ECB chief Lagarde calls on ECB politicians not to criticize

Apparently, the president of the European Central Bank (ECB), Christine Lagarde, urged the policymakers of the Governing Council to postpone dissenting opinions on the decisions for several days, reports the Reuters news agency. Ultimately, if true, that meant a “muzzle” of sorts.

It’s a move critics say will hamper his ability to present an honest view of the debate, experts say. Consequently, the internal critics of the ECB can only express joint decisions to the public. Expressing your own opinion is not desirable and should be avoided. At least until the following Monday.

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The informal guidelines also instruct politicians not to reveal details of the internal discussion to the press, the sources told Reuters. This simply expresses Lagarde’s expectations, he said, meaning politicians don’t face retaliation if they deviate from them. An ECB spokesman declined to comment.

When Lagarde took over the top job at the ECB at the end of 2019 after a turbulent end to Mario Draghi’s presidency, she promised to build a consensus in the Governing Council.

But he faces vocal dissent from political hawks, which is hardly surprising given the eurozone’s record inflation. Hence the ongoing “leakage”, that is, the counter-arguments about decisions taken internally in the Governing Council, which are leaking out.

Informal patterns seem to be making their mark. On Holy Thursday, the ECB announced that it would end its asset purchase program in the third quarter and raise interest rates some time later. Bundesbank President Joachim Nagel, like Belgian Pierre Wunsch, now waited until this week to call for a faster pace of monetary tightening, as did Dutchman Klaas Knot after the February meeting.

Politicians in the financially stronger northern states of the euro zone have often spoken out against the ECB’s ultra-loose monetary policy in recent years, but now that the end of economic stimulus programs is in sight, it is In other words, the end of bond purchases, the countries of the poorer South are once again in the minority.

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Critics point out that the new guidelines effectively diminish the voice of dissidents, as they are asked not to speak until they have been several days into the news cycle and no longer reach their intended audience. The guidelines are also counterproductive, giving lawmakers an incentive to share their views with journalists while avoiding being named.

“You want leaks? You’ll get them anyway,” one of the sources told Reuters, who asked not to be identified. “If people can’t talk openly, they talk anyway, but through other channels.”

The move surprised many as the ECB had only developed a new communication strategy last year and such restrictions were not discussed at the time.

Supporters of Lagarde’s guidelines say criticism received soon after the sessions weakened the decision and raised questions, so a few extra days allowed the public to more easily understand and accept the outcome.

“Once we’ve made a decision, we have to stick with it, even if some of us don’t agree,” says another source. “The problem is that it’s easy to say but almost impossible to do right now.”

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