This paper puts forward a characterization of the structural features of the economic system relevant to the monetary-policy decisions of the European Central Bank. The econometric analysis adopts a parsimonious VAR representation of three key macroeconomic variables (interest rates, prices and GDP) aggregated across countries to obtain area-wide time series. The exogenous disturbances driving the multivariate system are identified imposing restrictions based on economic theory. The dynamic properties of the estimated models are analyzed and compared with the available evidence for the US. The robustness of this characterization is corroborated by the estimates from a different sample period and by the findings from an alternative model that singles out German monetary policy in view of its anchor role within the ERM.