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Lagarde takes ECB governors on retreat to iron out differences - sources

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By Reuters
Lagarde takes ECB governors on retreat to iron out differences - sources
FILE PHOTO: Christine Lagarde, President-designate of the European Central Bank, gives a speech at a farewell event for ECB's outgoing President Mario Draghi in Frankfurt, Germany October 28, 2019. Boris Roessler/Pool via REUTERS   -   Copyright  POOL(Reuters)

By Balazs Koranyi, Francesco Canepa and Frank Siebelt

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde took members of the rate-setting Governing Council for a private retreat on Wednesday to discuss the inner workings of the bank’s top body at a time of discord, sources told Reuters.

Lagarde, who took up her job just two weeks ago, has inherited a divided Governing Council, plagued by leaks and public opposition from some policymakers to a lavish stimulus scheme championed by former ECB boss Mario Draghi. This will likely tie Lagarde’s hands for much of next year.

The spat, which included rare public dissent by the central bank chiefs of Germany, the Netherlands and Austria, created an impression of discord and raised doubts among some market players about the ECB’s resolve to take action in the future.

Hoping to heal this rift, Lagarde invited the 19 euro zone central bank governors and the board for a private meeting outside the ECB building, offering an opportunity to have a candid, off-the-record discussion without staff or aides, two sources familiar with the matter said.

An ECB spokesman declined to comment.

The move is seen as an attempt to contain debate inside the meeting room and stop leaks that could damage the effectiveness of policy.

In her first formal Governing Council meeting earlier in the day, the ECB handled routine business like the upcoming Financial Stability report and also heard a presentation from board member Benoit Coeure on payments.

Since it was a non-policy meeting, the economic outlook and monetary policy were not discussed and the meeting lasted just over an hour, the sources added.

“Lagarde was smooth, handled the meeting like she’s done this a hundred times already,” said one of the sources, who declined to be named.

(Editing by Gareth Jones)