The parliamentary scrutiny of euro area national central banks

AuthorAnna‐Lena Högenauer,David Howarth
Published date01 September 2019
Date01 September 2019
The parliamentary scrutiny of euro area national
central banks
Anna-Lena Högenauer | David Howarth
Institute of Political Science, University of
Luxembourg, Esch-sur-Alzette, Luxembourg
Anna-Lena Högenauer, Institute of Political
Science, University of Luxembourg, Porte des
sciences 11, Esch-sur-Alzette 4366,
European Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) involves several
core principles for the organization of participating national central
banks (NCBs/CBs), including their independence from political
institutions. Early studies show that the level of national parliamen-
tary scrutiny over euro area NCBs varied (Lepper and Sterne 2002).
In this context, our article examines the extent to which parlia-
ments make use of four distinct control mechanisms to hold CBs
accountable. We explain the very different levels of parliamentary
scrutiny over NCBs in Germany, France and Belgium during the
201316 period. We find that the level of scrutiny depends princi-
pally on the presence of a longstanding tradition of CB
independenceand specifically the manner in which independence
has been politicized and interpreted by the political class. We argue
that the strength of the parliament can also explain some variation.
Received: 19 February 2018 Revised: 29 October 2018 Accepted: 15 November 2018
DOI: 10.1111/padm.12576
The agreement on European Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) involved several core principles for the organiza-
tion of participating national central banks (NCBs/CBs), including their independence from national governments and
other political institutions. However, independence arguably increases the importance of parliamentary scrutiny as a
means to encourage CBs to explain publicly and justify their policies and their effectiveness. Principalagent
accounts emphasize the greater importance of ex post controls of the principal(s) over the agentincluding parlia-
mentary scrutinywhere ex ante controls are more limitedparticularly in the context of an agents (here, the CBs)
far-reaching political and operational independence. The ability of parliaments to question and, occasionally, name-
and-shame is an important part of a liberal democratic system.
Despite its importance to the operation of national democracies, parliamentary scrutiny of NCBs in the euro area
has not received much academic attention. The only two comparative studies date back to the first few years of
EMU and measure scrutinyin a very narrow way. De Haan and Oosterloo (2006) highlight the importance of
accountability, and argue that agents that are regularly controlled are more likely to perform their tasks conscien-
tiously. However, empirically, they focus largely on formal accountability rules, such as the obligation to report to
parliament, and they look at the number of times the CB reported to parliament in practice. An analysis of parliamen-
tary debates more generally (without CB presence) or questions is missing.
576 © 2018 John Wiley & Sons Ltd Public Administration. 2019;97:576589.
This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License, which
permits use and distribution in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non-commercial and no
modifications or adaptations are made.
© 2019 The Author. Public Administration published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd
576 Public Administration. 2019;

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT