We strive to be transparent, accessible and understood by all citizens
We are the central bank of the euro area and serve more than 346 million European citizens. We work to keep prices stable and help to keep banks safe.
Want to find out more about us, what we do, and how it affects you? Click on any of the topics below to find the answers to the most common questions, or scroll to the bottom of the page to ask us your own question!
We strive to be transparent, accessible and understood by all citizens
About the ECB
The European Central Bank (ECB) is the central bank of the euro area and closely monitors the stock and circulation of euro banknotes and coins. Our main objective is to maintain stable prices, and the main way that we do this is by setting appropriate interest rates.
We are also responsible for supervising banks within the framework of the Single Supervisory Mechanism (SSM).
Our actions are guided by the principles of transparency, independence and accountability.
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 the specific circumstances. The ECB publishes legal acts in all official EU languages, and its working language is English.
Together, the central banks of all EU countries own the ECB. Each country’s share of the ECB’s capital is related to its population and its gross domestic product (GDP), which have equal weighting. The countries that use the euro pay in more capital than those that don’t. These various factors create what is called the capital key, which determines the amount paid in by each national central bank.Explainer: Who owns the ECB?
The ECB makes profits and incurs losses, just like other institutions. The net profits and losses of the ECB are distributed among the national central banks of the euro area. The Statute of the ESCB states that up to 20% of any profits can be kept as reserves, while the remaining profits must be distributed to the shareholders of the ECB in proportion 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 Governing Council has expressed its full support for the people of Ukraine.
We have implemented the sanctions imposed by the EU and European governments, and we stand ready to take whatever action is needed to ensure price and financial stability in the euro area.
Find out more:Press release of 25 February 2022 More on the Russian invasion of Ukraine FAQs on the invasion of Ukraine and ECB Banking Supervision
The ECB’s monetary policy encompasses all measures that are 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 – with a time lag of several months – interest rates across the whole economy, including 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 Our price stability objective and the strategy review What is monetary policy?
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 price stability to be best maintained by aiming for 2% inflation over the medium term, as measured by the Harmonised Index of Consumer Prices (HICP).
Stable prices encourage companies to invest and make it easier for individuals to plan spending. They also help to maintain confidence in our currency by keeping the quantity of goods and services that can be purchased with a given amount of euro constant.Explainer: Why are stable prices important? Why is our inflation target 2%?
To maintain price stability effectively, we need a reliable measure of inflation. To get this, we look at the prices of hundreds of things that people typically spend their money on, including goods like food, clothes or cars and services like mobile phone plans, train tickets and rented housing. All these things together give us an idea of how much prices are changing in the economy overall.
This bigger picture is provided by the Harmonised Index of Consumer Prices (HICP), which we consider to be the most appropriate measure for assessing the achievement of our price stability objective. The HICP measures consumer price inflation, meaning changes in the prices of consumer goods and services purchased by euro area households over time.
It is called a “harmonised” index because all EU countries use the same methodology. This ensures that data for one country can be compared with data for another.
The HICP is compiled by Eurostat and national statistical institutes in accordance with harmonised statistical methods.Inflation measurement and the strategy review
Inflation has decreased in recent months, but still remains too high. The decline in inflation is driven by an easing of energy prices that had increased to very high levels after Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine. However, prices for food and services are still rising strongly. Price pressure across many sectors remain high because of the delayed effects of the recent surge in energy prices and other input costs. Pent-up demand following the pandemic, the lagged effect of supply bottlenecks and rising profit margins and wages are also contributing to the rising prices of goods and services.
We are the central bank for the euro, and it is our mandate to keep prices stable. When prices are rising too fast – that is, when inflation is too high – increasing the key ECB interest rates helps us bring inflation back to our 2% target over the medium term.
We also keep a close eye on inflation expectations – currently, inflation is putting a strain on people, and many are worried that it is here to stay. Raising interest rates helps us to send the message that we will not allow inflation to stay above 2%, which helps keep inflation expectations in check.We have raised interest rates. What does that mean for you?
Central banks may sometimes buy assets such as government or corporate bonds with the aim of reducing longer-term interest rates when there is a risk of inflation remaining low. These asset purchases help the economy by boosting consumption and investment, ultimately helping price pressures to build up and bringing inflation up to the 2% target.
