Europe News

Lagarde, Dijsselbloem hit back at ECB critics

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The head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and head of the Eurogroup of finance ministers has hit back at critics of the European Central Bank, saying that politicians should refrain from public criticism of the central bank or its President, Mario Draghi.

"Mr Draghi has to do his work in independence and that means us politicians really restrain ourselves in comments and opinions," Jeroen Dijsselbloem told CNBC on Friday.

Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank (ECB), left, and Wolfgang Schaeuble, Germany's finance minister.
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"He has to take decisions that are good for the euro zone as a whole within his mandate and that's exactly what the ECB is doing and the more we refrain from comments the more effective he can be," he said.

"The more we refrain from comments, the more effective he can be."

His comments come after stinging criticism of the ECB's policies and Mario Draghi from German politicians in particular.

Dijsselbloem said that while debate was legitimate and freedom of speech was crucial, "for politicians to criticize the ECB that would mean political influencing and I'm not in favor of that. I think the ECB has to do its monetary task in an independent way."

The Eurogroup is in Amsterdam on Friday for a meeting ahead of the summit of European Union economic and finance ministers later in the day, known as an Ecofin meeting.

Dijsselbloem, who heads the Eurogroup and is Dutch finance minister, said the agenda would focus on Greece and finalizing reforms required by lenders to fully implement the country's third financial bailout.

"We will discuss Greece today and will take stock of the progress made. I'm hearing good news from Athens so let's see where we are. If we make progress on the content of the program and the next steps (over reforms) then we need to start a discussion on debt but we're only at the very beginning of that discussion," he said. "so don't expect any (debt) deals today."

Christine Lagarde, the head of the IMF, is also attending the Ecofin meeting in Amsterdam and will be a key part of the discussions over Greece. The IMF has consistently said that its involvement in the latest bailout rests on debt relief for the country.

"The program has to walk on two legs, there has to be sufficient reforms and we are making some progress on that front but there has to be debt sustainability at the end of the day and on that front, we haven't started any discussion."

Asked about the latest criticism of ECB policy from German quarters, Lagarde agreed that the ECB had to work independently.

"All central banks have to be independent in conducting their monetary policies, I think we all agree on that."

European Commissioner Pierre Moscovici, also attending the Ecofin meeting, said he had full confidence in the independence of the ECB and that "Draghi has always had the will to take appropriate decisions."

On Greece, Moscovici said there had been progress in a review of Greece's reforms and that in his view, "we are close to an agreement (to conclude the review). For that, we need a credible package of reforms whichare economically adapted and financially sustainable and which are socially fair."

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