AIX-EN-PROVENCE, France (Reuters) - The European Central Bank's decision to break with tradition by declaring it would keep interest rates at record lows for an extended period is in line with its mandate, senior policymakers said on Saturday, playing down the degree of shift in policy.
The ECB on Thursday responded to turbulence caused by the U.S. Federal Reserve's planned withdrawal of monetary stimulus by abandoning its own insistence that it never offers forward guidance on policy.
"This is a change in communication but not in monetary policy strategy," ECB executive board member Benoit Coeure told Le Monde newspaper in an interview.
"It is very important that the ECB protects the euro zone from global disturbances. It must bring stability at a time when growth is weak."
The Bank of England also gave a steer on future interest rate moves on Thursday, after which ECB President Mario Draghi said that the ECB's decision was driven by market volatility that took hold after the Fed set out its plan last month.
Bank of France Governor Christian Noyer added his support on Saturday.
"Forward guidance is fully anchored to our mandate and in line with the two pillars of our strategy," Noyer told reporters, referring to the ECB's inflation mandate and to its monitoring of real economy and monetary developments.
The ECB targets inflation close to 2 percent but without exceeding that level.
Noyer also told an economists' conference in Aix-en-Provence, southern France, that strengthening regulation of financial markets was necessary to reduce risks.
Neither Noyer nor Coeure offered more detail on the length of the "extended period" during which ECB rates would stay at record lows.
Former ECB chief Jean-Claude Trichet took a more sceptical tone on forward guidance, saying he believed that markets had actually focused on Draghi not ruling out a further cut.
"I don't think the part about forward guidance ... was important," he told reporters on the sidelines of the Aix-en-Provence conference. "And generally speaking, I don't believe much in forward guidance as it is practised by many central banks."
Additional reporting by Michel Rose; Editing by Elena Berton and David Goodman