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Spain: Mobile-Phone Jammers Installed To Prevent Info Leaks At ECB-Meeting

There are few things that provoke me more than politicians who believe that important public matters are best discussed behind closed doors. It may be true in some very rare cases, like in a state of war, but basically this attitude just reinforce people's general contempt for politicians and may fuel even more social unrest - particularly in troubled times like this. Failing to understand this, is a serious error of judgement. That is, however, a mild description of the action by the Spanish Speaker of the House, Tuesday, installing mobile-phone jammers to prevent deputies from live-tweeting during a meeting with the head of the ECB,Mario Draghi.

"A failure of democracy."

Plural Left Party

And after the meeting, both ECB-chief Draghi and the selected group of MPs in the Spanish Chamber of Deputies did their best to convince reporters that there was nothing extraordinary about the meeting; Spain is on "the right track," the banks are stabilized and that borrowers with top-notch credit ratings should be seeing an easing of the credit drought by the end of the year. The only thing the didn't agree on, was who actually requested a closed meeting in the first place.

As Leigh Phillips at the writes: "The European Central Bank's Darth Draghi descended upon Madrid on Tuesday for a pep talk, saying that Spain had successfully stabilized its banking system and that borrowers with top-notch credit ratings should be seeing an easing of the credit drought by the end of the year."

Mr. Draghi also saluted the new laws making it easier for employers to fire workers - at a time when almost 60% of Spanish youth are unemployed.

(Personally, I would love to hear the arguments behind that statement…)

But why was the meeting held as a closed session?

It was reported ahead of the meeting by Spanish newspaper El Pais, quoting parliamentary sources, that the central bank had requested the secrecy because Draghi wanted a similarly restricted format to which he used when he spoke to Germany's Bundestag.

The decision to keep the meeting closed to the public, with proceedings to be issued in none of the normal formats, triggered an angry response from left-wing deputies, who announced that they would "retransmit" Draghi's comments via Twitter.

Then followed the most remarkable, and highly unusual, reaction by the Speaker of the House: Installing mobile-phone jammers to prevent the deputies from live-tweeting!

The farce was complete when the left-wing deputies Alberto Garzón and Joan Coscubiela just sneakily filmed the session on their iPhones instead, and later uploaded the videos on YouTube.

When the story became known, it prompted Draghi to subsequently deny that he had ever wanted a closed session, and that he would have been perfectly happy for it to happen in the open, adding that no harm had been done by it being posted on YouTube. Adding that he, in fact had posted his speech on the ECB website.

All opposition parties, including the Socialists, denounced the move.

The Socialists' spokesman, Valeriano Gómez filed a formal protest, while the Plural Left party (United Left and Greens) described the efforts at a closed session as "a failure of democracy".

Still, Mr. Draghi's speech was so full of austerian banalities that you can't help wonder why, and who, it was that requested the meeting be held in secret in the first place.

And even if the ECB chief's comments really was supposed to be of extreme importance for the Spanish political economy, then the words definitively should have been spoken in publicly - if Spain is still a sovereign democracy, that is…

But as Leig Phillipps and the EUobserver correctly points out, the ECB have a long tradition of secrecy and secret meetings.

Here at econoTwist's we have - more than once - argued that it's an outdated tradition that should be hunted down and killed before it does any more damage.

"Particularly as the ECB has such form since the crisis with secret letters to governments ordering them to liberalize their economies or commanding them to take a bail-out, or quiet phone calls to domestic banking bosses directing them to turn off the taps, citizens have every reason to be frightened of Frankfurt's preference for the shadows," Phillips writes.


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