to other entities. These can be the public debt of member states, but a fairly wide range of private banking securities are also accepted. The fairly stringent membership requirements for the European Union, especially with regard to
sovereign debt Government debt, also known as public interest, public debt, national debt and sovereign debt, is the total amount of debt Debt is an obligation that requires one party, the debtor, to pay money or other agreed-upon value to another party, ...
as a percentage of each member state's gross domestic product, are designed to ensure that assets offered to the bank as collateral are, at least in theory, all equally good, and all equally protected from the risk of inflation.


Organization

The ECB has four decision-making bodies, that take all the decisions with the objective of fulfilling the ECB's mandate: * the Executive Board, * the Governing Council, * the General Council, and * the Supervisory Board.


Decision-making bodies


Executive Board

The
Executive Board A board of directors is a group of people who jointly supervise the activities of an organization An organization, or organisation ( Commonwealth English; see spelling differences), is an entity – such as a company, an institution, ...
is responsible for the implementation of monetary policy (defined by the Governing Council) and the day-to-day running of the bank. It can issue decisions to national central banks and may also exercise powers delegated to it by the Governing Council. Executive Board members are assigned a portfolio of responsibilities by the President of the ECB. The executive board normally meets every Tuesday. It is composed of the President of the Bank (currently
Christine Lagarde Christine Madeleine Odette Lagarde (; née Lallouette, ; born 1 January 1956) is a French politician and lawyer who is the current President of the European Central Bank, a position she has held since 1 November 2019. Prior to this appointment an ...

Christine Lagarde
), the vice-president (currently
Luis de Guindos Luis de Guindos Jurado (born 16 January 1960) is a Spanish politician who currently serves as the President of the European Central Bank#Vice Presidents, Vice President of the European Central Bank. He was the Ministry of Economy, Industry and Com ...
) and four other members. They are all appointed by the
European Council The European Council (informally EUCO) is a collegiate body that defines the overall political directions and priorities of the European Union The European Union (EU) is a political and economic union of member states that are loc ...
for non-renewable terms of eight years. Member of the executive board of the ECB are appointed "from among persons of recognised standing and professional experience in monetary or banking matters by common accord of the governments of the Member States at the level of Heads of State or Government, on a recommendation from the Council, after it has consulted the European Parliament and the Governing Council of the ECB". José Manuel González-Páramo, a Spanish member of the executive board since June 2004, was due to leave the board in early June 2012, but no replacement had been named as of late May.Marsh, David
"Cameron irritates as euro’s High Noon approaches"
''MarketWatch'', 28 May 2012. Retrieved 29 May 2012.
The Spanish had nominated Barcelona-born Antonio Sáinz de Vicuña – an ECB veteran who heads its legal department – as González-Páramo's replacement as early as January 2012, but alternatives from Luxembourg, Finland, and Slovenia were put forward and no decision made by May. After a long political battle and delays due to the European Parliament's protest over the lack of gender balance at the ECB, Luxembourg's
Yves Mersch Yves Mersch (born 1 October 1949 in Luxembourg City) is a Luxembourgish jurist and lawyer who served as Governor of the Central Bank of Luxembourg from the bank's formation in 1998 until 2012, and as a member of the Executive Board of the European C ...
was appointed as González-Páramo's replacement. In December 2020,
Frank Elderson Frank Elderson is a Dutch lawyer and central banker who currently serves as executive board member of the European Central Bank since December 2020, succeeding Yves Mersch. Before joining the ECB, Elderson has been an executive director of super ...

Frank Elderson
succeeded to
Yves Mersch Yves Mersch (born 1 October 1949 in Luxembourg City) is a Luxembourgish jurist and lawyer who served as Governor of the Central Bank of Luxembourg from the bank's formation in 1998 until 2012, and as a member of the Executive Board of the European C ...
at the ECB's board.


