Exclusive Mario Draghi to German Critics: We Obey the Law

European Central Bank President Mario Draghi on Thursday defended his aggressive actions to rescue the 19-nation euro-zone economy in the face of tough criticism from a range of German politicians in recent weeks. “We obey the law, not the politicians, because we are independent as stated by law,” Mr. Draghi said at a press conference in Frankfurt in response to a question about recent German criticisms. Conservative politicians in Germany, including Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble , have become increasingly vocal in recent weeks in opposing the ECB’s policies, warning that record low interest rates – and even negative interest rates in some cases – represent a danger to financial stability in Europe’s largest economy. Mr. Schäuble went so far as to blame the ECB for the rise of the right-wing Alternative for Germany party, while others have even considered ousting Mr. Draghi, an Italian, and replacing him with a German central banker. Mr. Draghi suggested that German criticism has eroded confidence in the ECB’s policies, and could therefore paradoxically prolong the amont of time the ECB needs to stay aggressive in order to boost the economy. He added that the criticism had been among the topics discussed by the central bank’s rate-setting governing council at a meeting earlier Thursday. “The governing council was unanimous in defending the independence of the European Central Bank and the appropriateness of the current monetary policy stance,” he told reporters. Mr. Draghi repeated that the ECB’s job is to conduct monetary policy “for the whole of the euro zone, not only for Germany.” The Frankfurt-based central bank last month lowered its main interest rate, the refinancing rate, to zero percent. It also pushed the deposit rate it charges banks that park reserves with the ECB further into negative territory, to -0.4 percent. Earlier Thursday, the ECB said it had decided to keep interest rates at their record low level. It was also set to release the details of a new plan to buy corporate bonds starting in June, the latest expansion of its €1.5-trillion bond-buying “quantitative easing” program – another sore point for German politicians. Picture Source: Reuters