ECB chief Mario Draghi plays down eurozone warning

Mario Draghi, the head of the ECB, says "I have no doubts whatsoever" about the strength of the euro

The president of the European Central Bank (ECB), Mario Draghi, has said he has "no doubts" about the euro's ability to survive the current crisis.

Speaking to the European Parliament's Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs, he was asked about a Financial Times interview in which he warned of the costs of a eurozone break-up.

But he said he believed in the currency's "permanence".

Meanwhile, the ECB warned that risks to the eurozone's stability had increased.

In its twice-yearly Financial Stability Report it said that, in the worst case, there could be a return to a global recession.

It added that the risk of two large banks defaulting within the next year had risen to the highest level in four years and it warned that some eurozone banks had become addicted to central bank funds, and could face "significant challenges".

The ECB again criticised politicians' response to the crisis, saying the lack of rapid action had made things worse.

Mr Draghi told the FT that trust needed to return to the eurozone.

He said that countries that left the eurozone would create "a big inflation" and would find themselves in "a much weaker position".

The newspaper compared his comments with the rhetoric of his predecessor, Jean-Claude Trichet, who had dismissed a break-up of the eurozone as "absurd".

Mr Draghi told the committee: "I have no doubts whatsoever about the strength of the euro, about its permanence, about its irreversibility.

"But you have a lot of people, especially outside the euro area, who spend a lot of time in what I call morbid speculation, asking 'what if, what if'."

Mr Draghi replaced Jean-Claude Trichet at the ECB on 1 November.

'Forbidden'

He said the ECB welcomed "the decisions of the heads of state or government of the euro area to strengthen the EFSF [European Financial Stability Facility] and the ESM [European Stability Mechanism] in a number of areas".

He said the ECB's primary task was to safeguard price stability.

The ECB has come under increasing pressure to simply print more money to help governments repay their debts, with France among those calling for the central bank to become a lender of last resort.

But the bank has so far refused to do so, insisting that it is up to national governments to put their houses in order.

Mr Draghi said the European Union treaty "forbids monetary financing of states" by the ECB.

He also said that the issue of reducing the reliance on credit rating agencies must be addressed, an area in which regulators should lead the way.

Meanwhile, a eurozone government source said that the 17-nation eurozone had agreed on Monday to lend 150bn euros (£126bn; $195bn) to the International Monetary Fund to help stabilise the euro currency area, a eurozone governmental source said.

The source said that the target was still the 200bn euros agreed by EU leaders at a summit earlier this month.

Britain has refused to pay into any fund that is only available to eurozone countries, but the source said he expected it to reach the 200bn needed.

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