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The aim of the article is to examine how a key principle of democratic government, public accountability, was applied during the process of the Czech Republic's accession to the European Union. The authoress analyses official documents and the public discourse in newspaper articles from the period between 1998 and 2000. She shows that the mechanism of accountability, which the European Commission introduced into the Czech political scene, was connected with the way in which the accession process was conceptualised as a set of technical tasks. She therefore argues that the European Commission introduced the 'technical' framework of the accession process, and she examines how this definitional framework was reflected in the public discourse. During the period under observation this framework was very influential; the Czech political scene also played a part in maintaining it and knew how to make strategic use of it. While the European Commission did contribute to establishing public accountability in the accession process, this accountability was only 'public' in the sense of its publicity, as the public at no point played a role in defining this framework. Although such discourse was specific to the period before the Czech Republic became a member of the EU, its general features are by no means a thing of the past. The conversion of political decisions into a 'technical' framework continues to be an effective means of dealing with complex social processes.
During the past five years - in line with the logic of inflation targeting and following international best practice - the National Bank of Hungary has been moving towards a greater degree of transparency. The evolution of the international best practice can be explained by the fact that in the past decade, views on the desirability of central-bank transparency have changed to a great extent. In the past, several central banks explicitly aimed to operate discreetly, but a general tendency towards increased transparency can be seen since the beginning of the 1990s. Calls for increased transparency may come from two directions. On the one hand, a democratic political setup requires public accountability of decision-makers at independent central banks, while on the other, economic thinking in the last decade has robustly inferred that central-bank transparency can preclude the emergence of inflation bias, increase the effectiveness of monetary policy, and under some conditions, have a welfare-enhancing effect. The study examines the validity of the latter assertions with two simple models often applied in transparency literature. It illustrates that the right degree of transparency can be subject to debate in theoretical and in practical terms. Finally it shows how transparency practice has evolved at the National Bank of Hungary since inflation targeting was introduced.
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