Wednesday 7 December 2016

Guardian of the euro is no match for money markets

John Lichfield

Published 06/08/2011 | 05:00

Jean-Claude Trichet is set to retire as president of the European Central Bank at the end of October – by which time the single currency may well have been smashed. Photo: KAI PFAFFENBACH
Jean-Claude Trichet is set to retire as president of the European Central Bank at the end of October – by which time the single currency may well have been smashed. Photo: KAI PFAFFENBACH

ALMOST everyone accepts that Jean-Claude Trichet is a brilliant man. He can, however, be startlingly naive. A few years ago, the European Central Bank governor told a British acquaintance how much he appreciated the humour of Ali G.

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When informed that 'Ali G' was actually a Jewish comedian educated at Cambridge University, Trichet's jaw dropped in picture-book astonishment. "No!" he said. "Not really?" This week, Mr Trichet, three months from the end of his long career as a French, international and European civil servant, is alleged to have committed a far more serious misreading of the complexities of 21st-century life.

He was asked on Thursday for his response to the incipient market meltdown, provoked by worries that the eurozone debt crisis was about to engulf Spain and Italy. Trichet (69), who has been the eurozone's 'Monsieur Euro' for nearly eight years, said the ECB would resume its purchases of Portuguese and Irish debt. Result: an even steeper plunge in the markets.

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