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Trichet: Bond buying program may be 'justified'

By Oliver Joy
updated 7:19 AM EDT, Tue September 4, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Trichet said bond-buying program is "justified" to counter dysfunctional markets
  • Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann opposes bond purchases
  • Trichet says ECB can't substitute for government economic policies
  • Trichet believes the euro currency has remained "remarkably stable"

London (CNN) -- A bond-buying program to rescue debt-ridden European nations could be "justified" to counter dysfunctional markets, Jean-Claude Trichet, former European Central Bank president, has told CNN.

Trichet's comments came as investors brace themselves amid speculation that current European Central Bank President Mario Draghi will hint at sovereign bond purchases of fiscally-frail countries such as Spain in an attempt to ease the euro crisis.

Trichet said: "I don't want, myself, to add to any anticipation. This is the job of the governing council. A number of things have been said and we will see what is decided."

He added "I would say when you embark on non-standard measures... It seems to me that it is justified... You have to counter markets that are not functioning correctly and are hampering the transmission of the monetary policy.

"It also gives time to the other partners, which are not only the governments and their policies, but also the private sector."

The ECB is currently locked in a stalemate with the Spanish government over providing support. Draghi wants the eurozone's fourth-biggest economy to formally request aid from the European Financial Stability Facility, the eurozone's temporary bailout fund, and commit to a program of structural reforms before stepping in.

But last week Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and French President Francois Hollande renewed their calls for the ECB to intervene in the bond markets at a press conference in Madrid. Rajoy also stressed that Spain would consider requesting aid once the ECB provides more information on how it will fund future bailouts.

Trichet added: "The message of the central bank [ECB] is, and rightly so, 'We understand that you are doing all what is necessary to get back to a normal situation and it is on that understanding that we will do some non-standard measures.'"

Trichet says that governments in the 17-nation currency bloc must also support each other and do "the job individually and collectively, surveying the other countries" to ensure they don't deviate from their austerity programs.

Merkel and Van Romuy meet for talks

But the former central banker is adamant that the ECB cannot neglect its primary mandate of maintaining price stability and "the central bank cannot substitute for government macro-economic policies."

Since the global financial crisis of 2008, Trichet said, central banks in other "advanced economies" -- notably Japan, the U.S. and the UK -- have embarked on "non-standard measures" in an attempt to tame bond markets and increase liquidity in their economies.

Some German members of the ECB's governing council are said to be opposed to the idea of intervening in the sovereign-bond markets. Jens Weidmann, head of Germany's central bank, has expressed concern that it would damage ECB credibility.

Trichet said: "It was decided at the very beginning that we will all speak with one voice... because it is a sufficient challenge to cope with 17 countries. I personally regret that we could not stick to this 'one voice' concept."

A look inside ECB's bond buying plan

He acknowledged that all members of the governing council were speaking with a "sincere analysis" of the situation and added: "I trust that all colleagues are loyal to the institution [ECB]."

Despite the fact that several eurozone members are struggling to grapple with ballooning public debt, a banking crisis and a lack of job creation and competitiveness, Trichet believes the euro currency has remained "remarkably stable" since the debt crisis came to prominence in Greece in early 2010. It is of "extreme importance" that euro-area members now make progress toward a federation of Europe, he added.

Trichet also praised Ireland for the steps its government has made to stimulate the country's economy in an effort to return to international bond markets next year. "Ireland needed the help of the International Monetary Fund and Europe... It is one of the countries that have really done the job to get back to competitiveness," Trichet said. But he refused to speculate over letters he sent in 2010 to then-Irish Finance Minister Brian Lenihan, weeks before Ireland requested a bailout. "These were messages that were confidential at the time."

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