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Draghi Signals ECB Won’t Keep Greece in Euro at Any Cost

ECB President Mario Draghi
Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank (ECB). Photographer: Angel Navarette/Bloomberg

European Central Bank President Mario Draghi acknowledged that Greece could leave the euro area and signaled policy makers won’t compromise on their key principles to prevent an exit.

While the bank’s “strong preference” is that Greece stays in the euro area, “the ECB will continue to comply with the mandate of keeping price stability over the medium term in line with treaty provisions and preserving the integrity of our balance sheet,” Draghi said in a speech in Frankfurt today. Since the euro’s founding treaty does not envisage a member state leaving the monetary union, “this is not a matter for the Governing Council to decide,” Draghi said.

The comments are the closest Draghi has come to conceding that Greece could choose to leave the euro region, having previously said only that such an event wasn’t envisaged and wouldn’t help Greece. Greece faces a fresh election on June 17 that may boost parties opposed to the conditions of its international bailouts, raising the specter of its exit.

“The Governing Council’s strong preference is that Greece will continue to stay in the euro area,” Draghi said.

He said euro-area countries have made more progress on cutting budget deficits and introducing structural reforms than has been acknowledged.

‘Difficult Reforms’

“Everywhere governments have undertaken significant and difficult reforms and continue to do so,” Draghi said, adding that public debt overall in the euro area should stop rising next year and decline thereafter.

Draghi said the ECB’s non-standard measures, through which over 1 trillion euros ($1.3 trillion) has been pumped into the financial system since December, had “helped to stabilize short-term rates in an environment of high volatility and extreme distrust.”

ECB Executive Board member Joerg Asmussen said in an interview with Handelsblatt newspaper on May 8 that if Greece wanted to remain in the euro, it had “no alternative” than to stick to its agreed consolidation program.

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