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Germany's new ECB board member would have opposed new bond buys

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12/03/2019 | 06:35am EST
FILE PHOTO: 29th Frankfurt European Banking Congress (EBC) takes place in Frankfurt

Isabel Schnabel, Germany's next representative on the European Central Bank's board, would have voted against restarting bond purchases but considers the tool a valid instrument and sees the need to maintain easy policy, she said on Tuesday.

With growth slowing, the ECB approved a broad stimulus package in September, generating unusually intense public debate among policymakers and culminating in the resignation of Germany's previous board representative, Sabine Lautenschlaeger.

"I'm not sure it was absolutely necessary to restart the asset purchases at that time," Schnabel told a confirmation hearing at the European Parliament in Brussels.

"If I had voted, maybe I would have said maybe we wait with the asset purchases," she said, adding that her opposition would not have changed the outcome and that once a decision is taken, it belongs to the entire Governing Council.

Signalling a readiness to overcome policy differences, Schnabel stressed that she would serve a full eight-year term -- a nod to critics after the previous three German board members quit early, partly in protest over policy differences.

Schnabel, a conservative academic, added that the ECB's upcoming policy review, the first since 2003, is unlikely to herald a broad overhaul of how policy is conducted.

"There may be some clarifications, maybe some small changes," she said. "Probably the biggest issue will be how can we integrate other objectives and the most important one will be climate change ... without endangering the mandate and endangering independence."

She added that she would oppose making voting records public because that would increase political pressure on policymakers to represent their own national interests over the interest of the euro zone as a whole.

Discussing the current economic outlook, she added that recent data have been more benign than feared, supporting expectations that the euro zone will avoid a recession.

(Reporting by Balazs Koranyi; Editing by Francesco Canepa and Catherine Evans)

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