FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — The head of the European Central Bank said Monday that the economic recovery in the 17-country eurozone "is only in its infancy" and that governments must take further steps to improve growth.
Mario Draghi said in the text of a speech Monday in Berlin that "the economy remains fragile" and "unemployment is still far too high." The economy of the 17 European Union countries that use the euro grew a modest 0.3 percent in the second quarter after six quarters of falling output. Unemployment remains at 12.1 percent and businesses are holding back on borrowing — a sign of caution about the future.
Draghi repeated the bank's stance that it will keep its benchmark interest rates at record low levels or lower "for an extended period of time." Low borrowing costs help support growth. Speaking to a conference on small business at the Federation of German Industries, Draghi said governments could spur growth by making their economies more competitive and encouraging more business investment. Steps could include reducing red tape and government-mandated paperwork, and eliminating delays in the legal system that hinder resolving business disputes.
Europe's economy has been hobbled by its crisis over too much government debt. Governments slashed spending and raised taxes to try to limit deficits and get debt levels under control. Those austerity policies have slowed growth.
Much of the deepest budget-cutting is now in the past and EU officials have begun allowing countries to take more time to bring deficits within the limits mandated by euro rules, lessening the drag on growth.