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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 European Central Bank 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 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.

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 2023; 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.

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, and elucidating how the need for a unified monetary policy discourse on the one and diverse (national) audiences, on the other hand, is negotiated in practice. Learning about these expert communicative networks will furthermore yield broader lessons about the legitimacy and accountability of international technocratic actors more generally, in the Eurozone and beyond, in an era of “technopopulism” and “emergency politics” that often prominently feature technocratic and/or executive actors (Bickerton & Accetti, 2021; White, 2015).

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 monopolistics 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 proposes to characterise them in prosopographic and relational terms by way of two of the main conferences they participate in – the IMFS’ ECB and Its Watchers Conference and the ECB’s Forum on Central Banking. Having identified key actors in these networks via social network analysis and their attributes via multiple correspondence analysis, the project finally aims to examine these communicative dynamics in practice by studying how and what kind of inflation narratives these actors disseminated (in the media) between 2020 and 2022.

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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.