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Unusual Times, Unusual Measures. The ECB as a Driver of European Integration in Times Of Crisis

Katharina Anna Ehrhart

Unusual times call for unusual measures. This paper demonstrates how neofunctionalist theory can be used to understand how the European Central Bank (ECB) has recently become a main driver of European integration. Since the onset of the European sovereign debt crisis, the ECB’s policy can be characterised in two ways. Firstly, the ECB has endeavoured to prevent the disintegration of the Eurozone and safeguard the current level of integration. The Outright Monetary Transactions (OMT)-Programme of September 2012 is the key policy instrument of this initiative. Its legal nature is, however, disputed. Secondly, the ECB has started to use its discretionary powers to push for more integration in matters of financial regulation as well as economic and fiscal policy, thereby triggering a powerful spill-over effect.

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