FRANKFURT, Germany – European Central Bank head Mario Draghi said Wednesday that the "strong preference" of the ECB's leadership is for financially troubled Greece to stay in the euro.
Draghi said that there's no provision in the European Union's basic treaty for a country to leave the 17-member shared currency, and that it's not up to the ECB and its 23-member governing council to decide the matter.
"I want to state that the governing council's strong preference is that Greece will continue to say in the euro area," he said in a speech Wednesday at a conference in Frankfurt.
Some European officials have raised the possibility that Greece's inability to make payments on its debts and comply with the terms of its bailout loans could result in a euro exit. Economists say leaving the euro would lead to even deeper economic and financial turmoil in Greece, which is suffering its fifth straight year of recession.
Additionally, two members of the bank's 23-member governing council — Irish central bank head Patrick Honohan and Belgian central bank head Luc Coene — have reportedly mentioned the possibility of a Greek euro exit in public recently. Draghi's remark appeared to be aimed at least in part at dialing back those comments.
Coene was quoted by the Financial Times as saying it was best if no country left the euro but added it was up to the Greeks and mentioned the possibility of an "amicable divorce." Honohan reportedly said in a speech that a Greek euro exit was not attractive but would not be "fatal."
The heads of the 17 euro area national central banks sit on the ECB's rate-setting governing council along with six members of the bank's executive committee, including Draghi.