Governing Council

The Governing Council is the main decision-making body of the
Eurosystem The Eurosystem is the monetary authority In finance Finance is the study of financial institutions, financial markets and how they operate within the financial system. It is concerned with the creation and management of money and investment ...
. It comprises the members of the executive board (six in total) and the governors of the National Central Banks of the euro area countries (19 as of 2015). According to Article 284 of the TFEU, the
President President most commonly refers to: *President (corporate title) A president is a leader of an organization, company, community, club, trade union, university or other group. The relationship between a president and a Chief Executive Officer, chi ...
of the
European Council The European Council (informally EUCO) is a collegiate body that defines the overall political directions and priorities of the European Union The European Union (EU) is a political and economic union of member states that are loc ...
and a representative from the
European Commission The European Commission (EC) is the executive branch The executive is the branch of government exercising authority in and holding Moral responsibility, responsibility for the governance of a State (polity), state. The executive executes a ...

European Commission
may attend the meetings as observers, but they lack voting rights. Since January 2015, the ECB has published on its website a summary of the Governing Council deliberations ("accounts"). These publications came as a partial response to recurring criticism against the ECB's opacity. However, in contrast to other central banks, the ECB still does not disclose individual voting records of the governors seating in its council.


General Council

The General Council is a body dealing with transitional issues of euro adoption, for example, fixing the exchange rates of currencies being replaced by the euro (continuing the tasks of the former EMI). It will continue to exist until all EU member states adopt the euro, at which point it will be dissolved. It is composed of the President and vice-president together with the governors of all of the EU's national central banks.


Supervisory Board

The supervisory board meets twice a month to discuss, plan and carry out the ECB's supervisory tasks. It proposes draft decisions to the Governing Council under the non-objection procedure. It is composed of Chair (appointed for a non-renewable term of five years), Vice-chair (chosen from among the members of the ECB's executive board) four ECB representatives and representatives of national supervisors. If the national supervisory authority designated by a Member State is not a national central bank (NCB), the representative of the competent authority can be accompanied by a representative from their NCB. In such cases, the representatives are together considered as one member for the purposes of the voting procedure. It also includes the Steering Committee, which supports the activities of the supervisory board and prepares the Board's meetings. It is composed by the Chair of the supervisory board, Vice-chair of the supervisory board, one ECB representative and five representatives of national supervisors. The five representatives of national supervisors are appointed by the supervisory board for one year based on a rotation system that ensures a fair representation of countries.


Capital subscription

The ECB is governed by European law directly, but its set-up resembles that of a corporation in the sense that the ECB has shareholders and stock capital. Its initial capital was supposed to be €5 billion and the initial capital allocation key was determined in 1998 on the basis of the member states' populations and GDP, but the key is adjustable. The euro area NCBs were required to pay their respective subscriptions to the ECB's capital in full. The NCBs of the non-participating countries have had to pay 7% of their respective subscriptions to the ECB's capital as a contribution to the operational costs of the ECB. As a result, the ECB was endowed with an initial capital of just under €4 billion. The capital is held by the national central banks of the member states as shareholders. Shares in the ECB are not transferable and cannot be used as collateral. The NCBs are the sole subscribers to and holders of the capital of the ECB. Today, ECB capital is about €11 billion, which is held by the national central banks of the member states as shareholders. The NCBs’ shares in this capital are calculated using a capital key which reflects the respective member's share in the total population and gross domestic product of the EU. The ECB adjusts the shares every five years and whenever the number of contributing NCBs changes. The adjustment is made on the basis of data provided by the European Commission. All national central banks (NCBs) that own a share of the ECB capital stock as of 1 February 2020 are listed below. Non-Euro area NCBs are required to pay up only a very small percentage of their subscribed capital, which accounts for the different magnitudes of Euro area and Non-Euro area total paid-up capital.


Reserves

In addition to capital subscriptions, the NCBs of the member states participating in the euro area provided the ECB with foreign reserve assets equivalent to around €40 billion. The contributions of each NCB is in proportion to its share in the ECB's subscribed capital, while in return each NCB is credited by the ECB with a claim in euro equivalent to its contribution. 15% of the contributions was made in gold, and the remaining 85% in US dollars and UK pound Sterlings.


