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Cigars with Lagarde: ECB's Holzmann eyes return to positive rates

ZURICH (Reuters) - European Central Bank policymaker Robert Holzmann hopes to see the end of negative interest rates by the time his six-year term ends, he told an Austrian tabloid, praising new ECB head Christine Lagarde for fostering collegiality among his peers.

Holzmann, who as head of the Austrian central bank gets a seat on the ECB's Governing Council, told the Krone paper his goal was to have savers get a return on their money again.

"It won't be tomorrow or the day after tomorrow, but I hope it will be during my tenure," he said in an interview published on Sunday.

Holzmann joined the ECB in September. Lagarde, a Frenchwoman who used to head the International Monetary Fund, replaced Mario Draghi as ECB president last month.

Critics faulted Draghi for an autocratic style that Lagarde has softened.

Last month she gathered the 25 members of the ECB's Governing Council for a retreat in a 19th-century castle built for German empress Victoria in the Taunus mountains surrounding Frankfurt.

"I am very enthused about her," Holzmann said, recalling the castle meeting at which the central bankers sat at a round table and exchanged views.

"Madame Lagarde -- who neither smokes nor drinks -- had French cheese and wine served at a cabin in the park. We were even able to smoke cigars," he said.

"The collegial aspect was more important to her, so we were able to go a bit deeper initially in personal conversations."

(Reporting by Michael Shields; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)

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