Trying not to be caught in the act: Explaining European Central Bank’s bounded role in shaping the European Banking Union

Sebastian Heidebrecht


The envisaged ‘completion’ of European Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) through the Banking Union is one of the most significant projects of European integration since the Maastricht Treaty. This article departs by emphasizing that the European Central Bank (ECB) is actively engaging in the design of this objective. ECB’s engagement in different parts of the process as well as its role in the current state of core pillars of the Banking Union is varying. The ECB received a prominent role on micro prudential supervision in context of the Single Supervisory Mechanism (SSM), gained some structural power on macro prudential supervision and has some influence on the Single Resolution Mechanism (SRM). In order to explain this variance, the qualitative research approach is based on the analysis of comprehensive data such as legal opinions of the ECB, speeches of central bank officials, press articles, legal documents, institutional documents and expert interviews. The analysis shows that although the ECB acted politically in the making of the Banking Union, its role is paradoxically bound between the credence to sustain its independent mandate and avoiding overstretching its relatively narrow remit. Our findings suggest that ECB’s bounded supranational activism helps explaining both ECB’s role and the current state of the design of a European Banking Union.


European Central Bank; Banking Union; Supranational Activism

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