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Anna Sophie Elektra Zech

GEM-DIAMOND doctoral fellow

ESR 2 – The capitalism-democracy nexus and struggles over European governance

Fascinated by economic policy discourses in member states and EU contexts, I am curious to research the nature of discourse on the European Central Bank.

Host Institutions

Watching the Watchers

On the Expert Networks Translating the European Central Bank's Communication


  • Antoine Vauchez
  • Amandine Crespy

Research abstract

The ECB has increasingly stretched its mandate in the face of conflicting pressures arising from its responsibility to maintain both price and financial stability. Alongside the lack of a full-blown fiscal counterpart at the EU level that can provide macroeconomic stabilisation, this context has encouraged monetary policy innovation. The latter, particularly when impacting sovereign debt markets, brings about recurrent political struggles and increasingly complicates the ECB’s independence. In response to growing dissensus and in line with the exhaustion of other monetary policy instruments in a zero lower bound environment, the ECB has significantly expanded its communication in the form of forward guidance and beyond, in particular with the ‘general’ public.

Given the importance of inflation expectations in monetary policy, its success fundamentally depends on a central bank’s communicative efforts to legitimise policy action and shore up trust in its political and economic credibility. Instead of listening to the central bank, most market participants as well as the general public, however, listen to a group of translators, the so-called ECB Watchers, who spell out the implications of the ECB’s policy measures to its diverse audiences. While there is a substantial amount of research on central bank communication (cf Blinder et al,2001/2008/2022), the literature’s focus on ECB-owned output fails to adequately reflect the fact that close to 60% of its Eurozone audience learns about the ECB and its policies through indirect sources only (Assenmacher et al, 2021:55). Initial research on the interaction between the ECB and the media (e.g. Ferrara & Angino, 2022; Koop & Scotto di Vettimo, 2023) focuses on broad measures of quantitative text analysis such as the extent of coverage and sentiment analysis, but does not speak to actors’ backgrounds, networks or their sensemaking function about which we know little (Ibrocevic PhD Thesis 2024; Mudge & Vauchez, 2012/2016; Schmidt-Wellenburg, 2017). It therefore remains unclear how and to what end these translators engage with the ECB’s discourse, and vice versa.

This is an important oversight as the so-called “ECB Watchers” constitute a knowledge community that can credibly contest or support the ECB’s epistemic authority in and beyond financial markets. In doing so, they equally affect the efficacy of its monetary policy by furthering market understanding and influencing expectation formation and therefore the transmission of monetary policy and the ECB’s legitimacy vis-à-vis a broader public, holding the ECB accountable. This function is particularly crucial in a eurozone marked by crises that have seen the ECB pick up the political slack and integrating through the monetary backdoor (Schelkle, 2012). Researching these actors can then facilitate an improved understanding of the ECB’s interaction with its publics, moving beyond a top-down approach that is focused on ECB output. It can elucidate how the need for a unified monetary policy discourse on the one and diverse (national) audiences, on the other hand, is negotiated in practice.

Empirically, the project, therefore, proposes to study the so-called ECB Watchers, a diverse group of financial market and media actors as well as academics, in their role as translators between the ECB and its audiences as they “play an important role in interpreting central bank actions, disseminating and deciphering for the broad public the information released by central banks” and in “provid[ing] alternative opinions, lessening the monopolistic power of central banks” (Blinder et al, 2001:26). Following an initial investigation of the ECB’s approach to these translators via interviews and document analysis, the project characterises them by way of interviews and a social network analysis on a number of conferences they participate in. The project thus provides a novel dataset and highlights actors’ practices as well as the interconnectedness of this communicative sphere in which insider-outsider distinctions blur. In a final step, the project mobilises Leifeld’s (2012) discourse network analyser to investigate epistemic contestation over macroeconomic policy in the post-COVID inflationary period focusing on June 2022, one month before the ECB’s first rate hike
(transitory debate), and May 2024 (last mile debate), the month before the ECB's first rate cut. These dynamics will be observed in specialised and general newspapers at the European level and in the two countries most polarised on monetary policy, Germany and Italy.

Overall the project speaks to a broader research agenda on the sensemaking processes that link international institutions and international organisations to national public spheres, influencing their reputation and effectiveness. Understanding these processes is particularly crucial in our current age of technocratic ruling by emergency that is legitimised in the discursive construction of crises.

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Anna is a Marie Skłodowska Curie Doctoral Fellow at Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne and the Université Libre de Bruxelles within the Horizon Europe GEM-Diamond project. Under the joint supervision of Antoine Vauchez (Paris 1) and Amandine Crespy (ULB), her doctoral project examines the processes and effects of epistemic struggles over the interpretation of monetary policy in the Eurozone.

Anna holds an MA (Hons) in Business/Management and Italian from the University of Glasgow, a Graduate Diploma in International Relations from the University of London, an MA in European Affairs with a specialisation in Economics and Public Policy from Sciences Po Paris and an MSc in Political Economy of Europe from the London School of Economics and Political Science.
Academic Conferences and Workshops

Zech, Anna Sophie. 2024. “Playing With Fire? Conceptualising the ECB's Interaction With its Watchers”, presented at the Third Doctoral Conference on the Social and Political Constitution of the Economy, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies, Cologne, 29 February 2024.

Zech, Anna Sophie. 2023. “Watching the Watchers - On the Expert Networks Translating the European Central Bank's Communication”, presented at the Summer School for Women in Political Economy, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies, Cologne, 14 September 2023.


SASE/Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics 2024-2025
CES/Council for European Studies 2024-2025
ABSP/Association belge francophone de science politique 2024-2025


ECPR Winter School on Social Network Analysis, February 2024
ECPR Summer School on Quantitative Text Analysis, August 2023
BIP Science Communication, March-June 2023


TD (Travaux Dirigés) Political Science in English, First Year Bachelor in Political Science, Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, Spring Semester 2023