The Politicization of the European Central Bank: A Language-based Approach

Political Leadership
Pier Domenico Tortola
Rijksuniversiteit Groningen
Pier Domenico Tortola
Rijksuniversiteit Groningen

The politicization of the ECB is a topical issue both analytically—as a central aspect of the EU’ s governance transformations—and normatively, for it raises questions about the Bank’s legitimacy and accountability. As the academic debate on ECB politicization shows, the latter is a multi-faceted, complex and often difficult to grasp phenomenon. In this paper I aim to add to and improve the debate on ECB politicization by exploring a new dimension of it, namely the communicative one. Assessing the political nature of the ECB by looking at what the Bank says rather than what it does can bring about several benefits. First, it would inform us on an important and autonomous component of politicization, on which only anecdotal evidence so far has been collected. Second, it would enable the exploration of interactions between the rhetorical and factual sides of ECB politicization. Finally, it would introduce a more empirically tractable side of politicization, which in turn could help mitigate the essentially contested nature of this concept. Building on a new conceptual dichotomy between the ECB as an apolitical “servant” or a politicized “guardian” of the euro-polity, the paper presents strategies for the measurement of the salience and evolution of these two ECB images through content analytic techniques assessing both the tone and content of ECB various communications, such as speeches, reports and press releases.
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