This article compares the ‘competence’ of the principal economic policymakers in 27 European Union (EU) member states with those in other advanced economies. Following earlier work on ‘specialists’ in government, we consider whether prime ministers, finance ministers and central bank governors have an education in economics or a related field like business. We find that EU prime and finance ministers are more likely to have legal than economics training, which distinguishes them from their OECD peers. Among the most recent accession countries, economic policymakers were better trained prior to accession than after it. Eurozone economic policymakers have essentially the same overall level of education as their EU peers outside the eurozone, but eurozone prime ministers, in particular, are much less likely to have advanced economics training. Among the exceptions are countries experiencing a high frequency of financial crises. In these cases the level of economics training is comparatively high. We speculate that these countries have little choice but to appoint policymakers who, at least in terms of background, appear to be ‘competent’.