European Central Bank President Mario Draghi will address German lawmakers in Berlin later this month, the first such visit in almost four years, amid mounting criticism in Europe’s largest economy of the European Central Bank’s easy-money policies.
Mr. Draghi’s visit represents an effort to win over German public opinion that is deeply skeptical of the ECB’s aggressive efforts to bolster growth and inflation in the eurozone. Recent ECB policies, including negative interest rates and tens of billions of euros a week of bond purchases, have sparked criticism across a swath of German society, from politicians to businessmen to bankers.
Mr. Draghi will visit Germany’s Parliament on Sept. 28, taking up an invitation from German lawmakers in the Spring, an ECB spokeswoman said on Saturday.
While the ECB answers only to the European Parliament, Mr. Draghi sometimes accepts invitations from national parliaments as a courtesy, the spokeswoman said. She highlighted visits to the Spanish and French Parliaments in 2013, the Finnish parliament in 2014 and the Italian parliament in 2015.
Mr. Draghi last visited the Bundestag, Germany’s parliament, in late 2012, shortly after announcing a potentially unlimited bond-purchase program that created a storm of criticism in Germany. That program known as Outright Monetary Transactions, prompted multiple lawsuits, but has been credited with helping to end the eurozone’s debt crisis without ever being used.
This time, the ECB President is likely once again to make a speech to lawmakers from several German parliamentary committees, and then take questions from lawmakers. The speech is likely to be published, but the question and answer session will likely take place behind closed doors.
Criticism of the ECB has been rising in Germany since the central bank announced a major boost to its stimulus program in March, introducing sweeping interest rate cuts and accelerating bond purchases to EUR80 billion a month.
The ECB is seeking to bolster inflation that has hovered around zero for years, far below the ECB’s near-2% target.
Germany’s conservative Bundesbank has long been a fierce opponent of bond purchases by the ECB. But top German politicians entered the fray in recent months. German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble complained in April that ECB policies had helped create a surge of support for the populist anti-immigrant AFD party, though he later partly retracted those comments.
Top German bank executives have been fiercely critical of the ECB’s negative interest rate policy, which they complain undermines their profit and restricts their ability to lend to firms and consumers.
In Frankfurt this week, the chief executive of Deutsche Bank, John Cryan, warned that ECB policies were working against the central bank’s goals of strengthening the economy and stabilizing the banking system. And Georg Fahrenschon, head of the German Association of Savings Banks, accused Mr. Draghi of steering Europe toward the next financial crisis.
Mr. Draghi has hit back at such criticism, particularly that emanating from top politicians. He has urged governments to help the ECB by spending more to bolster growth and warned that undermining the independence of the ECB will only force policy makers to keep interest rates low for longer.
The German criticism has coincided with a growing debate over whether central banks in Europe and Japan should turn to more extreme policy tools in the face of stubbornly low inflation. One option, known as “helicopter money,” could involve direct payments to individuals by central banks.
Earlier Saturday, ECB board member Yves Mersch dismissed “extreme measures,” which he warned would have unacceptable side effects and undermine trust in the single currency. “We cannot fulfill our mandate with mathematical equations, but only with instruments that maintain trust in the currency,” Mr. Mersch said.