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Parliament held its annual plenary debate on the European Central Bank's activities with its President, Mario Draghi, on Thursday. MEPs urged Mr Draghi that the ECB should do more to help small firms to regenerate the real economy and SMEs, and sought his views on the next steps towards banking union.

Gianni Pittella (S&D, IT), the rapporteur responsible for drafting Parliament’s opinion on  ECB activities in 2012 and recommendations for future action, welcomed the Bank’s recent efforts to stem the crisis, but also insisted that new actions were now needed to help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and the wider manufacturing sector.

"The European Central Bank was born in a totally different world to that of today.  It needs to adapt", Mr Pittella said, urging Mr Draghi not to be afraid of considering quantitative easing, taking a more interventionist role as regards the Euro's exchange rate, and developing specific initiatives for SMEs.

Responding in the debate, Mr Draghi said that the ECB could do many things, but it could not take on the essential roles of governments or banks.  On banking union, and more particularly the single resolution mechanism for winding down banks, Mr Draghi warned against developing an “intergovernmental structure”, which could become politicised and hence unable to work fast enough.

Mr Pittella's resolution broadly supports the actions which have been taken by the ECB but also warns that banks and governments risk becoming addicted to them.  It repeatedly draws attention to disparities in interest rates and access to finance for SMEs across the Eurozone and asks the ECB to tackle this issue directly, for example by purchasing high-quality securitised SME loans, or developing a specific programme to help SMEs to access credit.

The resolution was adopted with 265 votes in favour, 79 against and 37 abstentions.