Journal Article

The European system of central banks


Abstract: On January 1, 1999, the European System of Central Banks (ESCB) began conducting monetary policy for eleven of the fifteen nations of the European Union, formally creating an economic and monetary union. The ESCB is governed by the decision-making bodies of the European Central Bank (ECB) and manages Europe's new currency, the euro. The structure of the ESCB is in many ways similar to that of the Federal Reserve System, with the ECB playing a role similar to that of the Board of Governors and the various national central banks occupying positions not unlike those of the regional Reserve Banks. In this article, Mark Wynne compares the two central banks, drawing on the insights of economic theory to shed light on how monetary policy is likely to be made in Europe under monetary union. He documents two key differences between the ESCB and the Federal Reserve System. First, the ESCB has a much stronger price stability mandate. Second, power is much more diffusely distributed in the ESCB. The strong mandate for price stability will enhance the euro's credibility. But the diffuse power structure may make it difficult to resolve conflicts, which will undermine credibility. The monetary union's fate depends on which of these two features of the monetary policy process dominates.

Keywords: European Central Bank; European Economic Community; European currency unit; European Monetary System (Organization);

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Bibliographic Information

Provider: Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas

Part of Series: Economic and Financial Policy Review

Publication Date: 1999

Issue: Q I

Pages: 2-14