Mario Draghi faced a rare public grilling on Wednesday that left the president of the European Central Bank rattled as he defended some of his unpopular policies to Dutch MPs.
The usually unruffled central banker was riled by hostile questions about the euro and the ECB’s measures to revive the eurozone economy.
Confronted with the possibility of the Netherlands quitting Europe’s monetary union by Eurosceptic MP Thierry Baudet, an angry Mr Draghi said: “The euro is irrevocable. This is the treaty. I will not speculate on something that has no basis.”
Highlighting the ECB’s role in the eurozone’s economic recovery, he said policies had helped create 4.5m jobs. “That’s the reality, the rest is speculation.”
Mr Draghi was invited to The Hague to discuss the eurozone economy, which is edging towards recovery after years of fragility following the financial crisis. He told MPs that the ECB was helping to create jobs and generate growth.
But the Dutch political establishment has been fiercely critical of the ECB’s stimulus measures, which have seen the central bank buy more than €1.8tn of assets over the past two years and cut interest rates to record lows.
Mr Draghi faced accusations that he had raided Dutch pensioners’ wealth through ECB policies: many Dutch share the German view of blaming the central bank’s measures for eroding their savings.
In two hours of sometimes sharp exchanges, Mr Draghi also faced questions about the transparency of the bank’s meetings and whether the ECB’s stimulus measures broke EU treaties.
Asked what would happen if a eurozone member needed to restructure its debt, he said: “We don’t want to speculate on the probability of things that have no chance of happening. Why are you asking me that?”
At one point following the ringing of bells in the Tweede Kamer, the lower house of the Dutch parliament, one MP called out that the sound was the “end of your [QE] policies”.
MPs finished the session with a gift of a solar-powered tulip for Mr Draghi, to remind him of the country’s famous Tulip Mania asset price bubble and financial crisis in the mid-17th century.
“We want you to look at this tulip before your meetings,” said Pieter Duisenberg, the head of the finance committee — and son of Wim Duisenberg, the ECB’s first president.