We strive to be transparent, accessible and understood by all citizens
We are the central bank of the euro area and serve more than 340 million Europeans. We work to keep prices stable, and we contribute to keeping banks safe.
Do you want to know what decisions we take here at the ECB and how they affect your everyday life? Have a look below and ask us! In 2020 we handled more than 16,000 enquires from all over the world.
About the ECB
The European Central Bank (ECB) is the central bank of the euro area, and manages the amount of money in circulation. Our main objective is to maintain stable prices, and the main tool for this is setting the appropriate interest rates.Explainer: What is a central bank? The ECB and the Eurosystem explained in three minutes
We are also responsible for supervising banks within the framework of the Single Supervisory Mechanism.
Our actions are guided by the principles of transparency, independence and accountability.Explainer: Why is the ECB independent?
No, the ECB does not provide commercial banking services to individuals or companies. We do not contact citizens to suggest commercial banking services, and we don’t have an online banking website.
The ECB also does not:
- get involved in money transfers
- collect cross-border transfer fees
- accept deposits from third parties
- block funds or issue certificates for the release of funds
There are currently 24 official EU languages, and you can communicate with us in any of them. The languages we use to communicate with citizens depend on the target audience and circumstances.
The ECB publishes legal acts in all official EU languages.
Our working language is English.
The central banks of all the EU countries together own the ECB. Each country’s share of the ECB’s capital corresponds to its population and gross domestic product (GDP), which have equal weighting. The countries that use the euro pay more than the EU countries that don’t. These factors create what is called the capital key, which then determines the amount paid by each national central bank.Explainer: Who owns the ECB?
The ECB has a profit and loss statement just like any other bank. The net profits and/or losses of the ECB are allocated among the euro area national central banks. The Statute of the ESCB states that up to 20% of the profits can be kept as reserves, while the remaining profit shall be distributed to the shareholders of the ECB proportionally to their paid-up shares. Any losses can be offset against the general reserves, the income for the year or the amounts allocated to each national central bank.Explainer: Does the ECB make a profit?
The ECB’s monetary policy refers to all the decisions taken to influence the cost of and access to money in order to meet our price stability objective. Our primary monetary policy instrument is the set of key ECB interest rates. Any change in these rates affects interest rates in the whole economy, in particular the rates at which commercial banks lend money to individuals and companies. If necessary, we can also use other tools to help us achieve our primary objective of price stability.Recent monetary policy decisions
Price stability is the ECB’s primary objective, as set out in Article 127 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. The Governing Council considers that price stability is best maintained by aiming for 2% inflation over the medium term, as measured by the Harmonised Index of Consumer Prices (HICP). Stable prices make it easier for individuals to plan spending and encourage companies to invest. They also help to maintain confidence in our currency by stabilising the quantity of goods and services that can be purchased with a given amount of euro.Explainer: Why are stable prices important?
When inflation over the medium term is expected to be below the 2% target, the ECB tries to stimulate the economy using the key ECB interest rates and other tools. Setting a low interest rate helps banks to lend money cheaply, which in turn increases investment and consumption in the economy. Low interest rates also boost the value of assets, like pensions and housing, which also encourages spending. All of this translates to more activity and growth, which boosts inflation.Explainer: Why are interest rates low?
Asset purchases involve the central bank buying assets such as government or corporate bonds with the aim of reducing longer-term interest rates. This helps the economy as it boosts consumption and investment and ultimately helps price pressures to build up and bring inflation to the 2% target. It is a monetary policy measure that is used in particular when the key interest rates are very low.Explainer: How asset purchases work
The ECB’s new monetary policy strategy was published on 8 July 2021. Since the previous strategy review in 2003, the euro area economy and the global economy have undergone profound changes. The implications of reduced productivity and altered demographics and the legacy of the financial crisis have reduced our scope to achieve our objectives solely through changes in policy interest rates. In addition, globalisation, digitalisation, the threat to environmental sustainability, and changes in the financial system present challenges for the conduct of monetary policy.
