Banking

‘I was expecting something more quiet,’ Lagarde admits on her ECB top job

European Central Bank (ECB) President Christine Lagarde gestures as she addresses a news conference on the outcome of the meeting of the Governing Council, in Frankfurt, Germany, March 12, 2020.

Kai Pfaffenbach | Reuters

LONDON — European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde has told CNBC that she thought her tenure at the Frankfurt-based institution would have been a bit “more quiet.”

At the helm of the euro zone’s central bank since Nov. 2019, Lagarde has been confronted with some major challenges — the biggest of them all being the coronavirus pandemic.

“It has been very different from what I had expected in the first place. I wasn’t expecting a walk in the park, but I was expecting something more quiet than what we had,” Lagarde told CNBC’s Annette Weisbach in an exclusive interview Thursday.

“The first thing that really hit our radar screen was the Covid crisis, where, you know, one country after the other locked down, stopped its activity and where we had to respond extremely fast,” she said.

The ECB was the first European institution to react to the unfolding crisis in March 2020, by providing different rounds of stimulus measures to support the euro area.

But there has been much more on Lagarde’s plate.

Two months after the first Covid-19 lockdowns in Europe, the German constitutional court ruled that parts of previous stimulus actions by the central bank were illegal under German law. This sparked unprecedented legal, but also monetary policy, questions.

“Then I had certain issues with some national court that wanted to challenge the validity of what had been done,” Lagarde told CNBC.

“I had initially planned on starting a strategy review — which had not taken place in the last 17 years at the central bank. We started it, we suspended it and we started it again, and now we have completed that. So, all together it has been a very, very busy couple of years with massive engagement to support economic activity,” she said.

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