„Ladies and gentlemen, the Vice-President and I are very pleased to welcome you to the press conference here in Athens. The Governing Council has, today, met for the 12th time outside Frankfurt, meaning that it has now met once in each of the euro area member countries. I would particularly like to thank Governor Garganas for his kind hospitality and express our special gratitude to the staff of the Bank of Greece for the perfect organisation.
Let me now report on the outcome of today's meeting, which was also attended by the President of the Eurogroup, Prime Minister Juncker, and Commissioner Almunia.
On the basis of our regular economic and monetary analyses, despite renewed upward pressure on prices stemming mainly from oil market developments, we have concluded that the monetary policy stance still remains appropriate. Accordingly, we have decided to leave the key ECB interest rates unchanged. At the same time, strong vigilance with regard to upside risks to price stability is warranted.
It is essential that the increase in the current inflation rate does not translate into higher underlying inflationary pressures in the euro area. Strong vigilance is also called for in the light of ample liquidity in the euro area. Across the maturity spectrum, interest rates in the euro area remain very low in both nominal and real terms, and thus lend ongoing support to economic activity. For this support to continue, it is of the essence that inflation expectations remain firmly anchored at levels consistent with price stability.
Allow me to explain our assessment in greater detail, starting with the economic analysis.
Real GDP has been growing at a quarter-on-quarter rate of 0.4% and 0.3% over the first two quarters of 2005, dampened in particular by higher oil prices. In line with our staff projections, recent survey indicators, on balance, support the view that economic growth could gradually pick up from the second half of this year onwards. On the external side, ongoing growth in global demand should support euro area exports. On the domestic side, investment should benefit both from continuously favourable financing conditions and from the robust growth of corporate earnings. Consumption should gradually recover, broadly in line with expected developments in real disposable income.