German Chancellor Angela Merkel was not seeking to sway the European Central Bank on interest rate decisions when she -- in a rare move -- waded into a debate on the issue, her spokesman said Friday.
"There's absolutely no reason to suppose that the chancellor, in any way, wanted to address advice or suggestions to the ECB in her speech," Steffen Seibert told a regular government news briefing.
Merkel fully respects the ECB's independence and will continue to do so in the future, he said, a day after her comments to a savings bank conference in the eastern city of Dresden.
The ECB has the "difficult task" of setting an interest rate that meets the needs of all countries, she said.
"This means on the one hand the lowest possible interest rates for EU crisis countries so that they have access to the urgently needed liquidity. On the other hand, Germany would need a higher interest rate because savings are currently losing value," she told delegates.
Merkel's comments came as a surprise to analysts, given the German leader's frequent insistence that the ECB should be free from political interference.
But Seibert stressed that Merkel was only addressing a point made in opening remarks by the president of the savings bank federation, calling for an end to low interest rates.
"The chancellor commented on the variety of interests in Europe," Seibert told reporters, adding the government supported policies such as deficit reduction and structural reform to overcome the "division" in the eurozone.