Languages

The internal working language of the ECB is generally English, and press conferences are usually held in English. External communications are handled flexibly: English is preferred (though not exclusively) for communication within the ESCB (i.e. with other central banks) and with financial markets; communication with other national bodies and with EU citizens is normally in their respective language, but the ECB website is predominantly English; official documents such as the Annual Report are in the official languages of the EU.


Independence

The European Central Bank (and by extension, the Eurosystem) is often considered as the "most independent central bank in the world". In general terms, this means that the Eurosystem tasks and policies can be discussed, designed, decided and implemented in full autonomy, without pressure or need for instructions from any external body. The main justification for the ECB's independence is that such an institutional setup assists the maintenance of price stability. In practice, the ECB's independence is pinned by four key principles: * Operational and legal independence: the ECB has all required competences to achieve its price stability mandate and thereby can steer monetary policy in full autonomy and by means of high level of discretion. The ECB's governing council deliberates with a high degree of secrecy, since individual voting records are not disclosed to the public (leading to suspicions that Governing Council members are voting along national lines.) In addition to monetary policy decisions, the ECB has the right to issue legally binding regulations, within its competence and if the conditions laid down in Union law are fulfilled, it can sanction non-compliant actors if they violate legal requirements laid down in directly applicable Union regulations. The ECB's own legal personality also allows the ECB to enter into international legal agreements independently from other EU institutions, and be party of legal proceedings. Finally, the ECB can organise its internal structure as it sees fit. * Personal independence: the mandate of ECB board members is purposefully very long (8 years) and Governors of national central banks have a minimum renewable term of office of five years. In addition, ECB board members and are vastly immune from judicial proceedings. Indeed, removals from office can only be decided by the
Court of Justice of the European Union The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) (french: Cour de justice de l'Union européenne or "''CJUE''"; Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European lang ...
(CJEU), under the request of the ECB's Governing Council or the executive board (i.e. the ECB itself). Such decision is only possible in the event of incapacity or serious misconduct. National governors of the Eurosystem' national central banks can be dismissed under national law (with possibility to appeal) in case they can no longer fulfil their functions or are guilty of serious misconduct. * Financial independence: the ECB is the only body within the EU whose statute guarantees budgetary independence through its own resources and income. The ECB uses its own profits generated by its monetary policy operations and cannot be technically insolvent. The ECB's financial independence reinforces its political independence. Because the ECB does not require external financing and symmetrically is prohibited from direct monetary financing of public institutions, this shields it from potential pressure from public authorities. *Political independence: The Community institutions and bodies and the governments of the member states may not seek to influence the members of the decision-making bodies of the ECB or of the NCBs in the performance of their tasks. Symmetrically, EU institutions and national governments are bound by the treaties to respect the ECB's independence. It is the latter which is the subject of much debate.


Democratic accountability

In return to its high degree of independence and discretion, the ECB is accountable to the
European Parliament The European Parliament (EP) is one of three Legislature, legislative branches of the European Union and one of its seven Institutions of the European Union, institutions. Together with the Council of the European Union, it adopts European legi ...

European Parliament
(and to a lesser extent to the European Court of Auditors, the European Ombudsman and the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU)). Although no interinstitutional agreement exists between the European Parliament and the ECB to regulate the ECB's accountability framework, it has been inspired by a resolution of the European Parliament adopted in 1998 which was then informally agreed with the ECB and incorporated into the Parliament's rule of procedure. The accountability framework involves five main mechanisms: * Annual report: the ECB is bound to publish reports on its activities and has to address its annual report to the
European Parliament The European Parliament (EP) is one of three Legislature, legislative branches of the European Union and one of its seven Institutions of the European Union, institutions. Together with the Council of the European Union, it adopts European legi ...

