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Created on 11.10.2019

“The eurozone bears great historic responsibility”

The former President of the European Central Bank, Jean-Claude Trichet, gave the keynote speech at the Swiss WCM Summit 2019 on the current challenges facing the eurozone. In an exclusive interview, he answers three questions.

Welcome to Zurich, Mr Trichet. You are often referred to in the media as Mr Euro. What is your personal relationship with the country of the Swiss franc?

It’s a very emotional experience for me being in Switzerland and being in contact with the Swiss franc. This is because when I hold Swiss coins in my hand, they always remind me of the very old, beautiful French coins we used to have, as well as the fact that the French franc looked very similar to the Swiss currency. 

Let’s look beyond Switzerland: what are the biggest challenges facing the eurozone at present?

The eurozone is, along with the USA, one of the two biggest single markets in the world with its own currency, and is facing exactly the same numerous economic and structural challenges as all other highly developed economies. But, on top of the challenges faced by the other big advanced economies, the eurozone also has an important historic responsibility. The Europeans have decided to launch a very ambitious strategic and historic project: to progressively create an ever deeper union to ensure stability, prosperity and peace on our continent. Such a bold endeavour calls for all European institutions and nations to stand up to their responsibilities, even in difficult times, for instance when we had to cope with the worst financial and economic crisis since World War II. To illustrate the historic nature of the process, let me remind you that when I became President of the ECB, the eurozone covered 12 countries. When my time in office came to an end, in other words after an unbelievably short space of time historically speaking, the eurozone had already grown to 17 countries  with the arrival of five new countries: Slovenia, Slovakia, Malta, Cyprus and Estonia.

You were elected European Banker of the Year 12 years ago and commended for your “courageous and transparent policy” at the ECB. Who do you currently wish would pursue a more courageous policy?

These days, I feel everyone really ought to be courageous. That doesn’t just apply to the ECB and central banks within the EU and other highly developed economies, but also to any entity with responsibility. We need to see courage from administrations, parliaments, from the private sector – indeed from everyone involved. 

About Jean-Claude Trichet

Jean-Claude Trichet is a French economist and former President of the European Central Bank (2003–2011). The highly acclaimed financial expert has won many plaudits for his work on the cohesion of the monetary union, the stability of the euro and maintaining competitiveness in Europe.

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