Since 1 January 1999 the European Central Bank (ECB) has been responsible for conducting monetary policy for the euro area - the world’s largest economy after the United States.
The euro area came into being when responsibility for monetary policy was transferred from the national central banks of 11 EU Member States to the ECB in January 1999. Greece joined in 2001, Slovenia in 2007, Cyprus and Malta in 2008, Slovakia in 2009 and Estonia in 2011. The creation of the euro area and of a new supranational institution, the ECB, was a milestone in the long and complex process of European integration.
To join the euro area, the 17 countries had to fulfil the convergence criteria, as will other EU Member States prior to adopting the euro. The criteria set out the economic and legal preconditions for countries to participate successfully in Economic and Monetary Union.
European Central Bank
The legal basis for the single monetary policy is the Treaty establishing the European Community and the Statute of the European System of Central Banks and of the European Central Bank. The Statute established both the ECB and the European System of Central Banks (ESCB) as from 1 June 1998. The ECB was established as the core of the Eurosystem and the ESCB. The ECB and the national central banks together perform the tasks they have been entrusted with. The ECB has legal personality under public international law.
European System of Central Banks
The ESCB comprises the ECB and the national central banks (NCBs) of all EU Member States whether they have adopted the euro or not.
The Eurosystem comprises the ECB and the NCBs of those countries that have adopted the euro. The Eurosystem and the ESCB will co-exist as long as there are EU Member States outside the euro area.
The euro area consists of the EU countries that have adopted the euro.
With the Monthly Bulletin the ECB meets its legal requirement to publish reports on the activities of the ESCB at least every quarter (as per Article 15.1 of the Statute of the ESCB). The Bulletin is published one week after the monthly meeting in which the Governing Council of the ECB takes its monetary policy decision. It explains this decision and makes it more transparent by providing a detailed analysis of the current economic situation and risks to price stability.
Statistics Pocket Book
This pocket-sized book is published every month on the same day as the Monthly Bulletin. It offers data with the same cut-off date (this is generally the day preceding the first monthly meeting of the Governing Council), but the data are structured in a slightly different way: the Statistics Pocket Books contains selected macroeconomic indicators for the individual Member States of the European Union, as well as comparisons between the euro area, the United States and Japan.
The Annual Report describes the activities of the ESCB and reports on the monetary policy of both the previous and the current year.
Economic and legal research publications
Publications under the Working Paper Series disseminate findings within the field of monetary and general economic research and provide a conceptual and empirical basis for policy-making. Occasional Papers deal often, but not exclusively, with economic research topics. While Working Papers are mainly addressed to experts, Occasional Papers seek to present policy-relevant topics to a wide audience, including other policy-makers, academics, the media and the general public. Legal Working Papers involve legal research on issues relevant to the tasks and functions of the ECB and the ESCB.
Other task-related publications
Examples of these very specific publications are the Legal framework, which contains all relevant legal texts adopted by the ECB and is primarily published online, the General Documentation (the full title is "The implementation of monetary policy in the euro area: General documentation on Eurosystem monetary policy instruments and procedures") and the Financial Stability Review. The latter provides an overview of the possible sources of risk and vulnerability to financial stability in the euro area.