European Parliament
, the
European Commission The European Commission (EC) is the executive branch The executive is the branch of government exercising authority in and holding Moral responsibility, responsibility for the governance of a State (polity), state. The executive executes a ...

European Commission
, the
Council of the European Union A council is a group of people who come together to consult, deliberate, or make decisions. A council may function as a legislature A legislature is an assembly Assembly may refer to: Organisations and meetings * Deliberative assembly A ...

Council of the European Union
and the
European Council The European Council (informally EUCO) is a collegiate body that defines the overall political directions and priorities of the European Union The European Union (EU) is a political and economic union of member states that are loc ...
. In return, the European Parliament evaluates the past activities to the ECB via its annual report on the European Central Bank (which is essentially a non legally-binding list of resolutions). * Quarterly hearings: the Economic and Monetary affairs Committee of the European Parliament organises a hearing (the "Monetary Dialogue") with the ECB every quarter, allowing members of parliament to address oral questions to the ECB president. * Parliamentary questions: all Members of the European Parliament have the right to address written questions to the ECB president. The ECB president provides a written answer in about 6 weeks. * Appointments: The European Parliament is consulted during the appointment process of executive board members of the ECB. * Legal proceedings: the ECB's own legal personality allows civil society or public institutions to file complaints against the ECB to the Court of Justice of the EU. In 2013, an interinstitutional agreement was reached between the ECB and the European Parliament in the context of the establishment of the ECB's Banking Supervision. This agreement sets broader powers to the European Parliament than the established practice on the monetary policy side of the ECB's activities. For example, under the agreement, the Parliament can veto the appointment of the chair and vice-chair of the ECB's supervisory board, and may approve removals if requested by the ECB.


Transparency

In addition to its independence, the ECB is subject to limited transparency obligations in contrast to EU Institutions standards and other major central banks. Indeed, as pointed out by
Transparency International Transparency International e.V. (TI) is a German registered voluntary association A voluntary group or union (also sometimes called a voluntary organization, common-interest association, association, or society) is a group of individuals who ente ...
, "The Treaties establish transparency and openness as principles of the EU and its institutions. They do, however, grant the ECB a partial exemption from these principles. According to Art. 15(3) TFEU, the ECB is bound by the EU’s transparency principles "only when exercising administrative tasks" (the exemption – which leaves the term "administrative tasks" undefined – equally applies to the Court of Justice of the European Union and to the European Investment Bank)." In practice, there are several concrete examples where the ECB is less transparent than other institutions: * Voting secrecy : while other central banks publish the voting record of its decision makers, the ECB's Governing Council decisions are made in full discretion. Since 2014, the ECB has published "accounts" of its monetary policy meetings, but those remain rather vague and do not include individual votes. * Access to documents : The obligation for EU bodies to make documents freely accessible after a 30-year embargo applies to the ECB. However, under the ECB's Rules of Procedure the Governing Council may decide to keep individual documents classified beyond the 30-year period. * Disclosure of securities: The ECB is less transparent than the Fed when it comes to disclosing the list of securities being held in its balance sheet under monetary policy operations such as QE.


Location

The bank is based in
Ostend Ostend ( nl, Oostende, ; french: link=no, Ostende ; german: link=no, Ostende ; vls, Ostende) is a coastal city and municipality A municipality is usually a single administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitAr ...
(East End),
Frankfurt am Main Frankfurt, officially Frankfurt am Main (; Hessian A Hessian is an inhabitant of the German state of Hesse. Hessian may also refer to: Named from the toponym *Hessian (soldier), eighteenth-century German regiments in service with the Bri ...

Frankfurt am Main
. The city is the largest financial centre in the
Eurozone The eurozone, officially called the euro area, is a monetary union of 19 Member state of the European Union, member states of the European Union (EU) that have adopted the euro (Euro sign, €) as their primary currency and sole legal tender. Th ...

