According to a report in news magazine Der Spiegel, bankers at the Bundesbank see no reason why the ECB has chosen to buy state bonds of heavily indebted countries like Greece, when a multi-billion-euro rescue package has already been agreed.
The report says the ECB has already spent nearly €40 billion on these government securities, including €25 billion on Greek bonds, while eurozone countries recently signed a rescue package for Greece worth around €110 billion, some €22 billion of which will be contributed by Germany. A common rescue fund for eurozone countries is in the process of being set up.
The bankers complained that by buying the Greek bonds, the ECB was keeping their price artificially high, and other banks, notably French ones, were consequently using the opportunity to sell their Greek bonds in order to clean up their finances.
The report claims that some high-ranking German bankers suspect a French conspiracy, saying that ECB head Jean-Claude Trichet, a Frenchman, had been put under pressure by French president Nicolas Sarkozy to break one of the ECB’s golden rules – never to buy government bonds from member states.
The purchase of Greek bonds by the ECB does not serve German interests for two reasons. Firstly, Germany has a 27 percent stake in the ECB, and therefore carries some of the risk, and secondly German banks are not allowed to sell their Greek bonds to the ECB, having made an agreement with German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble to keep them until May 2013.
A spokesman for the Bundesbank denied the magazine’s claims, but refused to comment further.