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Who owns the ECB?

30 January 2020

Together, the central banks of all the countries in the EU own the ECB. You could think of them as shareholders. They each have a share in the ECB’s capital. In other words, they have each provided a certain amount of money so that we at the ECB can work towards our goal of keeping prices stable across the eurozone.

These central banks are the only owners of the ECB – we don’t have any private owners. Among other things, this means that we are not influenced by private financial interests that might affect our independence.

How much does each central bank pay?

Well, it depends on the size of each country’s population and economy relative to the size of the EU as a whole. This is where the “capital key” comes in. We use this key to calculate exactly how much each country’s central bank has to pay.

Some countries pay more than others, but this doesn’t mean they have more of a say in the decisions the ECB makes. The amount they pay is proportionate to their size. And in any case, each country that uses the euro has a voice on the ECB’s Governing Council. They each have a say in meetings and a rotation system determines when it's their turn to vote.

Only these countries pay the total amount calculated for them using the capital key. In contrast, the EU countries with their own currency pay just a fraction of this amount – 3.75%, to be precise. They contribute because they are still part of the European System of Central Banks, or ESCB, and are therefore involved in some of the ECB’s decision-making activities.

So each central bank pays a different amount. Does this amount ever change?

Yes. We update the capital key – and therefore the amount that each central bank pays – once every five years and whenever the number of countries in the EU changes.

We do this to take into account changes in the size of each country’s population and economy, both over time and in proportion to the rest of the EU.