While our mandate is conferred by the Treaties, it is up to us to devise our monetary policy strategy. This strategy sets out how to achieve the primary objective of price stability in the euro area with an appropriate set of monetary policy instruments. The new strategy will see the ECB aim for a symmetric inflation target of 2%, implying that inflation lower than the target is equally as undesirable as it being too high.More on the strategy review
The purpose of European banking supervision is to ensure the safety and soundness of the European banking system, to increase financial integration and stability, and to ensure consistent supervision.The ECB Explains: European banking supervision
The Single Supervisory Mechanism (SSM) refers to the system of banking supervision in Europe. It comprises the ECB and the national supervisory authorities of the participating countries.SSM explained in three minutes
No, consumer protection and the fight against money laundering are outside the scope of the ECB's responsibilities and therefore stay with national authorities. If you have a complaint about your bank, please contact it directly or address your complaint to the relevant national authority.National competent authorities About anti-money laundering
We encourage people to report a suspected breach of relevant Union law directly to us via our whistleblowing platform. The ECB protects personal data and ensures appropriate protection for both the persons who report the breaches and for the persons accused.
Providing access to information is essential for us at the ECB. We aim to be as transparent as possible, while at the same time protecting the confidentiality of matters relating to how we perform our tasks.
Information on individual supervised banks is specifically protected by a number of professional secrecy requirements as outlined in European law (e.g. the Capital Requirements Directive).
Access to ECB documents is governed by Decision ECB/2004/3 of 4 March 2004, as amended. In line with our commitment to openness and transparency, and to enable and facilitate research, we have created a Public Register of Documents.See the Public Register of Documents
The euro and payments systems
The creation of the euro was an impressive achievement in bringing the people of Europe together by allowing them to travel, study and work abroad much more easily and safely. The Treaty of Maastricht was one of the most important milestones in the process of European integration, and one thing that it did was to pave the way for the creation of a common currency.How have Europeans benefited from the euro?
The digital euro would still be a euro: like banknotes, but digital. It would be an electronic form of money issued by the Eurosystem (the ECB and euro area national central banks) and accessible to all citizens and firms.
A digital euro would be a fast, easy and secure instrument for your daily payments. It would support the digitalisation of the European economy and actively encourage innovation in retail payments. We are exploring the benefits and risks so that the euro continues to serve Europeans well.More on the digital euro
A digital euro would combine the efficiency of a digital payment instrument with the safety of a central bank. It would help the EU to remain independent of digital payment methods issued and controlled from outside the euro area. It would also secure financial stability and monetary sovereignty, and help maintain trust in payments in the digital age.
A digital euro would not replace cash, but rather complement it. The national central banks together with the ECB will continue to ensure that citizens have access to euro cash across the euro area. A digital euro would give people an additional choice about how to pay and make it easier to do so, contributing to financial inclusion.
Experts from the Eurosystem have put together a number of basic requirements to help us define what a digital euro might look like, such as easy accessibility, robustness, safety, efficiency, privacy, and compliance with the law. A digital euro would be designed to be interoperable with private payment solutions, facilitating the provision of pan-European payments and additional services to consumers.
€500 banknotes continue to be legal tender, so you can still use them as a means of payment and store of value.More about the €500 banknote
Images of euro banknotes can be used for non-professional purposes without our prior authorisation, so long as you comply with the existing rules (in particular Article 2 of Decision ECB/2013/10) to ensure that the reproduction is never confused with a genuine banknote, because this would harm trust in the euro.
If you wish to make use of high-resolution images of euro banknotes for professional purposes, you must contact us at Euro-Banknotes-Images@ecb.europa.eu so that we can assess your case. If it is approved we will send you the electronic images.
