In a sometimes emotional debate, Jean-Claude Trichet made his last parliamentary appearance as European Central Bank President at Tuesday’s Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee meeting. Looking back over his tenure, Mr Trichet reiterated the importance of keeping inflation in check and said that the ECB should not deviate from this task. He also said that the EP – ECB tandem had been instrumental in driving forward the EU cause in recent years.
MEPs unanimously applauded Mr Trichet’s commitment over the years, but also took the opportunity to quiz him one last time on the evolving Eurozone crisis.
They asked about the way out for Greece and how big a hit the private sector should take to share some of Greece’s debt burden, the ECB’s future role, and how best to escape the crisis and repair the damage.
Questions were also raised about the ECB’s recent suggestions to Member States on their budgetary policies and whether criteria for joining the Eurozone should be more stringent.
Finally, some criticism was levelled at Mr Trichet for having focused too closely on state expenditure and not enough on income and also for having given too much prominence to wage control, to the detriment of other factors that could contribute to healthy public finances.
Mr Trichet replied that although price stability was not a panacea, it should remain the primary focus of the ECB’s future work. He also said that the ECB regularly makes suggestions to Member States and that therefore there was nothing exceptional in this.
Mr Trichet refrained from replying directly to a question as to whether the ECB had recently sent suggestions to Spain. To the criticisms made, he replied that countries that had protected their competitiveness had proven better able to weather the recent turmoil than those that had not, and that this vindicated his position.
Eurozone entry criteria
Criteria for joining the Eurozone were not themselves the cause of recent trouble – rather it was the surveillance once a country joined that was weak, so that the criteria as such need not change, he said.
At the end of the discussion Mr Trichet was presented with a token of recognition by committee chair Sharon Bowles. Photos can be found in the links below.