Central bank independence has established itself over the past decades as an indispensable element of the monetary policy regimes of mature and emerging economies. The decision to grant central banks independence is firmly grounded in economic theory and empirical evidence, both of which show that such a set-up is conducive to maintaining price stability (see Monthly Bulletin Article November 2002 "The accountability of the ECB" ).
The ECB is independent in carrying out its mandate and tasks. At the same time, it is a founding principle of democratic societies that any independent institution bestowed with a public function should be accountable to citizens and their elected representatives for the conduct of its policies. Accountability is therefore an important counterpart of central bank independence.
The ECB's commitment to accountability is illustrated by its decision to go beyond the statutory obligations in its regular reporting. For instance, the ECB publishes a Monthly Bulletin, rather than the required quarterly report, and members of the Governing Council deliver numerous speeches to address relevant topics of concern to the public. Moreover, the ECB President and Vice-President provide an in-depth explanation of the ECB's assessment of the economic situation and the rationale for its monetary policy decisions at the regular press conferences which immediately follow the first Governing Council meeting of each month.
According to the Statute of the ESCB and the ECB, the ECB is required to publish quarterly reports on the activities of the ESCB as well as a consolidated Weekly Financial Statement. In addition, the ECB has to prepare an Annual Report on the activities of the ESCB and on the monetary policy of the previous and the current year. The Annual Report is addressed to the European Parliament, the EU Council, the European Commission and the European Council.
To fulfil the requirements of the Statute, the ECB publishes
Besides that, the ECB produces a wide range of other task-related publications.
The European Parliament, as the institution which derives its legitimacy directly from the citizens of the EU, plays a key role in holding the ECB to account.
Since its establishment, the ECB has maintained a close and fruitful dialogue with the European Parliament. The President of the ECB regularly reports on the ECB's monetary policy and its other tasks at his hearings before the European Parliament's Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON), which take place quarterly. Other members of the ECB's Executive Board also appear before the European Parliament to address specific issues. Beyond that, the ECB replies to written questions by MEPs, which are published together with the ECB's answers in the Official Journal of the EU and on the ECB's website.
As part of the ECB’s reporting obligations, the President also appears before the plenary session of the Parliament to present the ECB's Annual Report, on which Parliament, as a rule, adopts a resolution.
At expert level, informal discussions take place between ECB representatives and members of the European Parliament on the policies of the ECB and other issues where the ECB has specific expertise.