Eurozone
and the bank's location in it is fixed by the
Amsterdam Treaty The Treaty of Amsterdam, officially the Treaty of Amsterdam amending the Treaty on European Union, the Treaties establishing the European Communities and certain related acts, was signed on 2 October 1997, and entered into force on 1 May 1999; it ...
. The bank moved to a new purpose-built headquarters in 2014, designed by a Vienna-based architectural office, Coop Himmelbau. The building is approximately tall and is to be accompanied by other secondary buildings on a landscaped site on the site of the former wholesale market in the eastern part of Frankfurt am Main. The main construction on a 120,000 m2 total site area began in October 2008, and it was expected that the building would become an architectural symbol for Europe. While it was designed to accommodate double the number of staff who operated in the former Eurotower, that building has been retained by the ECB, owing to more space being required since it took responsibility for banking supervision.


Debates surrounding the ECB


Debates on ECB independence

The debate on the independence of the ECB finds its origins in the preparatory stages of the construction of the EMU. The German government agreed to go ahead if certain crucial guarantees were respected, such as a European Central Bank independent of national governments and shielded from political pressure along the lines of the German central bank. The French government, for its part, feared that this independence would mean that politicians would no longer have any room for manoeuvre in the process. A compromise was then reached by establishing a regular dialogue between the ECB and the Council of Finance Ministers of the euro area, the Eurogroupe.


Arguments in favor of independence

There is strong consensus among economists on the value of central bank independence from politics. The rationale behind are both empirical and theoretical. On the theoretical side, it's believed that time inconsistency suggest the existence of political business cycles where elected officials might take advantage of policy surprises to secure reelection. The politician up to election will therefore be incentivized to introduce expansionary monetary policies, reducing unemployment in the short run. These effects will be most likely temporary. By contrast, in the long run it will increase inflation, with unemployment returning to the natural rate negating the positive effect. Furthermore, the credibility of the central bank will deteriorate, making it more difficult to answer the market. Additionally, empirical work has been done that defined and measured central bank independence (CBI), looking at the relationship of CBI with inflation.


The arguments against too much independence


= An independence that would be the source of a democratic deficit.

