IT IS meant to be an example of European unity, but in response to the euro zone’s fiscal crisis the European Central Bank (ECB) is having a fight on several national fronts. Even as the bank’s dealers were pushing cash into the bond markets of selected euro-zone countries, its president, Jean-Claude Trichet, was trying to reassure Germans that the ECB had not lost its inflation-fighting zeal or its independence. He told Der Spiegel that it was “ridiculous” to believe that the decision to buy bonds, in the early hours of May 10th, was in response to political pressures. In a separate interview, he insisted that the bank’s monetary policy was unchanged and that its actions would not spur inflation.

原本想成为统一典范的欧洲,然而在应付欧元区的财政危机这个跟头上,欧洲央行正在不得不多线作战。正当央行的交易员把钞票投到经过筛选后的欧元区国家债券市场,欧洲央行行长特里谢试图安抚德国人,并说欧洲央行没有丧失阻止通货膨胀的决心,或是它的独立性。早在5月10日,为了缓解政治压力,特里谢就告诉明镜周刊,相信央行购买债券是“荒谬”的。而在另一个采访中,他却坚持说,央行的货币政策是一贯的而且这样的政策也不会刺激通胀。

To back up that claim, the central bank conducted a special auction of one-week deposits on May 18th to “sterilise”, or soak up, the euro 16.5 billion ($20.4 billion) of cash it had created by buying bonds. Banks offered almost ten times what was required, which meant the ECB had to pay an interest rate of just 0.28%. The exercise was largely cosmetic given how much liquidity the ECB supplies to banks. But appearances count. “It’s as if the ECB has sinned and has to do penance,” says Julian Callow at Barclays Capital.

为了回应那样的声明,在5月18日,央行开展了为期一周的特别存款活动去“消毒”或者说是通过购买债券的形式,去吸收它制造的165亿欧元(204亿美元)的现金。欧洲央行提供了几乎是10倍的于需求的债券,这意味着欧洲央行不得不以0.28%的利率去支付这笔利息。欧洲银行为给银行提供了过多的虚设流动性资产,然而表面上却是合理的。巴克莱投资银行经济学家的朱利安•卡洛说“这好像是欧洲央行犯了错,不得不在忏悔一样。”

How did it get into such a pickle? In part because flaws in the construction of the euro left Mr Trichet with little choice: there was no other institution in place to help individual countries in crisis. The mainstay of the mutual-support package announced on May 10th, a euro 440 billion “special-purpose vehicle” that will guarantee loans to governments, will eventually fill that gap. In the meantime, the ECB had to mount a holding operation. The alternative might have been financial collapse.

欧洲央行是如何到了这步田地的?一部分原因是由于在设定之初欧元就存在的缺陷。尤其是对于在欧元区的单个国家来说,由于没有独立的货币政策,使得他们采取不了任何有效的措施来应对危机。而这些缺陷也让特里谢先生束手无策。在5月10日公布的一揽子相互支持的计划中, 4400亿欧元的“特别目的途径”救助金将保证政府的贷款,并且最终填补了这一空白。与此同时,欧洲央行不得不启动自己的运转机制。而另一种方法可能导致金融崩溃。

But the ECB shares some of the blame. One failing was not to anticipate sooner that banks in countries with fragile public finances and large private debts could be cut off from foreign finance. Its policymakers were too attached to the idea that the euro protects against all ills. In the early months of the global financial crisis, the ECB’s governing council insisted that “the euro area does not suffer from major imbalances.” This was both a dig at America (with its big current-account deficit) and a statement of startling complacency. A divide between high-saving, asset-rich and productive countries in the north and an uncompetitive, debt-ridden south is the source of the euro zone’s present troubles. Yet as recently as March, Mr Trichet was boasting about the “special” virtue of the euro in securing cross-border financing for its members.更多信息请访问:http://www.24en.com/

但是欧洲央行饱受指责。其中一个失败的地方,是它没有先于在那些脆弱的公共财政和大型私人债务在切断与国外的资金的联系之前采取行动。央行的政策制定者们太执着于欧元可以抵抗任何的疾病想法。在全球金融危机的最初的几个月中,欧洲央行理事会坚称:“欧元区经济体没有遭受到严重的失调。”这是一个不仅在挖苦美国(背着拥有巨大赤字的经常账户)同时又令人震惊的自满声明。欧元区目前的主要麻烦是有着高储蓄率、优质资产并且富裕的北部国家与那些没有竞争力且债务缠身的南部国家之间的鸿沟。然而,在最近的三月份,特里谢先生夸耀着欧元为其成员国跨境融资的可靠性这个“特别”的优点。

This sense of unique European merit is undimmed. Asked by Der Spiegel to respond to German fears about inflation, Mr Trichet said the ECB’s actions are “totally different” to the quantitative easing pursued by the Federal Reserve and the Bank of England, because its bond purchases are sterilised. Even so it is struggling to escape the charge that it is providing support for governments’ fiscal policies.

然而对于这个独一无二的优势,欧洲人的意识丝毫未减。为了回应《明镜周刊》提问的关于德国人对通胀的恐惧的问题,特里谢先生说欧洲央行的政策是完全不同于美联储和英格兰银行的。因为它所购买的债券是被已经消过毒的。然而,即便如此,欧洲央行仍然在拼命摆脱由政府提供财政支持的控制。

That is what many in Germany had long feared. Axel Weber, the head of Germany’s central bank, has been publicly critical of the ECB’s decision to buy bonds. He is known to be headstrong and a champion of monetarist orthodoxy. But ECB-watchers think Mr Weber had little choice but to voice his reservations, if only to quell discord within the Bundesbank. “In Germany the feeling is that two red lines have been crossed,” says Thomas Mayer at Deutsche Bank—that each country is responsible for its own public finances and that the ECB would never be an agent of fiscal policy. German anxieties might be pacified were Mr Weber to succeed Mr Trichet when he steps down next year.

这正是很多德国人所一直担心的。德国央行行长阿克塞尔•韦伯已经公然地批评欧洲央行购买债券的决定。他被公认为自负并且是传统货币政策的头号支持者。但是欧洲央行的观察家们认为韦伯先生除了说说他的保留意见外没有一点办法,如果他只是平息和德意志银行的矛盾。“德国的感觉是央行已经越过了两条红线。”德意志银行的托马斯•迈尔说,每个国家有责任应对各自的公共财政,而且欧洲央行绝不会成为国家财政政策的代理人。为了安抚韦伯先生,他可能接替在明年卸任的特里谢先生,而这正是德国所的渴望的。