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Legal Research Programme 2023

This page was updated on 19 December 2022

The European Central Bank (ECB) launched the Legal Research Programme (LRP) in 2008 to foster analysis of areas of law relevant to the ECB’s statutory tasks and to establish closer contacts with academia.

The ECB is seeking applications from established scholars or promising early career researchers for the award of one or more scholarships to conduct legal research and publish an article on one of the topics set out below. Each scholarship is endowed with a grant of EUR 5 000, which is not compatible with any other fellowships or grants received from third parties in relation to the same research project, unless the ECB expressly consents to this. Scholars applying for a research scholarship cannot be in an employment relationship with the ECB. The scholarship will be paid provided the research paper is accepted for publication in an internationally renowned and peer-reviewed academic journal at the latest by 1 November 2024.

Call for papers

Application deadline: 31 January 2023

Research projects

A scholarship under the LRP will be awarded to applicants who propose a research project on one of the following research areas.

1. The role of ECB opinions

Article 127(4) TFEU outlines the advisory role of the ECB: national and European legislators are under an obligation to consult the ECB on any draft legislation within the ECB’s fields of competence. Additionally, the last subparagraph stipulates that the ECB ‘may submit opinions to the appropriate Union institutions, bodies, offices or agencies or to national authorities on matters in its fields of competence’. This opens the possibility for the ECB to adopt own-initiative opinions, if the responsible national or European authorities fail to consult the ECB a draft legislative act. However, it could also be interpreted more widely as meaning that the ECB, at any time, could proactively issue an opinion on legislation – or even more broadly, on any ‘matters’ – in its fields of competence. At the same time, the ECB has a monitoring role under Article 271(d) TFEU, enabling the ECB’s Governing Council institute proceedings before the CJEU the CJEU against national central banks (NCBs) for failure to fulfil their obligations under the Treaties and the Statute of the ESCB and the ECB.

What is the relationship between the various roles of ECB opinions, and how do these roles shape the institutional position of the ECB within the Union’s constitutional structure? How do they, particularly the possibility to adopt own-initiative opinions, compare to the monitoring role of the European Commission under Article 258 TFEU, and how could they be delineated? How does the obligation to consult the ECB, under Articles 127(4) and 282(5) TFEU, compare to other consultation processes set out in the Treaties?

In addition to assessing these legal questions, scholars are invited to investigate the impact and significance of ECB opinions for legislative processes at both national and Union level through empirical analysis. This could focus on select subject areas of ECB opinions, e.g. central bank independence.

2. CBDC as a liability of its issuing central bank – What are the implications for the design and distribution of CBDC?

Central banks across the world have been reflecting on and, in some cases, are already experimenting with, the issuance of wholesale and retail central bank digital currencies (CBDCs). Wholesale CBDC variants would, in most cases, be issued and held in accounts maintained with the CBDC-issuing central bank, or operated under its control, representing liabilities of their issuer vis-à-vis the CBDC account holder(s). Retail CBDC variants could be held directly with the issuing central bank in an account-based CBDC scenario, or through third-party wallet providers in a two-tier CBDC scenario.

The purpose of the proposed research should be to explore the design, distribution and other material implications of the issuance of retail CBDCs. The analysis should focus on the possibility (or lack thereof) for the holder of CBDCs to enforce claims against the issuing central bank and the relevant third-party intermediary in case of insolvency of the third-party intermediary or a third-party wallet provider, respectively. Building on this, the research could explore how the coexistence of differently enforceable types of central bank money may affect the distribution and settlement of transactions in CBDCs. Lastly, the research could consider more broadly how a central bank could simultaneously issue central bank money embodying a claim on its balance sheet and other monies that do not qualify as legally enforceable claims. 

3. The Markets in Crypto-assets and pilot regime for market infrastructures based on distributed ledger technology regulations – Potential for innovation in the retail payments landscape and overlaps with existing Union legislation

In September 2020, the European Commission published proposals for a Markets in Crypto-assets (MiCA) regulation and a pilot regime for market infrastructures based on distributed ledger technology (DLT) regulation. The purpose of the proposed research is to explore the impact of the MiCA and DLT pilot regime regulations on the Union’s retail payments landscape, and to examine the scope of overlaps and the legal uncertainty arising from their interaction with existing pieces of Union law in the field of payments.

The legal research could, amongst others, analyse and assess whether: 

  • some of the services associated with the transfer of crypto assets could amount to payment services, within the meaning of the Second Payment Service Directive;
  • an asset-referenced or e-money token arrangement could qualify as payment systems or schemes under the Settlement Finality Directive; and
  • what adjustments may need to be made to the abovementioned directives and/or to other pieces of Union legislation to support innovation in the retail payments field while at the same time averting the risk of regulatory duplication and overlaps.

4. Banking supervision meets public international law – Cross-border on-site inspections

The ECB may carry out on-site inspections (OSIs) at, among others, subsidiaries in the form of credit institutions of ‘SSM-banks’ and outsourcing providers that are located in third countries. When carrying out OSIs the ECB is making use of investigatory powers and performing a ‘sovereign task’ in another jurisdiction. While specific rules apply within the EU, the question is which rules apply when carrying out OSIs in third countries. Similarly, a question which merits investigation concerns the rules that would apply if third country authorities wanted to carry out on-site inspections within the EU, and in particular at significant credit institutions or outsourcing providers located within the EU or in participating Member States.

