In an interview last September, former ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet said the following in relation to appearing at a possible Oireachtas Inquiry into the Irish banking collapse:
"Until now, I received no such request from Ireland. The rules in the ECB are that, all our decisions being collegial, the president goes to the European parliament and the governors of central banks go to the national parliaments."
Things have now moved on and the wheels have been set in motion for the Banking Inquiry. But Trichet has not changed his views which were given in an interview this week and reported here:
Trichet said his decision not to speak before the inquiry was based on rules in the ECB’s constitution.
“If the rule was changed, I would apply the new rule,” he told Newstalk’s Shona Murray. “All decisions are taken collectively by all members and the responsibility of explaining decisions are in the hands of the national governors.”
So what rules is Trichet referring to?. Here is the relevant reference to parliaments in Protocol No. 4 of the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union which is the Statute of the European System of Central Banks and of the ECB.
15.3. In accordance with Article 284(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, the ECB shall address an annual report on the activities of the ESCB and on the monetary policy of both the previous and the current year to the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission, and also to the European Council.
That just says the ECB will send its annual report to the European Parliament but it does make reference to Article 284.3 of the TFEU. What is that?
284.3 The European Central Bank shall address an annual report on the activities of the ESCB and on the monetary policy of both the previous and current year to the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission, and also to the European Council. The President of the European Central Bank shall present this report to the Council and to the European Parliament, which may hold a general debate on that basis.
The President of the European Central Bank and the other members of the Executive Board may, at the request of the European Parliament or on their own initiative, be heard by the competent committees of the European Parliament.
The first paragraph is simply what is included in the Statute of the ESCB and the second point supports Trichet’s point that the President of the ECB can be asked to attend committees of the European Parliament, with no reference made to national parliaments.
At national level we can look to domestic legislation and take the following from section 32L of the Central Bank Act:
(6) If the Governor or a Head of Function is requested by
a Committee of the Oireachtas to—
(a) attend before the Committee, and
(b) provide that Committee with information relating to the Bank’s performance statement,
the Governor or Head of Function shall—
(i) appear before the Committee, and
(ii) subject to section 33AK(1A), provide the Committee with such information relating to the performance statement as the Committee requires.
where section 33AK(1A) is a reference to confidential information
(1A) A person to whom subsection (1) applies shall not disclose confidential information concerning—
(a) the business of any person or body whether corporate or incorporate that has come to the person’s knowledge through the person’s office or employment with the Bank, or
(b) any matter arising in connection with the performance of the functions of the Bank or the exercise of its powers, if such disclosure is prohibited by the Rome Treaty, the ESCB Statute or the Supervisory Directives.”
This is all well and good about the President of the ECB going to the European Parliament and national governors going to national parliaments but Trichet seems to have forgotten one small point: he is not the President of the ECB.Tweet