Christine Lagarde lavished praise on German Chancellor Angela Merkel for her “measured, methodical and well-tempered approach” to policy making in one of her first public speeches since winning her nomination to run the European Central Bank.
In an address at an honorary degree ceremony in Leipzig on Saturday, the outgoing International Monetary Fund chief stressed the German leader’s role in promoting women in a speech heavy on references to Merkel’s love of music and packed with asides about opera and football.
“She has inspired millions of women across the world,” Lagarde, a French national, told the audience of students and officials. “She was an inspiration for me. She was, she doesn’t know it, but she was.”
Lagarde’s remarks may help establish a bond with the German leader as she takes over from Mario Draghi to become the ECB’s first female president on Nov. 1. The central bank’s loose monetary policy has riled the German public and been portrayed by tabloid media as an expropriation of the nation’s savers. The bank has also been blamed by some senior politicians for contributing to the rise of populism.
Now with the euro-area economy weakening again and inflation low, the ECB is on course to cut it negative rates deeper below zero as soon as next month. Lagarde has signaled she’s in favor of more stimulus, saying in written remarks to the European parliament this week that the ECB has the tools to tackle a downturn and must be ready to use them if needed. The use of some of the stimulus measures, especially the new bond-buying program, is sitting uneasily with some policy makers including Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann.
Lagarde, who is due to face European lawmakers on Wednesday before her official appointment in October, lauded Merkel for her role in building European support for actions that eventually helped contain the euro-area debt crisis, in what she called the region’s “dark moment.”
“In time, she helped galvanize joint efforts to provide unprecedented support to crisis-hit countries,” Lagarde said. “Fiscal rules were strengthened, and new vital institutions were created” such as the region’s bailout fund, she said.