ECB Said to Experiment With Minutes of Council Meetings

The European Central Bank has started to draft trial minutes of its Governing Council meetings and will experiment with different formats in coming months, according to two euro-region central-bank officials.

The minutes will summarize arguments presented by policy makers at their monthly rate-setting meeting, said the officials, who asked not to be identified because talks on the matter are private. The exercise includes exploring ways to shed light on voting behavior without mentioning Governing Council members by name, one of the people said. Both said that the ECB isn’t ready to unveil the measure this week.

President Mario Draghi and officials have spent months discussing how to enhance the ECB’s communication and increase the transparency of their decision making. Policy makers are due to meet in Frankfurt on March 6 after better-than-forecast economic growth, inflation and sentiment data reduced the urgency for them to add stimulus this month.

“The Executive Board has presented a proposal to the Governing Council; and we have started a discussion on the minutes,” Draghi told European lawmakers in Brussels today. “It’s a complex discussion because we have to look at different aspects. We have to be rich, informative, transparent. At the same time we have to protect the independence of the Governing Council members.”

Trial Minutes

An ECB spokesman declined to comment on the trial minutes. A debate at the institution on whether to use them gained intensity in the middle of last year, highlighting the contrast with counterparts including the U.S. Federal Reserve, which has used minutes to provide insight into policy for years.

While ECB officials concur that such a move will provide investors with more guidance on policy discussions, they have disagreed over how much to reveal. Executive Board member Benoit Coeure told Bloomberg News in January that he is “on the side of those who think the individual votes should be published.”

Some national central bank governors are more apprehensive. Governing Council Member Ardo Hansson told Bloomberg News in November that revealing votes might create pressure for officials “to have a more national view” which “would be very negative.”

The ECB hasn’t yet decided when such accounts would be published, the people said. Timing it for after each policy meeting or one week before the next gathering are the most likely options, one of the people said.

The ECB’s current rules, introduced under its first president, Wim Duisenberg, stipulate it should only publish minutes 30 years after the respective meeting. The Fed, Bank of England and Bank of Japan all release minutes within a matter of weeks.

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