Trichet retires after rough 8 years

@CNNMoney October 31, 2011: 5:31 PM ET

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Monday marks the last day on the job for European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet, after a bumpy eight-year ride characterized by the Great Recession and Europe's ongoing debt crisis.

In an interview with CNNi's Richard Quest airing Monday, Trichet reflects on the tough decisions he faced in the uncharted territory of both crises.

"It's been very physically demanding and very demanding intellectually of course, but for all of us," Trichet told Quest.

During his eight years in the top post, the Frenchman became known for his stubborn focus on taming inflation. The euro zone's inflation rate fluctuated wildly amid the Great Recession, but over the rest of his term, Trichet was largely able to keep the rate near an average of 2%, the ECB's target.

"We are faithful to our mandate and our mandate has been delivered," Trichet said, referencing the central bank's mandate to maintain price stability.

While no central bank was quick enough to prevent the housing bubble and bust, the ECB started to see cracks in the system in 2007 and was the first to start pumping additional funds into financial markets starting in August of that year.

Europe's biggest baby step

At the time, Trichet was heavily criticized for the move, but as other central banks including the Federal Reserve started to follow suit in the days that followed, it quickly became apparent that the housing market was headed for a meltdown, and the ECB's fears were justified.

"We could not imagine Lehman Brothers," Trichet said. "We could not imagine what would come, but we knew that it was big. It was a big thing which was starting, and our diagnosis was because it was a big thing, we had to take commensurate decisions."

As the crisis ensued, Trichet was much more hesitant to ease monetary policy than his counterparts abroad and he garnered backlash for cutting interest rates at a slower pace than both the Fed and the Bank of England.

Later amid Europe's escalating debt crisis, he once again was questioned as the bank shifted into an unprecedented mode of buying up bonds from some of the region's most indebted countries.

"The main lesson we can draw from the present crisis, is that we should never let the financial system -- and by way of consequence, the real economy -- to be that fragile," he told Quest. "It is that fragility of the system which made the collapse of one institution capable of triggering the house of cards to fall down."

The euro zone consisted of 12 countries when Trichet started his ECB term in 2003, but has since grown to include an additional five. Trichet previously served as the head of France's central bank and an alternate governor to the International Monetary Fund.

He now passes the baton to Italy's central bank governor Mario Draghi, who will preside over his first policymaking meeting as ECB president on Thursday.

For the full interview, please tune into Quest Means Business on CNNi at 3:30 p.m. ET and 11:30 p.m. ET Monday. To top of page

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