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[FRANKFURT] European Central Bank President Mario Draghi called for a "quantum leap" in euro-area integration to allay fears of lack of accountability that is fuelling the rise of populist movements across the region.
"It is possible to make a more direct link between decisions and responsibility," Draghi said at an event in Frankfurt on Monday evening. "It is exactly the impression that there is too little accountability in Europe that populist parties often exploit." The euro area is grappling with renewed fears of a break-up as Greece's newly elected anti-austerity government and its European creditors try to reach an agreement on the country's reform commitments to prevent it from running out of money. The Frankfurt-based central bank is also bracing for the influx of about 10,000 protesters on Wednesday on the occasion of the opening ceremony for its new headquarters.
The Greek dispute and protests come even as the outlook for the euro area improves and the ECB's 1.1 trillion-euro (S$1.7 trillion) asset-purchase program gets under way. Draghi said the recovery must be seen as an opportunity to push through economic adjustments.
The upturn "does not mean we should rest on our laurels," he said. "The current upturn in economic conditions, which the ECB has helped to generate, must be used" to push ahead with structural reforms and address the roots of the euro-area fragility, he said.