ECB cannot solve euro zone crisis: Bundesbank chief

Sun Jul 7, 2013 8:42am EDT
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By Ingrid Melander and Michel Rose

AIX-EN-PROVENCE, France (Reuters) - The European Central Bank cannot solve the euro zone crisis, Bundesbank chief Jens Weidmann told economists on Sunday, pressing the bloc's governments to get their economies in shape and tighten their fiscal rules.

Weidmann addressed an economists' conference in Aix-en-Provence, southern France, only three days after the ECB broke with precedent by declaring that it intended to keep interest rates at record lows for an extended period and may yet cut further.

"Monetary policy has already done a lot to absorb the economic consequences of the crisis, but it cannot solve the crisis," Weidmann said in his speech.

"This is the consensus of the Governing Council. The crisis has laid bare structural shortcomings. As such, they require structural solutions."

Weidmann, widely recognized to be the most hawkish member of the ECB's 23-man Governing Council, does not want the bank to intervene too strongly in tackling the bloc's economic crisis, thereby allowing governments to soft-pedal reforms.

He spoke a day after fellow ECB policymakers Christian Noyer and Benoit Coeure said the bank's decision to abandon its customary insistence that it never precommits on policy was a change in communication but meant no change from its strategy, which is based on monitoring inflation, real economy and monetary developments.

"The euro zone is on the mend, it must be at peace, protected, be allowed to heal," Coeure told the same conference on Sunday to explain the ECB's decision to issue such forward guidance, while urging governments to tackle structural problems.

The EU's top economic official, Olli Rehn, welcomed the ECB's move, saying the step - taken in response to turbulence caused by the U.S. Federal Reserve's plan to slow monetary stimulus - was needed to preserve recovery in Europe.   Continued...

Germany's federal reserve Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann poses in front of the Bundesbank headquarters during a photo shoot with Reuters in Frankfurt May 17, 2013. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach