The Evolving Accountability of the European Central Bank

This paper analyses the ECB’s accountability and transparency framework and related practice over its 20 years of existence. It examines three sets of issues. First, it looks at the ECB’s legal and institutional framework at the time of its inception. Second, it examines how its accountability framework has evolved in practice over the years, primarily through the ECB’s own initiatives. Third, it examines the (remaining) gaps in the ECB’s accountability and transparency arrangements across its fields of activity (monetary policy, bailout programmes, and banking supervision), which have grown over the years. It will be argued that the ECB’s accountability framework has not evolved sufficiently to match its expanded powers. Formidable challenges remain, in terms of both the preconditions and instruments of accountability. This is even more so with respect to its recently added tasks, viz. its role as a crisis manager and in the first pillar of the European Banking Union.