The interest rate increase decided this week by the European Central Bank cannot be described as large: a 25-basis-point rise after more than two years' of stasis, with rates remaining very low in both nominal and real terms. But hostility to the move from key countries and key figures in the euro-zone indicates just how remote any consensus is on European Union economic policy.

The arguments against an increase that were advanced so conspicuously by some member states' leaders immediately before the decision spring from understandable and justifiable concerns over the prospects for growth. If a rate rise is going to cripple recovery, then a rise cannot be in the interests of the EU.

The ECB President carefully addressed the premises and logic of such arguments as he set out his reasons for rejecting the calls for keeping rates down. He expected no significant effect on economic activity in the euro area as a whole, he said. Any impact on euro-zone countries in particular depends on other factors influencing economic activity there too, he added.

Instead, he focussed insistently on the broader picture. "We have a single monetary area, a single euro, and we have to make an overall judgement", he said, repeatedly invoking the interests of the 311 million...

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