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Zeitschrift für Politikwissenschaft

, Volume 29, Issue 3, pp 393–410 | Cite as

Balancing independence and legitimacy

How the European Parliament holds the European Central Bank to account
  • Sebastian HeidebrechtEmail author
Aufsatz

Abstract

This article argues that the European Central Bank’s (ECB) accountability framework with the European Parliament (EP) contributes to its legitimacy, but that this arrangement could nevertheless benefit from improvements through a balanced revision. As contemporary political dynamics challenge central bank independence, questions around the ECB’s accountability are pressing. This article investigates all accountability channels in place between the ECB and the EP in its role as key institution holding the central bank democratically to account. The analysis reveals that although no substantial legal changes have been made to the accountability framework, the frequency and scope of its use increased, especially during the crisis. Accountability patterns can be mapped to political factors: partisanship, nationality and issue salience. The article concludes that a revision of the ECB’s accountability framework seems appropriate against the backdrop of its expanded powers and should reflect potential for debate and contestation not only of central bank independence, but about central banking in the European Union.

Die Balance zwischen Unabhängigkeit und Legitimität

Wie das Europäische Parlament die Europäische Zentralbank rechenschaftspflichtig hält

Zusammenfassung

Dieser Artikel präsentiert das Argument, dass das System der Rechenschaftspflichten zwischen der Europäischen Zentralbank (EZB) und dem Europäischen Parlament (EP) zur Legitimität der EZB beiträgt. Dennoch kann dieses System von einer balancierten Revision profitieren. Da gegenwärtige politische Dynamiken die Unabhängigkeit der Zentralbank bedrohen, sind Fragen nach deren Rechenschaftspflichten von immer größerer Bedeutung. Der Beitrag analysiert alle Kanäle der Rechenschaftspflichten zwischen der EZB und dem EP, da letzteres die entscheidende Institution zur Ausübung demokratischer Verantwortlichkeit darstellt. Die Analyse zeigt, dass auch wenn das bestehende System der Rechenschaftspflichten keine substantiellen legalen Veränderungen erfahren hat, die Nutzung von Instrumenten der Rechenschaftspflicht in Häufigkeit und im Umfang insbesondere im Kontext der Finanz- und Eurokrise gesteigert wurde. Die Charakteristik der Anwendung von Instrumenten der Rechenschaftspflicht folgt dabei den Faktoren: Parteizugehörigkeit, Nationalität und Themenbedeutsamkeit. Vor dem Hintergrund der Kompetenzerweiterungen der EZB folgert der Artikel, dass eine Revision des Systems der Rechenschaftspflichten angemessen erscheint. Eine solche Revision sollte Potentiale zur Debatte und inhaltlichem Wettbewerb nicht nur über Zentralbankunabhängigkeit, sondern über Geldpolitik und die Rolle der EZB in der Europäischen Wirtschafts- und Währungsunion ermöglichen.

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Copyright information

© The Editor(s) and the Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institut für PolitikwissenschaftUniversität Duisburg-EssenDuisburgGermany

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