TARGET2 is a payment system owned and operated by the ECB and the national central banks. It is the most-used platform for large-volume payments by both central banks and commercial banks.More information on this payment system
TIPS is a new market infrastructure service launched by the ECB and the national central banks that enables service providers to offer real-time fund transfers to their customers around the clock. Thanks to TIPS, instant payments can now take place quickly and safely.More information on instant payment settlement
More frequent and intense natural disasters have a negative impact on the economy and the financial system. They can affect economic growth, inflation and the way monetary policy feeds through to people and businesses. This has consequences for price stability, the ECB’s primary mandate. We therefore included climate change considerations in the monetary policy framework.
The ECB is doing this in four ways:
- Economic analysis: adapting and improving models, forecasting methods, and risk assessments
- Banking supervision: developing better analysis of the risks in banks’ portfolios
- Monetary policy: incorporating the effects of climate change into modelling and investment portfolios (sustainability aspects of bonds)
- Financial stability
The ECB has recently created a climate change centre to harness internal expertise and shape our climate agenda in close cooperation with other business areas. Its activities will range from monetary policy to prudential functions. We have also decided to invest part of the ECB’s funds portfolio in the euro-denominated green bond fund of the Bank for International Settlements.Press release on the climate change centre
As a result of our strategy review, the ECB Governing Council implemented an ambitious roadmap on how to integrate climate change considerations into our work.Press release on the action plan to include climate change considerations in the monetary policy strategy
At the moment, the ECB holds around a fifth of the eligible green corporate bonds. The issuance of green bonds is typically concentrated in sectors such as utilities, infrastructure, transportation and construction. Companies in these sectors issue what are called green bonds to finance the adoption of more efficient technologies, reduce their carbon footprints and reorient their energy portfolios towards renewable sources.
Even if central banks are not the main actor in fighting climate change, it is clearly an issue that affects our primary mandate of price stability and has an impact on the monetary policy strategy. Do you want to find out more about how the ECB is approaching the issue of climate change?More on climate change and the ECB
Our coronavirus response
We at the ECB have put in place a set of monetary policy and banking supervision measures to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the euro area economy and to support all European citizens.Our response to the pandemic More on our coronavirus measures
The pandemic emergency purchase programme (PEPP) is an asset purchase programme which was launched in March 2020 to counter the negative effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the euro area economy. The aim of the PEPP is to help citizens, companies and governments get access to required funds on favourable terms, helping the economy to weather the challenges presented by the pandemic.Press release about the PEPP More on the ECB’s pandemic emergency purchase programme
We have offered long-term funding to banks to help support lending to households and companies, including small and medium-sized firms. The interest rate charged for these funds has been reduced and incentivises banks to increase their lending. We have also expanded the list of assets that banks can use as collateral, which acts as a form of insurance when banks borrow from us. Together, these measures have helped to maintain bank lending activity to households and firms throughout the pandemic.Tell me: What is collateral?.
The ECB recommended on 27th March 2020 that banks temporarily suspend all cash dividends and share buy-backs due to the exceptional and challenging circumstances.
This recommendation was revised and transformed into a call for extreme prudence in December 2020.
On 23 July 2021 we announced our decision not to extend the dividend recommendation beyond September 2021.
The ECB name and logo might be misused
The ECB does not provide commercial banking services. Our identity is sometimes misused in connection with fake financial transactions and other fraudulent activities. Our staff members might also be impersonated or mentioned in scams, and our name and logo might also be misused.Find out more about misuse of the ECB name and what you can do
Consumer protection and anti-money laundering fall outside the mandate of the ECB
Tasks such as relations between banks and their clients (consumer protection) as well as the fight against money laundering are outside the scope of our responsibilities and remain within the remits of the national supervisory authorities.Anti-money laundering information
How can you reach us?
You can send us your questions, comments, or suggestions related to our tasks and activities in any of the 24 EU official languages by email or post. You can also reach us by phone from Monday to Friday, from 10:00 to 12:00 and from 14:00 to 16:00 CET.