Because of the rise in inflation, the ECB is no longer conducting net purchases as of July 2022 and has decided to discontinue reinvestments under the asset purchase programme as of July 2023.Explainer: How quantitative easing works Explainer: How does the ECB’s asset purchase programme work?
We published our new monetary policy strategy 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 ability to achieve our objectives by changing key interest rates alone. In addition, globalisation, digitalisation, the threat to environmental sustainability and changes in the financial system all 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 describes how we intend to achieve our primary objective of price stability in the euro area using an appropriate set of monetary policy instruments. The new strategy sees the ECB aiming for a symmetrical inflation target of 2%, which considers inflation that is lower than the target to be just as undesirable as inflation that is too high.More on the strategy review
The aim 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) is the system of banking supervision in Europe. It comprises ECB Banking Supervision and the national supervisory authorities of the participating countries.SSM explained in three minutes
We encourage anyone to report suspected breaches of relevant Union law directly to us via our whistleblowing platform. The ECB ensures appropriate protection for both those who report breaches and those who are accused of them, as well as of all personal data involved.
We at the ECB think it’s vital for information to be accessible. We aim to be as transparent as possible, while at the same time ensuring confidentiality when it comes to the question of 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 we have created a Public Register of Documents to enable and facilitate research.See the Public Register of Documents
Banks supervised directly by the ECB are called significant institutions, while those we supervise indirectly are called less significant institutions.List of the entities supervised by the ECB
Supervisors assess the risks faced by banks and check that they are equipped to manage those risks properly. This is called the Supervisory Review and Evaluation Process (SREP), and its purpose is to allow banks’ risk profiles to be assessed in a consistent manner and allow decisions about any necessary supervisory measures to be taken.More on the SREP
Supervisors use stress tests to see how well banks can cope with financial and economic shocks. The results of stress tests help supervisors to identify banks’ vulnerabilities and address them at an early stage as part of their supervisory dialogue.More on stress tests
Recent episodes during the pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine have reinforced the importance of protecting critical services from attacks and outages. To make the EU’s financial sector stronger and more digitally resilient, the ECB examines banks’ exposures to IT risks and assesses their risk management capabilities. This is done through the ECB’s cyber incident reporting framework and by reviewing banks’ responses to an annual IT risk questionnaire. The ECB is also launching a thematic stress test on cyber resilience in 2024, which is intended to test how banks are able to respond to and recover from a successful cyberattack.Read our article: IT and cyber risk: a constant challenge IT and cyber risk – key observations
The ECB can impose sanctions, i.e. pecuniary penalties, on significant banks that breach directly applicable EU law or ECB decisions or regulations. In the event of breaches of national law implementing EU directives, breaches committed by natural persons or when a non-pecuniary penalty has to be imposed, the ECB may request the relevant national supervisory authority (NCA) to open the appropriate proceedings. The NCA conducts these proceedings and decides on the resulting penalties in accordance with applicable national law.
Penalties imposed by the ECB within the remit of its supervisory tasks are published on the ECB’s website:Supervisory sanctions More on sanctions
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 ECB is exploring the possibility of introducing a digital euro. This would be an electronic form of money issued by the Eurosystem. It would be central bank money and therefore risk-free. Currently, cash is the only central bank money used for retail payments. A digital euro would be an additional way of making payments in euro, not replacing cash but rather complementing it. It would be convertible (on a one-to-one basis) into all other forms of euro, such as banknotes.
A digital euro would combine the efficiency of a digital payment instrument with the safety of central bank money. 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 to maintain trust in payments in the digital age.
Crypto-assets are fundamentally different from central bank money: their prices are extremely volatile, which makes them hard to use as a means of payment or a unit of account. Crypto-assets have no intrinsic value and no public institution backing them. There are similar concerns about stablecoins: their reliability ultimately depends on the issuing entity and the underlying assets. They are also dependent on the issuer honouring its promise to keep the value of the coins stable over time. A digital euro, on the other hand, would be central bank money. This means that it would be issued by a central bank and would be designed to meet the needs of citizens: as well as respecting privacy, it would also be risk-free.
