Out of the comfort zone? The ECB, financial assistance, independence and accountability

DOI10.1177/1023263X18822793
AuthorPaul Dermine
Publication Date01 February 2019
SubjectArticles
Article
Out of the comfort zone?
The ECB, financial assistance,
independence and accountability
Paul Dermine*
Abstract
The European debt crisis (Eurozone crisis) precipitated an unprecedented reconfiguration of the
institutional architecture of the Economic and Monetary Union. At the core of such overhaul was
the establishment of a financial assistance function specific to the Eurozone. From the outset, there
has been a clear will to closely involve the European Central Bank (ECB) at all stages of the
operation of this new function. The ECB, an institution endowed with a monetary mandate, has
thus entered the field of economic policy. Against that background, this paper intends to inves-
tigate the legal and political accountability arrangements the ECB is subject to in that new context.
Both the texts organizing the intervention of the ECB and its subsequent practice reveal, so the
paper will show, that the ECB’s action in that particular context is mainly conceived as falling under
its monetary mandate, and thus as being covered by its independence. The paper will argue that
this situation is legally problematic, especially in view of the deep interpenetration between the
economic and the monetary policy fields and the redistributive effects of the choices made. It will
also claim that the ECB’s independence in that particular context, and the accountability structures
it is subject to, should be adjusted.
Keywords
European Central Bank, Troı
¨ka, financial assistance, economic conditionality, accountability,
independence
1. Introduction
The Eurozone crisis has dramatically expanded the scope of the European Central Bank (ECB)
action. Programmes that many would have deemed blatantly ultra vires before the storm have been
found legal, and the boundaries of what can now be legitimately understood as monetary policy
* PhD Candidate in EU Law (Maastricht Center for European Law). Maastricht University Faculty of Law, Netherlands
Corresponding author:
Paul Dermine, Faculty of Law, Maastricht University, Bouillonstraat 1-3, Maastricht LH6211, Netherlands.
E-mail: paul.dermine@maastrichtuniversity.nl
Maastricht Journal of European and
Comparative Law
2019, Vol. 26(1) 108–121
ªThe Author(s) 2019
Article reuse guidelines:
sagepub.com/journals-permissions
DOI: 10.1177/1023263X18822793
maastrichtjournal.sagepub.com
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