The European Central Bank (ECB) has been accused of pushing the bounds of its mandate to “breaking point” by a prominent anti-corruption organisation.
Transparency International (TI) said the lack of a separate political ministry to which it is accountable has allowed the ECB to act beyond its remit.
Leo Hoffmann-Axthelm, research and advocacy coordinator at Transparency International EU, said: “While the ECB has saved the single currency more than once, the absence of a Eurozone finance ministry as counterpart to the ECB means that the Bank has had to stretch its mandate to breaking point.”
TI pointed to instances of bailout funds being made conditional on structural reforms, making for inherently political deals.
The report criticised the ECB for not being open enough about its political role. The central bank has played a pivotal part in political discussions about the fate of heavily indebted Eurozone countries, such as Greece and Italy.
The ECB is one of the three-member “troika” in charge of the long-running negotiations with Greece over its repeated bailouts.
The troika is responsible for enforcing debt obligations for the Greek government as well as its stringent austerity programme of cutting fiscal spending. However, the ECB is simultaneously in charge of Greece’s monetary policy.
Hoffmann-Axthelm said: “If the euro is to survive the next crisis, then EU Member States need to stop hiding behind the technocrats at the ECB, overcome political inertia and get serious about reforming the Eurozone.”
TI also criticised the central bank’s failure to file standardised conflict of interest declarations, its weak whistleblowing procedures, and its meetings with lobbyists.
In a statement ECB president Mario Draghi defended the central bank’s accountability.
He said: “The ECB is and has always been open to a balanced dialogue with stakeholders, including the public.”
The accountability of the central bank has faced criticism before. The European Ombudsman is set to investigate separate allegations the ECB comes under undue influence from corporate interests it regulates.