Gold-related headlines routinely streaked across Germany’s top-circulating Bild newspaper in the fall. “Is our gold still there at all?” read one in October. “Bring our gold back to Germany!” was another in November.
Wednesday’s announcement did not immediately satisfy some of the harshest critics of Germany’s gold practices.
The bank’s decision to bring the gold home is “only a symbolic reaction to the pressure” from the public, the parliament and the auditor, said Philipp Missfelder, the parliamentary foreign policy spokesman of the ruling Christian Democratic Union. “It’s not enough.”
Missfelder visited the New York Federal Reserve last year and asked to examine Germany’s gold. He said he was turned down. He has since called for German inspectors to be allowed in to ascertain the country’s gold holdings.
A spokesman for the New York Federal Reserve said it was institutional policy not to comment on individual account holders.
Germany plans to repatriate its gold over seven years, achieving its new targets by 2020, an acknowledgment that the logistics of shipping 674 metric tons of gold are extraordinarily complex. A spokesman for the German central bank declined to comment about how the bullion would be moved, citing security policies, but local media reported that previous shipments of gold had been sent from New York to Frankfurt via cargo plane.
Germany is just one of 17 countries that share the euro currency, and in the past year it has been outvoted on many of the most critical decisions. The German central bank is deeply wary of printing more money to help fund struggling euro-zone countries. But the European Central Bank voted to do just that, within limits, in late summer, over strident German opposition. The promise of unlimited backing was so strong that the euro crisis has significantly eased, even though no country has actually had to resort to the new safety net.
But German policymakers have been queasy ever since.
“The Germans kind of feel like they’ve been overrun in this decision-making process,” said Michael C. Burda, an economist at the Humboldt University of Berlin. Bringing the gold home, he said, “is just a signal that Germany is not going to take this much longer.”
Petra Krischok contributed to this report.