The Observatorio del Banco Central Europeo (OBCE) was born at the beginning of the European Monetary Union. Inspired by the experience of Fed’s watchers in the US (in particular by The Shadow Open Market Committee founded in 1973 by Prof. Karl Brunner of the University of Rochester and Prof. Allan Meltzer of Carnegie-Mellon University), a group of Spanish economists decided to create a non-profit association to watch the new central bank and to promote the European public debate on policy issues related with the Eurozone.
One of the OBCE’s first initiatives was to create a shadow ECB’s European Council (el Comite de seguimiento del BCE), a group of experts on monetary and financial issues that, prior to every meeting of the ECB council, discussed and voted on the decision that should be taken. The composition of this group has changed over time and their discussions have been regularly published by Expansion, a Spanish financial journal.
In 2000, the OBCE decided to create the Bernacer Prize, to recognize the work of young European economists and to stimulate research on macroeconomics and financial issues relevant for the EMU and Europe. Modelled on the John Bates Clark Medal, prizewinners were economists under the age of 40.
The prize nominations are assessed by an independent Selection Committee made up of recognized members of the international academic community. Since the start of the prize, the Selection Committee has been chaired by a member of the ECB’s Executive Board. The first chair, in 2001, was Otmar Issing, at that time Chief Economist of the ECB; he was followed by Lucas Papademos, Vice-President of the ECB( 2002–2010); Vítor Constâncio, Vice-President of ECB; (2011–2018); and Luis de Guindos, Vice-President of ECB (2019-2020).
The first edition of the prize took place in 2001. The Members of the Selection Committee were Otmar Issing, Miguel Sebastian (Secretary), Francesco Giavazzi, Charles Goodhart and Charles Wiplosz. They decided to award the Bernacer Prize to Philip Lane (Trinity College) "for his outstanding contributions to European monetary economics”. As Otmar Issing said in the Conference held on May 25th, 2022 to mark the 20th anniversary of the Prize, they set the standard for the selection of the next prize winners.
After twenty consecutive editions, the Bernacer Prize is widely regarded as one of the most prestigious European awards for economists, in particular, for European economists in the fields of macroeconomics and finance.
The prize includes a diploma and a cash award of €30,000. From the first edition of the prize to the 10th edition, the prize was sponsored by Caja de Ahorros del Mediterráneo (CAM) and from the 11th edition to the 20th edition by Banco Santander.
In past editions of the Prize, nominees were required to be nationals of EU member countries. In the current one (the 21th edition), eligibility conditions have been changed to include economists from other European countries as well.