France’s Montebourg Hits Out at ECB in Campaign-Style Speech

French Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg hit out at the European Central Bank, calling on it to buy bonds and weaken the euro in order to boost growth.

“We have the most depressed region in the world with a currency that has appreciated the most globally and a European Central Bank that has not respected its mandate,” Montebourg told an audience of executives in Paris, citing the risk of deflation. “No one should leave the economy in the hands of moralists and accountants.”

The remarks were made against the backdrop of a screen reading “economic patriotism” and “fight for growth” in a packed and darkened room that resembled Montebourg’s campaign meetings in the Socialist primaries of 2011 in which he placed third. He pledged to run again after his defeat to Francois Hollande. France’s next presidential election is due in 2017.

With a French economy that has barely grown in two years and euro-area inflation that remains at less than half the ECB’s target level, Montebourg is taking aim at policies that he says are letting France and Europe behind the rest of the world.

“Growth is a political problem that will be achieved through political action,” he said. “To allow unemployment to remain high is to help the National Front and destroy Europe.”

The National Front, which led the European parliamentary elections in France, is an anti-euro, anti-immigration party.

“I only have one enemy; it’s conformism,” Montebourg said. Conformism “is not a candidate, it is ruling” the country, he said.

Hollande’s approval rating at less than 20 percent is at a record low for a French president.

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