= Demystify the independence of central bankers :According to Christopher Adolph (2009), the alleged neutrality of central bankers is only a legal façade and not an indisputable fact . To achieve this, the author analyses the professional careers of central bankers and mirrors them with their respective monetary decision-making. To explain the results of his analysis, he utilizes he uses the "''principal-agent''" theory. To explain that in order to create a new entity, one needs a delegator or ''principal'' (in this case the heads of state or government of the euro area) and a delegate or ''agent'' (in this case the ECB). In his illustration, he describes the financial community as a "''shadow principale''"  which influences the choice of central bankers thus indicating that the central banks indeed act as interfaces between the financial world and the States. It is therefore not surprising, still according to the author, to regain their influence and preferences in the appointment of central bankers, presumed conservative, neutral and impartial according to the model of the Independent Central Bank (ICB), which eliminates this famous "'' temporal inconsistency''". Central bankers had a professional life before joining the central bank and their careers will most likely continue after their tenure. They are ultimately human beings. Therefore, for the author, central bankers have interests of their own, based on their past careers and their expectations after joining the ECB, and try to send messages to their future potential employers. The crisis: an opportunity to impose its will and extend its powers : – ''Its participation in the
troika Troika or troyka (from Russian тройка, meaning 'a set of three') may refer to: Cultural tradition * Troika (driving), a traditional Russian harness driving combination, a cultural icon of Russia * Troika (dance), a Russian folk dance Polit ...
'' : Thanks to its three factors which explains its independence, the ECB took advantage of this crisis to implement, through its participation in the troika, the famous structural reforms in the Member States aimed at making, more flexible the various markets, particularly the labour market, which are still considered too rigid under the ordoliberal concept. - '' Macro-prudential supervision'' : At the same time, taking advantage of the reform of the financial supervision system, the Frankfurt Bank has acquired new responsibilities, such as macro-prudential supervision, in other words, supervision of the provision of financial services. -''Take liberties with its mandate to save the Euro'' : Paradoxically, the crisis undermined the ECB's ordoliberal discourse "because some of its instruments, which it had to implement, deviated significantly from its principles. It then interpreted the paradigm with enough flexibly to adapt its original reputation to these new economic conditions. It was forced to do so as a last resort to save its one and only raison d'être: the euro. This Independent was thus obliged to be pragmatic by departing from the spirit of its statutes, which is unacceptable to the hardest supporters of ordoliberalism, which will lead to the resignation of the two German leaders present within the ECB: the governor of the Bundesbank, Jens WEIDMANN and the member of the executive board of the ECB, Jürgen STARK. – ''Regulation of the financial system'' :  The delegation of this new function to the ECB was carried out with great simplicity and with the consent of European leaders, because neither the Commission nor the Member States really wanted to obtain the monitoring of financial abuses throughout the area. In other words, in the event of a new financial crisis, the ECB would be the perfect scapegoat. - ''Capturing exchange rate policy'' : The event that will most mark the definitive politicization of the ECB is, of course, the operation launched in January 2015: the
quantitative easing Quantitative easing (QE) is a monetary policy whereby a central bank purchases predetermined amounts of government bonds or other financial assets (e.g., municipal bonds, corporate bonds, stocks, etc.) in order to inject money into the economy to ...
(QE) operation. Indeed, the Euro is an overvalued currency on the world markets against the dollar and the Euro zone is at risk of deflation. In addition, Member States find themselves heavily indebted, partly due to the rescue of their national banks. The ECB, as the guardian of the stability of the euro zone, is deciding to gradually buy back more than EUR 1 100 billion Member States' public debt. In this way, money is injected back into the economy, the euro depreciates significantly, prices rise, the risk of deflation is removed, and Member States reduce their debts. However, the ECB has just given itself the right to direct the exchange rate policy of the euro zone without this being granted by the Treaties or with the approval of European leaders, and without public opinion or the public arena being aware of this. In conclusion, for those in favour of a framework for ECB independence, there is a clear concentration of powers. In the light of these facts, it is clear that the ECB is no longer the simple guardian of monetary stability in the euro area, but has become, over the course of the crisis, a "''multi-competent economic player, at ease in this role that no one, especially not the agnostic governments of the euro Member States, seems to have the idea of challenging''". This new political super-actor, having captured many spheres of competence and a very strong influence in the economic field in the broad sense (economy, finance, budget...).  This new political super-actor can no longer act alone and refuse a counter-power, consubstantial to our liberal democracies. Indeed, the status of independence which the ECB enjoys by essence should not exempt it from a real responsibility regarding the democratic process.


= The arguments in favour of a counter power

= In the aftermath of the euro area crisis, several proposals for a countervailing power were put forward, to deal with criticisms of a democratic deficit. For the German economist German Issing (2001) the ECB as a democratic responsibility and should be more transparent. According to him, this transparence could bring several advantages as the improvement of the efficiency and of the credibility by giving to the public adequate information. Others think that the ECB should have a closer relationship with the European Parliament which could play a major role in the evaluation of the democratic responsibility of the ECB. The development of new institutions or the creation of a minister is another solution proposed: A minister for the Eurozone ? The idea of a eurozone finance minister is regularly raised and supported by certain political figures, including Emmanuel Macron, as well as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, former President of the ECB Jean-Claude Trichet and former European Commissioner Pierre Moscovici. For the latter, this position would bring "''more democratic legitimacy''" and "''more efficiency''" to European politics. In his view, it is a question of merging the powers of Commissioner for the Economy and Finance with those of the President of the Eurogroup. The main task of this minister would be to "represent a strong political authority protecting the economic and budgetary interests of the euro area as a whole, and not the interests of individual Member States". According to the Jacques Delors Institute, its competences could be as follows: * Supervising the coordination of economic and budgetary policies * Enforcing the rules in case of infringement * Conducting negotiations in a crisis context * Contributing to cushioning regional shocks * Representing the euro area in international institutions and fora For Jean-Claude Trichet, this minister could also rely on the Eurogroup working group for the preparation and follow-up of meetings in euro zone format, and on the Economic and Financial Committee for meetings concerning all Member States. He would also have under his authority a General Secretariat of the Treasury of the euro area, whose tasks would be determined by the objectives of the budgetary union currently being set up This proposal was nevertheless rejected in 2017 by the Eurogroup, its president, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, spoke of the importance of this institution in relation to the European Commission. Towards democratic institutions ? The absence of democratic institutions such as a Parliament or a real government is a regular criticism of the ECB in its management of the euro area, and many proposals have been made in this respect, particularly after the economic crisis, which would have shown the need to improve the governance of the euro area. For Moïse Sidiropoulos, a professor in economy: "The crisis in the euro zone came as no surprise, because the euro remains an unfinished currency, a stateless currency with a fragile political legitimacy". French economist
Thomas Piketty Thomas Piketty (; born 7 May 1971) is a French economist An economist is a professional and practitioner in the social science Social science is the Branches of science, branch of science devoted to the study of society, societies an ...

