International Economics and Economic Policy

, Volume 10, Issue 4, pp 631–648 | Cite as

Institutionalisation without internalisation. The cultural dimension of French-German conflicts on European Central Bank independence

  • Femke van EschEmail author
  • Eelke de Jong
Original Paper


When accepting the Maastricht treaty, the members of the Euro-zone agreed on the establishment of a very independent European Central Bank (ECB). Over the years, however, French political leaders systematically brought forward proposals undermining the ECB’s independence, much to the dismay of their German counterparts. This pattern of political disagreement on central bank independence has again surfaced during the current sovereign debt crisis, and has contributed to the discord amongst the Euro-zone members on the causes and proper solutions to the problems. This article conducts tests of various factors generally expected to influence the preference for central bank independence. It shows that economic explanations are unable to account for the persistent differences amongst European member-states on this issue. In contrast, national differences in political and economic culture and especially a nation’s score on the dimension Power Distance—its acceptance of centralisation of power in political leaders or institutions—does show a correlation with the different levels of internalisation of the norm of central bank independence. These findings show that institutionalisation of economic norms does not imply their internalisation by the political and the economic elite. In the broader context of current European politics, this may mean that even if European leaders will be able to come up with a common institutional answer to the current crisis, more profound convergence of their underlying economic and political cultures is needed for the successful and sustainable implementation of these solutions.


Central bank independence Economic and political culture European Central Bank Franco-German relations 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.European IntegrationUtrecht School of Governance—Utrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Institute of Management ResearchRadboud University NijmegenNijmegenThe Netherlands

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