Experts from the Eurosystem have established a number of basic requirements to help us see what a digital euro might look like. These include easy accessibility, robustness, safety, efficiency, privacy and compliance with the law. A digital euro would be designed to be interoperable with existing payment services, facilitating the provision of pan-European payments and other services to consumers.
The Eurosystem has no interest in collecting payment data from individual users, tracing payment behaviour or sharing such data with government agencies or other public institutions.
Users will likely have to identify themselves when first accessing digital euro services, but high levels of privacy can still be guaranteed for their payments.
Euro banknotes are a tangible, visible symbol of European unity and it is our responsibility to keep them up to date. As part of the regular banknote development process, and 20 years on from the introduction of the first euro, it is time to revisit the design of euro banknotes.
In December 2021 the ECB began examining ideas for a new banknote theme as an initial step towards redesigning euro banknotes to make them more relatable to Europeans, while also ensuring that the new notes and their security features incorporate the best, most sustainable technology available.
The redesign process consists of two consecutive phases: selecting a new theme and developing new designs. The general public is involved throughout the process, with public surveys conducted by both the ECB and a separate research company.
It is currently anticipated that the ECB Governing Council will decide on the new design for euro banknotes in 2026.More on the redesign process
€500 banknotes are no longer being issued. They do, however, continue to be legal tender, so you can still use them as a means of payment and a 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 all existing rules (in particular Article 2 of Decision ECB/2013/10) to ensure that the reproduction is never confused with a genuine banknote (as this would harm trust in the euro).
If you wish to use high-resolution images of euro banknotes for professional purposes, you must contact us atEuro-Banknotes-Images@ecb.europa.eu so that we can assess your case. If your request is approved, you will be sent the relevant electronic images.
TARGET Services are a number of services developed and operated by the Eurosystem which ensure the free flow of cash, securities and collateral across Europe.
These financial market infrastructure services include T2 (for settling large-value payments), T2S (for settling securities), TIPS (a service for retail instant payments) and ECMS (a service for collateral management). All of these services settle in central bank money. T2 is the most commonly used platform for large-volume payments by central banks and commercial banks.
Please note that the ECB and the national central banks cannot provide information on the status of individual bank transfers, whether within the euro area or internationally.More on TARGET Services
TIPS is a TARGET service that was launched by the ECB and the national central banks in 2018. It enables payment service providers to offer real-time fund transfers to their customers around the clock. Thanks to TIPS, instant payments can now be made quickly and safely.More on TIPS
What is our cash strategy? Why is cash important? How do people in the euro area like to pay?
Why are payment systems so important?Visit the payments and markets section of our website
We at the ECB have a strong interest in addressing climate risks within our mandate. Climate change matters to us because it affects the economy, which in turn affects our goal of keeping prices stable. It also affects how we supervise banks and how we manage our own exposure to climate risks.Why does climate change matter to the ECB?
Our coronavirus response
In 2020 and 2021 the ECB put in place a set of monetary policy and banking supervision measures to mitigate the pandemic’s impact on the euro area economy and support all European citizens.Our response to the pandemic
These FAQs provide details on pandemic-related measures that ECB Banking Supervision took in 2020 and 2021.
One of these monetary policy measures was the pandemic emergency purchase programme (PEPP), an asset purchase programme which was launched in March 2020. The aim of the PEPP was to help citizens, companies and governments access the funds they required on favourable terms, helping the economy to weather the challenges presented by the pandemic.Explainer: What is the pandemic emergency purchase programme (PEPP)? Press release about the PEPP
On 10 February 2022 we announced the end of the last temporary relief measures still available to banks.
What we don't do
Does the ECB grant loans directly to individuals or companies?
No, the ECB is not a commercial bank providing banking services to individuals and companies. We do not offer loans or savings accounts, nor do we have an online banking website.
Is ECB Banking Supervision responsible for consumer protection and money-laundering issues?
No, consumer protection and the fight against money laundering fall outside of the ECB's remit. Instead, the national competent authorities remain responsible for these issues. If you have a complaint about your bank, please contact it directly or address your complaint to the relevant national authority.Anti-money laundering information
Scams & fraud
Fraud – misuse of the ECB name and logo
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.