5. ESCB liability in the field of monetary policy

Recent case-law in the supervisory (and resolution) field has shed some light on composite procedures, where the adoption of a decision requires the involvement of authorities at both the national and European level. A guiding principle seems to be that liability resides with the authority that exercises discretion and, hence, is excluded in cases where there is no such discretion in the adoption of a legal act. Mutatis mutandis, is it possible to derive any lesson for the ECB’s monetary policy, considering that, in the context of the decentralised application of monetary policy decisions, a high degree of centralisation coexists with a role for the NCB? Against this background, would it be possible to build a taxonomy of cases depending on the level of centralisation and/or the modality of implementation by the NCBs?

6. Qualifying holdings (QH) assessments under the CRD: point-in-time check or on-going authorisation? A case for further harmonisation

Where an existing (qualified) shareholder is deemed unsuitable and the competent authority intends to take action against this shareholder (e.g., a suspension of voting rights), the question arises as to whether a revocation of the QH decision is needed. Ultimately, this concerns the legal nature to be attributed to QH assessments. Should they be seen as point-in-time checks (connected to ongoing supervision) or on-going authorisations? Is there any margin to have different replies depending on the applicable national legislation, or is this a case of maximum harmonisation? And how does this affect with the allocation of responsibilities in the SSM, where common procedures are included under the exclusive competence of the ECB, while national competent authorities retain responsibilities in relation to the on-going supervision of less significant institutions.

7. Banking supervision and fundamental rights

Banking supervision interferes with the fundamental rights of legal entities and natural persons. In a legal order built on the rule of law and at the heart of which fundamental rights lie, it is worth to look at banking supervision through the prism of fundamental rights. An analysis may focus on the type of rights that are affected, the way the ECB as banking supervisor may interfere with them, and how the relevant fundamental rights may impact the supervisory standards to be met by supervisors (e.g., with regard to the proportionality test).

8. Diversity as an essential element of good corporate governance arrangements: available legal tools and their effectiveness

Over the past years, the diversity in the composition of management bodies has gained increasing attention in corporate governance studies, not only as a tool to foster positive actions towards equality and non-discrimination, but also as an effective safeguard for the sound functioning of corporate bodies. Corporate governance in the banking sector is no exception, with legislators and regulators in many legal systems enacting rules aimed at fostering the many dimensions of diversity. At present, diversity is envisaged in different types of general and sectoral legislation in an increasing number of jurisdictions. Those provisions often have a partially overlapping scope of application, different types of obligations and different reporting and enforcement mechanisms with different authorities responsible for their application. A research proposal could analyse how, and to what extent, different legal techniques have proved effective to achieve the objective of having more diverse corporate bodies, also based on a comparison of the legislative framework on diversity enacted in selected national and supranational (EU) legal systems. The research should focus particular on banks and financial institutions, and how the coordination of multiple legal sources has worked in practice.

Applications

Applications should be sent by email to LegalResearchProgramme@ecb.europa.eu no later than 10 PM (CET) on 31 January 2023. The ECB aims to assign at least one third of the assigned scholarships to Junior Scholars (i.e. scholars who are doctoral candidates or obtained their doctoral degree no earlier than 1 January 2021). To further enhance diversity, the ECB particularly encourages applications from female candidates. The selection committee aims to award the scholarships by March 2023.

Applications must include:

  • the applicant’s curriculum vitae;

  • in the case of Junior Scholars: an official statement confirming the doctoral candidate status of the applicant or the date on which the doctoral degree was obtained;
  • a proposal falling under one of the research topics mentioned above. Such proposal should be no longer than 1 500 words (not including charts, graphs, or bibliography) and consist of the following:
    • a statement of the issues to be addressed;
    • the proposed methodology;
    • an analysis of the originality and significance of the proposed research paper in view of the existing academic literature;
    • a discussion of the feasibility for completion of the research project by 1 November 2023.

About the scholarship

Each selected Scholar will be required to prepare a high-quality, original research paper of a minimum of 12 000 words in length, excluding footnotes, which must meet, in the ECB’s assessment, the overall standard expected of papers published in internationally renowned and peer-reviewed academic journals.

Scholars may be invited to the ECB to present their research, before or after the completion of the research programme and payment of the grant. Scholars will be responsible for their own transportation and accommodation arrangements and costs but will be reimbursed for such costs under the ECB Terms of Reference for reimbursement of travel expenses.

The ECB may decide not to award a scholarship for any of the above research topics, or for any category of applicants if, in its opinion, no application of a sufficient quality has been submitted for that research topic or by that category of applicants. The applications will be assessed by a committee composed of legal counsels within the ECB’s Legal Services.

Presentation of the research proposal

The selected Scholars will be invited to a seminar to be held at the ECB in spring 2023, to present their proposal against the background of their previous research in the relevant field. This seminar is intended to establish a productive relationship between the ECB’s Legal Services and the Scholars, and to provide Scholars with constructive feedback on their research subject from practitioners in the field.

Submission of the first draft

The Scholar must submit a first draft of his or her research paper to the ECB by 16 June 2023 and must immediately inform the ECB if there is a risk of not meeting that deadline. The ECB will review and referee the research paper by 31 August 2023.

Finalisation of the draft

The Scholar is expected to take the remarks and suggestions of the ECB’s review into consideration and complete the research paper by 1 November 2023.

Submission for publication

Scholars are expected to seek publication of the research paper in a well-recognised, internationally renowned and peer-reviewed academic journal. The paper should be accepted for publication by the journal by 1 November 2024 at the latest, in the absence of which the right to the honorarium will elapse, unless the ECB has granted a derogation for exceptional reasons.

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