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ECB adviser warns against publishing meeting minutes

Posted on 30 January 2013

Ignazio Angeloni

Publishing minutes from the European Central Bank’s Governing Council meetings would “create problems” and damage the quality of debate, an adviser to the bank’s Executive Board has said.

Ignazio Angeloni, also a visiting fellow at European economic think tank Bruegel, made the comments while visiting the EUI for a conference on governance and accountability at the European Central Bank (ECB) on 28 January.

“In my view, complete and untimely publication of attributed meetings of any central bank council, particularly an international one like the ECB, would create problems. It would expose individual members to domestic scrutiny that, in light of the European objective which they are meant to serve, would be inappropriate,” he said.

Current rules stipulate that records are to be released after 30 years; as the ECB was founded in 1998 this means that EU citizens have a long wait ahead. Last year, however, ECB President Mario Draghi said the publication of meeting minutes was “a subject of ongoing discussion.”

Angeloni argued on Monday that the publication of minutes soon after a meeting would stifle debate within the council and “expose council members to undue and improper scrutiny at the national level on the positions that they have taken”.

“The public receives a lot of information about deliberation; they also to a large extent know about individual inclinations and individual positions by participants in the governing council through [their] speeches and interviews,” he added.

Draghi holds monthly press conferences following the Council’s meeting, which are broadcast live and a transcript published online. EU citizens therefore have access to ECB decision-making, Angeloni said, in addition to being represented through the European Parliament which plays a role in EU financial affairs.

“The situation has changed drastically in the last 20 to 30 years, in central banking in general not only in Europe,” he said. “The central banks were like a temple in the past…this is no longer the case. Central banks are under public scrutiny and the ECB is at the forefront of this debate.”

The next challenge for ECB transparency will come with the establishment this year of a centralised banking supervision mechanism, agreed upon by EU leaders in December. This will see the ECB supervising euro zone banks with the cooperation of national authorities.

“This implies increasing the size of the ECB very substantially…all this will have to be done in a very transparent way,” Angeloni said. “We are required to report on a frequent basis to the European Parliament and to the other authorities on our preparation. All of this is very important; a process of transformation of the institution that will have a lot of implications for the years to come.”

The 'Governance and Accountability of the European Central Bank' conference was organised by the EUI's Global Governance Programme, which is part of the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies.

(Text by Rosie Scammell)

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