Has the National Bank lost its right of issue now that the Belgian franc has finally disappeared?
In the European context, the right to issue banknotes is shared by members of the Eurosystem and extends to the whole euro area. Under the Maastricht Treaty and the Statutes of the European System of Central Banks (ESCB) and the European Central Bank (ECB), all participating central banks may issue banknotes.
On 6 December 2001 the ECB Governing Council decided that this right of issue would be exercised directly by all the central banks in the System as follows:
"(...) The Governing Council of the ECB has decided that the ECB and the twelve national central banks (NCBs) which together constitute the Eurosystem shall issue euro banknotes.
A share equal to 8% of the total value of the euro banknotes in circulation will be allocated to the ECB from the beginning of 2002, while 92% of the euro banknotes will be issued by the twelve NCBs. The balance sheet of each NCB will show the proportion of the euro banknotes issued corresponding to its paid-up share in the capital of the ECB. (…)
In accordance with the principle of decentralisation of the Eurosystem’s operations, the twelve NCBs will be responsible for placing all euro banknotes in circulation and for their handling and withdrawal, including those issued by the ECB.”
By a judgment passed on 10 December 2003 following an action brought by a group of the Bank’s minority shareholders against the Law of 2 August 2002 on the supervision of the financial sector and on financial services, the Court of Arbitration ruled that the Bank has always retained its right of issue, which currently exists within the ESCB (recital B.8.7.1.).
In its ruling handed down on 27 October 2005, the Commercial Court also confirmed that the National Bank still has the right of issue and there is thus no reason to liquidate its reserve fund, as some minority shareholders had been demanding. On 30 September 2010, the Brussels Court of Appeal confirmed this judgment by the Commercial Court.