Thursday, December 1, 2011

Merkel Shuns ECB Role in Favor of Budget Limits



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German Chancellor Angela Merkel is set to snub investor pleas to back an expanded European Central Bank role in solving the debt crisis, as she pushes her demand for tighter economic ties in Europe as the only way forward.

In the days before a speech to German lawmakers tomorrow outlining her stance for a Dec. 9 European summit, Merkel has repeated her push to rework European Union rules to lock in budget monitoring and enforcement and seal off the ECB from political pressure. That risks a showdown with fellow EU leaders and extends her conflict with financial markets looking for immediate measures to end the contagion.

"The market is questioning Merkel's tough approach," Jacques Cailloux, chief European economist at Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc in London, said by phone today. Investors want "clarity on what the framework will look like and what the financial bridge will look like" to fund euro-area governments and banks that need aid while fiscal ties are negotiated.

Merkel's refusal to deploy the ECB is a rebuff to President Barack Obama after he exhorted Europe's leaders to take more action to combat the crisis. The chancellor is loath to agree to follow the Federal Reserve and the Bank of England in policies she views as akin to fighting debt with more debt. Enlisting the ECB in battling the crisis would violate the central bank's independence and set it on a course of action that might not work, destroying its credibility.

'Damaging' Solution

The ECB is independent and must choose its own method of ensuring the euro's stability "without being praised or criticized" and states must protect that independence by improving their finances, the Westdeutsche Zeitung quoted Merkel as saying in an interview released today. The government sees joint euro bonds as "the wrong remedy in this phase of European development and even damaging," she told the newspaper.

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