The ECB held rates at a record high last week but signalled it could start cutting them as soon as June, even though stubbornly high U.S. inflation could stop the Federal Reserve from following close behind.

"Barring surprises, we should decide a first rate cut during our June meeting. We are indeed growing more and more confident in the disinflation path," Villeroy told the French JDD magazine.

"The interest rate tool has been an effective weapon against inflation. We had to lift that rate to 4% but it is less than in the United States, where it stands at 5.5%," he added.

Villeroy, who is also governor of the French central bank, is among a growing number of ECB policymakers that have supported rate reductions.

He said last month that if inflation undershot the ECB's 2% target for a sustained period then the ECB risked having to cut rates even more aggressively.

He told JDD: "The June rate cut should be followed by more rate cuts by the end of the year; I call for a pragmatic and yet adequately nimble gradualism, based on economic data."

"That being said, we will not go back to ultra low, even negative rates: the ones that we have seen during the 2015-2022 period were the exception."

(Reporting by Leigh Thomas and Benoit Van Overstraeten; Editing by Hugh Lawson)