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4.2.1.  The European Central Bank

    In the framework of the economic and monetary union that it has launched, the Treaty of Maastricht has established a European system of central banks (ESCB) and a European Central Bank (ECB) [see section 7.2.4]. The two organs are closely associated. They act within the limits of the powers conferred upon them by the Treaty on the functioning of the EU and by the Statute of the ESCB and of the ECB annexed thereto (Articles 127 to 133 TFEU). According to this Statute and to Article 282 of the TFEU, the ECB and the national central banks of those Member States whose currency is the euro constitute the Eurosystem. The ESCB is composed of the ECB and of the national central banks and is governed by the decision-making bodies of the ECB which are the Governing Council and the Executive Board (Article 129 TFEU). The Governing Council is in principle composed of the Governors of the central banks of all the Member States of the EU (Article 283 TFEU); but, as long as there are Member States with a derogation, the Governing Council is actually composed of the Governors of the euro area countries and a General Council, composed of the Governors of the central banks of all Member States, is constituted as a third decision-making body of the ECB (Articles 141 and 283 TFEU). Likewise, the President, the Vice-President and the other members of the Executive Board of the ECB are appointed by common accord of the governments of the Member States, which have adopted the euro [Decision 98/345, see section 7.2.3]. Neither the ECB, nor a national central bank, nor any member of their decision-making bodies may seek or take instructions from EU institutions or bodies, from any government of a Member State or from any other body (Article 130 TFEU).

    The objectives of the ESCB are, primarily, to maintain price stability and, without prejudice to this objective, to support the general economic policies in the Union (Article 127 TFEU). The basic tasks of the ESCB are: to define and implement the monetary policy of the Union, to conduct foreign-exchange operations, to hold and manage the official foreign reserves of the Member States and to promote the smooth operation of payment systems. The ECB, which has legal personality, has the exclusive right to authorise the issue of banknotes within the euro area or eurozone (Article 128 TFEU). In order to carry out the tasks entrusted to the ESCB, the ECB may: make regulations to the extent necessary to implement the tasks defined in the Treaty, take decisions necessary for carrying out the tasks entrusted to the ESCB and make recommendations and deliver opinions (Article 132 TFEU).

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