Thomas Piketty
wrote on his blog in 2017 that it was essential to equip the euro zone with democratic institutions. An economic government could for example enable it to have a common budget, common taxes and borrowing and investment capacities. Such a government would then make the euro area more democratic and transparent by avoiding the opacity of a council such as the Eurogroup. Nevertheless, according to him "''there is no point in talking about a government of the euro zone if we do not say to which democratic body this government will be accountable''", a real parliament of the euro zone to which a finance minister would be accountable seems to be the real priority for the economist, who also denounces the lack of action in this area. The creation of a sub-committee within the current European Parliament was also mentioned, on the model of the Eurogroup, which is currently an under-formation of the ECOFIN Committee. This would require a simple amendment to the rules of procedure and would avoid a competitive situation between two separate parliamentary assemblies. The former President of the European Commission had, moreover, stated on this subject that he had "no sympathy for the idea of a specific Eurozone Parliament".


See also

*
Economics Economics () is a social science that studies the Production (economics), production, distribution (economics), distribution, and Consumption (economics), consumption of goods and services. Economics focuses on the behaviour and interact ...

Economics
*
European Banking Authority The European Banking Authority (EBA) is a regulatory agency of the European Union headquartered in Paris Paris () is the Capital city, capital and List of communes in France with over 20,000 inhabitants, most populous city of France, with ...

European Banking Authority
*
European Systemic Risk Board The European Systemic Risk Board () is a group established on 16 December 2010 in response to the ongoing financial crisis. It is tasked with the macro-prudential oversight of the financial system within the European Union in order to contrib ...
*
Open market operation An open market operation (OMO) is an activity by a central bank A central bank, reserve bank, or monetary authority is an institution that manages the currency and monetary policy of a State (polity), state or formal monetary union, and over ...
*
Economic and Monetary Union An economic and monetary union (EMU) is a type of trade bloc A trade bloc is a type of trade pact, intergovernmental agreement, often part of a regional intergovernmental organization, where barriers to trade (tariffs and Non-tariff barriers to tr ...
*
Capital Markets Union The Capital Markets Union (CMU) is an economic policy initiative launched by the former president of the European Commission The European Commission (EC) is the Executive (government), executive branch of the European Union, responsible for pro ...
*
Banking Union The banking union of the European Union The European Union (EU) is a political and economic union of Member state of the European Union, member states that are located primarily in Europe. Its members have a combined area of and an estim ...


Notes


References


External links


European Central Bank
official website.
The origins and development of the European organisations: The European Central Bank
CVCE.eu website.

* ttp://www.ecb.int/pub/pdf/other/ecbhistoryrolefunctions2004en.pdf European Central Bank: history, role and functions ECB website.
Statute of the European Central Bank (2012)
{{Authority control 1998 establishments in the European Union Banks established in 1998 Eurozone Institutions of the European Union Banks based in Frankfurt European System of Central Banks