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Nov 28, 2011 11:46 AM IST | Source: Reuters

ECB independence threatened by govt pressure - Stark

ECB independence threatened by govt pressure - Stark

BERLIN (Reuters) - The European Central Bank's independence is endangered by political pressures on the central bank to expand its role, according to ECB executive board member Juergen Stark.

In an interview in the weekly newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, Stark said he was especially concerned about discussions in Europe that the ECB should possibly no longer focus solely on the euro's stability.

"The political pressure on the ECB is enormous at the moment," Stark said, according to an advance released on Saturday ahead of publication on Sunday.

"There's a discussion going on about expanding our duties," added Stark, who is leaving the ECB at the end of 2011 in what sources told Reuters is a protest against its policy of buying bonds to help troubled euro zone debtor states.

"That will not only affect our independence but will instead endanger it."

Pressure on the central bank to act is rising and many see it as the only institution that can see off the debt crisis. EU paymaster Germany has blocked the two most widely touted exit routes from the sovereign debt crisis -- massive ECB government bond purchases or joint issuance of euro zone debt.

The ECB has already spent close to 200 billion euros ($267 billion) buying distressed countries' government bonds, but this has failed to bring down the spreads between benchmark German bonds and those of the countries mired in the debt crisis as markets doubt the ECB's commitment to the programme.

Stark said that neither euro zone bonds nor switching on the printing presses would resolve the sovereign debt crisis.

"Euro zone bonds will not at all be able to resolve the structural budget deficit problems that some member states in the euro zone have," he said. "That would lead towards a liability and debt union that no one can want."

Stark also spoke out against the ECB financing state debt:

"The printing presses will definitely not be used to reduce state debt," he said.

(Reporting By Erik Kirschbaum; editing by Keiron Henderson)

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