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Speech by Jean-Claude Trichet, President of the European Central Bank, at the 75th anniversary celebration of the Bank of Greece, at the Athens Music Hall, on 3 November 2003

03/11/2003 - Speeches

 Speech by Jean-Claude Trichet, President of the European Central Bank,

at the Athens Music Hall , on 3 November 2003 .



Mr. President of the Republic,

Mr. Prime Minister,

Messrs Ministers,

Dear Nicholas

Dear Lucas,

Fellow Governors,

Ladies and gentlemen,


It is a great honour for me and an immense pleasure to be here on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the Bank of Greece.

 The Bank  of Greece has been extraordinarily successful all over its long-standing responsibilities here. We heard the Prime Minister, we heard the Governor of the Central Bank of Greece . I would particularly praise the most recent period of time when, very wisely, with great success and, I would say, great steadiness, a policy of convergence that has permitted the entry of Greece in the euro area has been put into place.

 I am also very impressed, I have to say, by the wisdom of Greece and of the Bank of Greece, when they decided to be sure that full convergence would be established before entry in the euro area. This idea of waiting –if I may– since 1 January 2001, in order to be sure to have fully converged and be in time for the changeover of notes and coins, has been really a very wise decision. A great success.

When I was a child, my professors –and I studied Ancient Greek, I’m the son and grandson of  professors of Greek, Mr. President, Mr. Prime Minister– used to tell me when I was in my grammar school: “Σπεύδε βραδέως”, which was considered a very important saying, capturing the wisdom of the Ancient Greeks and, also, I understand, of Greece today.

 Let me make three short remarks. Because we are here in Athens , at the very roots of our civilisation, I cannot hide that I am particularly moved– because of my education and tradition. This is certainly a time not only for celebration, but also for memory. Not only for the 75 years of memory that Bank of Greece is celebrating today so wonderfully, but perhaps more –perhaps several thousand years. What we are doing today, peacefully, all over Europe , is the accomplishment of the Greek ideal of universality that is so visibly and beautifully captured in the Olympic Game concept. It is an immense satisfaction to celebrate today the Bank of Greece which is a member of the European monetary team with the entire central banks global constituency, with so many fellow Governors coming from all over the world, illustrating this universality that we are sharing.

 Secondly, I would also say that it is a great time for rejoicing within the Eurosystem and the European System of Central Banks. We are a profoundly united monetary team, with a very good team spirit –as again Nicholas said– which is the legacy of Wim Duisenberg, our First President, my predecessor. And I have to say that with Lucas Papademos, the Vice-President, with all Members of the Governing Council, Members of the Board and fellow national central banks’ Governors, we will maintain this legacy.  with great determination, because it is one of our major assets.

 This celebration is also for me an occasion to praise the priceless contribution of the Bank of Greece –and I already mentioned the very great success of convergence of the Bank of Greece– pursuing sound monetary policy over time, but I have also to mention the changeover towards the new notes and coins which has been a success here, as it has been a success all over Europe, because we had a united team and that united team did a very good job.

 We will continue to do so, and as it was said a moment ago by the Prime Minister and by the Governor of the Central Bank of Greece what we have to deliver to the full body of the Euro area is a credible currency. A credible currency that would inspire confidence to our own people, to the people of Greece, as well as to the people of Europe, of the Eurozone –the 305 million inhabitants that are our fellow citizens– and also, which would inspire confidence to all economic agents in order to bring about a major contribution to growth and job creation.

 And lastly I would also mention the formidable energy of the Bank of Greece and of Greece itself. Being here in Athens, this energy is visible everywhere: in the activity of economic agents, in the public works to prepare for the Olympics, in the very active preparation of these events, in the growth figures that we mentioned a moment ago and are envied by other economies. We had a magnificent illustration  yesterday, of this energy and what it means, when we shared with Zorbas and Mikis Theodorakis, this formidable display of vibrancy and of energetic beauty.

 That is what I wanted to tell you, my dear Nicholas, and I would like, in front of all your friends, in front of the President, the Prime Minister and Ministers, I would like to send my best wishes for many-many years of success within this independent European monetary team, made of the independent European Central Bank and the independent national central banks. Independence means accountability, Mr Prime Minister, as you said, namely, in the case of a Central bank, accountability vis-ΰ-vis public opinion. Indeed, accountability vis-ΰ-vis public opinion is the ultimate rule for those independent institutions that are central banks in modern democracies.

 Thank you for your attention.

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