Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Who has the European Central Bank’s listening ear?


Private financial corporations occupy most of the seats on the advisory groups that provide advice and expertise to the European Central Bank (ECB).
A report titled, ‘Open doors for forces of finance’, by CorporateEurope Observatory has discovered that Corporations such as BNP Paribas and Deutsche Bank have frontline positions when it comes to having the ECB’s ears, thus raising the red flag on the power of vested interests to shape and influence the bank’s policies.

There are 22 advisory groups which form part of the ECB’s decision making process. There are 517 representative seats across the 22 groups and 508 seats have been allocated to representatives of private financial institutions. The representatives come from 144 different entities: corporations, companies, associations and trade associations. These entities advise the ECB on matters such as bond purchases, banking and technical regulation among others.
Given the strategic importance of the ECB and its’ remit to manage monetary policy it is worrying, to say the least, that such large numbers of what can be called ‘lobbyists’ are so close to the centre of decision making. The concern is that they are able to provide enough of a critical mass to garner strong enough clout to push self-interested agendas and ensure that their private interests are adequately considered by the ECB.
The EU’s transparency and, by extension the ECB’s, has often been called into question by both Eurosceptics and Euro reformers such as DiEM25.
Given that the ECB has responsibility for the euro and the administration of the Eurozone’s monetary policy and is one of the three entities that makes up the ‘Troika’, responsible for imposing harsh neoliberal austerity policies on countries like Greece and Ireland, questions are quite reasonably being asked on how the ECB is making policy.
The Corporate Europe Observatory also rightly questions why other interest groups in society such as civil society or academic expertise are not members of the advisory groups.
This lack of transparency is something that dogs the Brexit debate. While the Brexiters use it as a convenient justification for an exit it is those who support the European project but are concerned about the EU's seeming reluctance to respond to these accusations who will need assuring.
At the next council and general election the Lib Dems will have the unenviable task of trying to square support for remaining in the EU while acknowledging that it has many shortfalls.
A shorter version of this article has been published on DiEm25.
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