The Oesterreichische Nationalbank (OeNB) is the central bank of the Republic of Austria. It operates under the legal framework provided by the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), the Protocol on the Statute of the European System of Central Banks (ESCB) and the European Central Bank (ECB) and, most importantly, the Federal Act on the Oesterreichische Nationalbank (Nationalbank Act), as amended.
The OeNB is a stock corporation. Its nominal capital of EUR 12 million is held in its entirety by the central government.
The OeNB as an integral part of the ESCB
With Austria entering into the third stage of Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) on January 1, 1999, the OeNB became an integral part of the European System of Central Banks (ESCB), which consists of the the European Central Bank (ECB) and the national central banks of the EU Member States (see also Article 1 Nationalbank Act). As a member of the ESCB, the OeNB acts in accordance with the guidelines and instructions of the ECB.
The ESCB is headed by the decision-making bodies of the ECB – the Executive Board, the Governing Council and the General Council. The governor of the OeNB has a seat and a vote both on the Governing Council and the General Council, thereby contributing to the governance of the entire ESCB. In performing this function, the OeNB governor acts as an independent member of the relevant ECB body and is not bound by instructions from the OeNB.
As the OeNB must contribute to fulfilling the tasks of the ESCB, as set out in Article 2 (2) Nationalbank Act, and given the ESCB’s prime objective of maintaining price stability, the OeNB must use all the means at its disposal to safeguard price stability within the framework of EU law. Furthermore, the OeNB must take into account the needs of the national economy with regard to economic growth and employment trends and support the general economic policies in the EU to the extent that this does not interfere with the objective of price stability.
An independent central bank
The OeNB is a fully independent national central bank. In pursuing the objectives and tasks of the ESCB, neither the OeNB nor a member of its bodies may seek or take instructions from EU institutions, the governments of Member States or any other body. Likewise, the bodies and institutions of the EU and the governments of Member States must respect this principle and must not seek to influence the members of ECB bodies or national central bank representatives in the performance of their tasks within the ESCB.
Limiting the terms of office for the members of the OeNB General Council and the OeNB Governing Board to five and six years, respectively, as stipulated in the Nationalbank Act, is another safeguard of the OeNB’s independence. The members of the General Council and the Governing Board may be removed from office only for reasons set out in the Nationalbank Act.