The Eurosystem and the ECB explained

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Lost in terminology?
Key concepts in simple words explained by the ECB.

What is a lender of last resort?
When banks run out of funds, they turn to their lender of last resort for help. But who is that and how do they help to stabilise the banking system in times of crisis? Find out more about emergency lending for banks.

All you need to know about benchmark rates
Interest rate benchmarks are a key part of our economy. But what is it exactly that makes them so important? Why are they currently undergoing reforms? And what is the €STR?

How you benefit from the euro

As our currency, the euro has become an integral part of everyday life and it makes it easier for us to trade, travel, study, live and work abroad. But it’s much more than a convenient way of paying.

What is the marginal lending facility rate?

The ECB’s marginal lending facility offers overnight loans to banks. The interest rate charged on these loans is one of the three rates the ECB sets every six weeks.

What is the main refinancing operations rate?

The main refinancing operations rate is the interest rate banks pay when they borrow money from the ECB for one week. It is one of the three interest rates the ECB sets every six weeks.

Why is cyber resilience imprtante?

Cyberattacks not only pose a threat to individuals or organisations but can also have broader consequences. Find out what the ECB does to promote cyber resilience and why we all need to be alert.

What is bitcoin?

Bitcoin is often called a virtual currency, but there are several reasons why it is not actually a currency. What are they? And why might you think twice before buying any?

What is forward guidance?

When the ECB gives forward guidance, we are providing information about our future monetary policy intentions. Why do we do this and how does it affect the economy at large?

What are structural reforms?

In the wake of the financial crisis, politicians and policymakers have often called for structural reforms to help lift economic growth. But what are structural reforms? And why does the ECB care about them if its mandate is to keep prices stable?

What is seigniorage?

The new €50 note is out and waiting for you in cash machines. But do you know how the central banks that issue the notes generate income as a result? Find out how seigniorage income works in the euro area.

What is collateral?

What is collateral and why do central banks require it?

What are non-performing loans?

Loans are considered “non-performing” when more than 90 days have passed without the borrower paying the agreed instalments. Why are bad loans an issue for banks and how does bad debt affect monetary policy?

What are minimum reserve requirements? 

Banks are required to hold a certain amount of funds in their current accounts with the central bank. Why do they have to do this and how does it work?

What is TARGET2 ?

TARGET2 is a payment system owned and operated by the Eurosystem. But why is it important and how does it work? 

What is TLTRO II ?

The second series of targeted longer-term refinancing operations is one of the ECB’s non-standard monetary policy tools. How do the new TLTROs help consumers, businesses and the economy, and what distinguishes them from usual refinancing operations? 

... about nominal interest rates

What is the difference between nominal and real interest rates? And why does it matter? 

... about the quite period ?

Governing Council members observe a so-called quiet period before monetary policy meetings. What does this mean in practice? 

What is the deposit facility rate?

Is a central bank just another bank? What is the role of central banks in the economy and what is special about them?

What is a central bank?

Is a central bank just another bank? What is the role of central banks in the economy and what is special about them?

... about the ECB's accountability ?

What does accountability mean for the ECB? How do we explain our actions to the public?

What is monetray policy ?

Why does monetary policy matter? Because it has a direct impact on interest rates and an indirect impact on inflation, the economy and employment.

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What is economic slack?

The word slack is used often in economic discussions. What is it, why is it important for central banks and how is it measured?

What is the European Central Bank

Want to know more about what the European Central Bank does and how it relates to you in your daily life? Check out our 20-year anniversary explainer to find out!
Our birthday is 1 June 1998. That’s when we started work to prepare for the new single currency, the euro.

What does a country need to do to join the euro area?

The euro has been introduced in 20 of 27 EU Member States. What do non-euro area countries need to do to join the euro area?

What is a deposit guarantee scheme?

Banks pay into a deposit guarantee scheme to make sure their customers’ deposits are safe even in times of crisis. So far, such schemes are organised on a national level. There are proposals to introduce a European scheme. Find out how these schemes work.

What is excess liquidity?

