The Politicization of the European Central Bank: What Is It, and How to Study It?

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Series Details Volume 58, Number 3, Pages 501-513
Publication Date May 2020
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The politicization of the European Central Bank (ECB) is a recurrent theme in debates on the EU after the crisis, yet it is one that still suffers from a considerable degree of vagueness. This is unfortunate as it hinders the development of useful discussions on the place and legitimacy of the ECB within Europe's institutional order. To tackle this problem, this article presents a systematic analysis of the concept of ECB politicization and an agenda for future research on this phenomenon.

After reviewing existing uses of the term in the form of three dichotomies – politicization versus independence, impartiality, and convention – the article proposes an alternative, preference‐based definition of politicization as a deviation from technocratic policy‐making in the ECB. Building on this definition, the article then indicates three avenues for the empirical study of politicization centred, respectively, on elite interviews and surveys, the analysis of central bankers’ networks and the study of ECB language.

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