National powers exercised by the ECB

Most of the ECB’s supervisory powers, such as those under the SSM Regulation or the Capital Requirements Directive and Regulation, are based on EU law. The ECB applies these powers to all significant banks under European banking supervision. In addition, the ECB exercises certain powers granted under national law that are not explicitly mentioned in EU law. These national powers are not harmonised at European level, and only cover banks in the country where the national law applies.

National powers may include the power to approve:

  • bank mergers
  • the acquisition or sale of assets or liabilities
  • amendments to the statutes of banks
  • outsourcing projects
  • operations in third countries

Comprehensive list of national powers currently exercised by the ECB

Banks directly supervised by the ECB normally have to submit to the ECB any requests, applications or notifications in connection with these powers (see the “entry point letter” sent to banks). The ECB then issues a supervisory decision to the relevant bank in which it authorises or objects to the planned operation. In some cases, if the supervisor does not object within a given timeframe, this is deemed to be an implicit approval. In those cases, the ECB does not have to issue a supervisory decision. National law may also detail additional requirements for banks and specific criteria for the supervisory assessment.

Entry point letter

Updates on specific topics

Powers related to covered bonds

When the entry point letter was sent to banks in 2017, the clarification of the delineation of competences between the ECB and the national competent authorities (NCAs) in relation to the issuance of covered bonds was still under consideration. In 2018 the ECB, in cooperation with the European Commission, further clarified this matter as follows:

The ECB is competent to decide on the general authorisation to issue covered bonds whenever provided for in national law.

In countries where a general authorisation is required to issue covered bonds in addition to the general banking license (e.g. Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Ireland and Luxembourg), the ECB decides on this authorisation. The ECB’s competence in this area is linked to its exclusive competence to grant authorisations as part of the common procedures to significant and less significant credit institutions (except in the case of Belgium). Accordingly, credit institutions that intend to apply for a general authorisation to issue covered bonds should submit their application to the relevant NCA, in accordance with the procedure for granting an authorisation as a credit institution.

In countries where the activity of issuing covered bonds is covered by the general banking license, the above clarification does not entail any shift of competences between the ECB and the NCAs. NCAs also remain exclusively competent to authorise individual issuance programmes or issuances of covered bonds and to carry out the ongoing supervision of covered bonds.