Since the financial crisis, there has been more money – or liquidity – in the banking system as a whole than is strictly needed. But what exactly is excess liquidity? What can banks do with it? And why does the ECB allow it to exist?        

Why are benchmark rates so important?

Interest rate benchmarks play a key role in the financial system, the banking system and the economy. They are used by different agents providing credit to businesses, households and others. Find out how they are calculated, why they matter and what the ECB’s role is.        

The euro area in comparison

The euro area connects 343 million people from 20 countries under a single currency. How does the euro area compare with other major economies? What is its role in international trade? And what does that mean for Europeans?        

How does innovation lead to growth? 

Innovation is an essential driver of economic progress that benefits consumers, businesses and the economy as a whole. How does it play that role, how does it contribute to economic growth and what can be done to promote it?        

A quick guide to macroprudential policies

Every six months the ECB publishes its Financial Stability Review. The ECB and other authorities ensure financial stability through macroprudential policies – find out the how, what and why.

Why are stable prices important?

The ECB’s primary objective is to keep prices stable. This means inflation rates should be “below, but close to, 2% over the medium term”. Why not 4%? Or 0%? And what’s wrong with prices going down anyway? Find out here.

How could new technology transform financial markets?

Distributed ledger technology and blockchain are the subject of debate around innovation in financial markets. What are they and why is the ECB looking into them?

Does the ECB make a profit?

The quick answer is: usually, yes. In 2016 the ECB made a profit of more than €1 billion. But where this money goes might come as a surprise – it can even benefit you. How? Find out here.

Five things you need to know about the Maastricht Treaty

The Maastricht Treaty was signed 25 years ago on 7 February 1992. But what exactly is it? And how has it changed Europe?

Why is the ECB independent?

The ECB’s political independence is a cornerstone of the euro area’s monetary system. Find out why the ECB has been set up as an independent institution, how its independence is safeguarded and what the ECB does to ensure accountability.

What is securities lending?

The Eurosystem is buying large amounts of securities to address the risks of inflation being too low for too long. This can lead to fewer securities being available in the market. Securities lending allows the market to keep access to these securities.

What are haircuts ?

Haircuts are a tool for minimising risks associated with lending money. The Eurosystem uses them whenever it lends money to commercial banks. But what exactly are they and how do they work?

Why do statistics matter ?

Take a look at why statistics matter for the ECB and the people we serve – the citizens of the 19 countries that have adopted the euro.

Why does the ECB conduct research ?

High-quality research at central banks is more valuable than ever. Find out why we conduct research, how it supports monetary policy and how we decide on research topics.

What are currency swap lines ?

Central banks across the world are linked to each other through a network of currency swap lines. But what exactly are currency swap lines, why are they needed and how do they work?  

... about instant payments

Why, in a world of smartphones and instant messages, can it still take a day or more to make an electronic payment? Work is now under way to develop a pan-European instant payment scheme that will make your payments fly.

What is the role of exchange rates ?

Exchange rates affect our daily lives in many ways, for example when we go on holiday outside the euro area, when we buy products made overseas or when we fill up the car at the petrol station. Exchange rates influence prices and growth. Find out what this means for monetary policy.

Spotlight on financial stability

A stable financial system is resilient against shocks. But what does that mean in practice? And how does the ECB support financial stability?

What is ANFA ?

ANFA is the Agreement on Net Financial Assets between the national central banks of the euro area and the ECB. It sets rules and limits for non-monetary policy holdings which are related to national tasks of the national central banks within the Eurosystem.

... about how the ECB's asset purchase programme works 

A year after the ECB launched its expanded asset purchase programme (APP), its impact is becoming visible. Find out how the programme works and how you benefit from it. 

What is money ?

Euro banknotes and coins are money but so is the balance on a bank account. What actually is money? How is it created and what is the ECB’s role?

... about the rotation of voting rights in the Governing Council

The national central bank governors take turns holding voting rights on the Governing Council. Find out how decisions are taken and why the rotations system of voting rights was introduced.

... about the ECB's negative interest rate

On 5 June 2014 the Governing Council’s decided to introduce a negative interest rate on the deposit facility. What is the rationale behind this decision? How does it affect your savings?