ECB's Liikanen: More stimulus possible if necessary

Bank of Finland governor on further ECB action
Bank of Finland governor on further ECB action   

Despite reports of differing opinions at the heart of the European Central Bank, a senior decision-maker has told CNBC that it stands ready to take further measures and act "unanimously" to tackle a prolonged period of deflation.

Erkki Liikanen, the governor of the Bank of Finland and a member of the ECB's governing council, said that bank should wait to see the results of the latest stimulus package which he described as some "major" policy decisions.

"What we have also said that at the same time and reiterated that if there will be a prolonged period of low inflation, which is of course very harmful for the European economy, we are unanimous in our commitment to take new measures if necessary. And it's important to say that our commitment to price stability is intact," he told CNBC on Thursday.

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"Let's implement what we have done and then we'll go see."

Erkki Liikanen, governor of the Bank of Finland
Bloomberg | Getty Images
Erkki Liikanen, governor of the Bank of Finland

Last week, ECB President Mario Draghi unveiled a promise to purchase asset-backed securities (ABS) and covered bonds which will effectively add 1 trillion euros ($1.29 trillion) to the euro zone's flagging economy, according to some analysts. Reports shortly afterwards highlighted that the main opposition of the new package came from Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann.

Liikanen said that the ECB's Governing Council is full of independent people and when it took decisions they were based on a collective wisdom. This sometimes means that opinions may differ on the details of each new policy, he said, adding that it was important that all aspects of a decision were taken into an account.

"I don't doubt our capacity to act," he stated. "What's important is that the ECB must be able to act in all circumstances, that's why we have decision- making systems which guarantee it."

'Too big to fail'

Speaking ahead of a meeting of euro zone finance ministers and central bank governors in Milan on Friday, Liikanen also said the euro zone had not yet solved the "too big to fail" conundrum —whether governments should bail out failing banks whose large size meant their collapse could threaten the economy.

He said that the euro zone is lagging Britain and the U.S. in crafting backup plans for a future bank crisis.

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"There has been progress in America and in the U.K.—and in Europe we need to fix this issue now," said Liikanen.

The turmoil that followed the failure of Lehman Brothers in September 2008 forced both the U.S. and European governments to intervene massively in the banking sector to prevent its collapse. Support took different forms, from loan guarantees to direct injection of public funds.

Euro zone banks that received state aid included Commerzbank in Germany and ABN Amro and ING in the Netherlands, as well as many other institutions across the region.

ABS need to be 'clearer': Bank of Finland governor
ABS need to be 'clearer': Bank of Finland governor   

Liikanen said action was now needed to prove that banks would not get state aid if risky trading activities went wrong.

Draghi: ECB to purchase asset-backed securities

"The principle is, implicit government guarantees should not cover high-risk activities," he told CNBC.

Earlier this year, the International Monetary Fund said big banks around the world still benefited from "implicit" subsidies—created by the expectation that they would be propped up by the state if they fell into financial trouble.

As a result, these banks could borrow at lower interest rates and take bigger risks than their peers—a benefit worth up to $300 billion the euro area and $70 billion in the U.S., according to the Fund.

—By CNBC's Katy Barnato