20th Sep 2019

Trichet says interest rates rise good for EU citizens

European Central Bank (ECB) president Jean-Claude Trichet has defended his bank's plan to raise eurozone interest rates, suggesting the EU's top bank is listening to the "message of the people of Europe" calling for a price stability.

Talking to members of the European Parliament in the economic and monetary committee on Monday (21 November), Mr Trichet confirmed the ECB governing council is "ready to take a decision to move interest rates, and to moderately augment the present level of ECB rates in order to take into account the level of risks to price stability."

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The decision to put up interest rates by 0.25 percent is expected at the bank's board meeting on 1 December.

The Frankfurt-based bank has kept the rates at 2 percent for five years, but it argues it is a matter of its credibility to react to rising inflation - currently at 2.5 percent - as opposed to the ECB target of 2 percent.

"The people of Europe are asking us to be vigilant and guarantee price stability," argued Mr Trichet.

However, some MEPs pointed out the move will be viewed as a disappointment in some countries, given its potential crackdown on sluggish European growth.

"This is a sad afternoon for many people," said Spanish centre-right MEP Cristobal Montoro Romero.

"Millions of European citizens will see their mortgages go up, while small and medium enterprise will also suffer from the move," he added.

The biggest European economy - Germany - is especially likely to suffer from higher interest rates, due to its current economic problems. But the ECB president maintained that the bank should serve all 311 million eurozone citizens, "not only for the 82 million of Germany".

He suggested Frankfurt has managed to keep the lid on interest rates at a level not achieved by any other central bank - including the German Bundesbank - before the launch of the single currency.

"We have a number of signs that inflationary risks are rising," argued Mr Trichet, with soaring oil prices being one of the major dangers.

However, he rejected speculation that the December move will trigger a series of more interest rate hikes, adding that a rise in borrowing rates will serve as a prevention instead of a cure for Europe's economic and long-term job creation prospects.

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