“The sooner there is a responsible government in Spain, the better”

Head of German central bank says European Commission is hampered by political compromises

Luis Doncel
Jens Weidmann, Bundesbank president, during the interview.
Jens Weidmann, Bundesbank president, during the interview.Bernd Hartung

In an interview with EL PAÍS in late 2014, Bundesbank president Jens Weidmann was very critical of the debt restructuring plan defended at the time by the Spanish anti-austerity party Podemos.

In this new interview, which is part of the LENA newspaper alliance, the head of Germany’s central bank largely avoided discussing Spanish domestic issues in the run up to a fresh general election.

But like other European leaders, Weidmann expresses hope that a government will emerge from the June 26 elections ater six months of political uncertainty following the inconclusive vote of December 20.

Regulation needs to be clear and understandable – only then can it be observed

Q. Are you worried about the absence of a government in Spain?

A. Spain has made many necessary reforms, the economy is growing again, and new jobs are being created. The sooner there is an operative and responsible government in place, the better. There will be new elections soon. Let’s hope it will be possible then.

Q. Do you feel that the European Commission should be tougher on countries that miss their deficit targets?

A. The Commission plays a difficult double role, which I am critical about. It is the guardian of the EU Treaties, and at the same time it has to mediate in political interests. Unfortunately, often the compromises that derive from this are detrimental to budget discipline. That is why I agree with minister Wolfgang Schäuble that it would be convenient to create an institution to objectively evaluate whether rules are being followed. This would free up the Commission and keep economic analysis separate from political decisions.

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Q. And countries like Spain would not get away with not having to pay fines for missing their targets...

A. The procedures right now are so complex and opaque that nobody can say outright whether a country is respecting the rules or not. Regulation needs to be clear and understandable – only then can it be observed. Any measure that makes members of the euro zone go back to abiding by the rules will be a sign of progress.

English version by Susana Urra.

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