Yanis Varoufakis/Fabio De Masi: Time to open the ECB black box

A press release of Fabio De Masi

Feb 20th, 2017

Yanis Varoufakis (former Greek Minister of Finance and co-founder of DiEM25) & Fabio De Masi (Member of European Parliament, DIE LINKE –GUE/NGL), supported by citizens from across Europe, Members of national parliaments and European Parliament as well as prominent academics to launch mass freedom of information request to the European Central Bank (ECB).
 
Prominent supporters come from various political backgrounds including Social Democracy and the Greens and hold divergent views on the future of the EU and the Eurozone. They are not necessarily associated with either the European United Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) in the European Parliament or DiEM25.
 
Supporters include among others:
Jean-Luc Mélenchon (MEP, La France insoumise, candidate for the French Presidency 2017),
Sahra Wagenknecht (MP, Chair of DIE LINKE parliamentary group in the German parliament),
Stefano Fassina (MP,  Sinistra Italiana, former Vice Minister of Economy and Finances Italy),
Zoe Konstantopoulou (former President of the Greek parliament, Plefsi Eleftherias),
 
Members of the European Parliament including:
Guillaume Balas and Emmanuel Maurel (Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament, France),
Sven Giegold and Ernest Urtsaun (Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance, Germany and Spain),
and prominent academics from the US and Europe.
 
SAVE THE DATE: Press Conference by Yanis Varoufakis and Fabio De Masi, March 8th 2017, in the European Parliament in Brussels. Invitation will follow.
 
Background
In 2015, the newly elected Greek government requested a re-negotiation of its public debt obligations, fiscal policy and reform program with its troika of official creditors (European Commission-EC, European Central Bank-ECB and the International Monetary Fund-IMF).
The Troika refused and, instead, forced the Greek government, against its democratic mandate, to accept the country’s 3rd ‘bailout’, together with new austerity measures and new reductions in national sovereignty.
 
The ECB played a key role in forcing the Greek government’s hand. Two decisions of the ECB’s Governing Council led to the closure of Greek banks, and the subsequent imposition of capital controls, on 29th June 2015.
The first decision, taken on 4 February 2015, denied Greek banks access to ECB liquidity, referring them instead to the more expensive liquidity provided by the Greek central bank’s Emergency Liquidity Assistance facility – or ELA.
The second decision, taken on 28 June 2015, denied Greek banks access even to ELA thus forcing their closure the next day. (This decision came immediately after the Greek government announced that it was putting the creditors’ ultimatum to the Greek people in a referendum.) Following the closure of Greece’s banks by the ECB, capital controls were imposed (which are still in place).
 
These decisions inflicted huge costs to Greece’s ailing economy and paved the way for new austerity measures which, added to five years of previous crippling austerity, further damaged Greek society. To assess the legality of these decisions the ECB had commissioned an external legal opinion. German MEP Fabio De Masi (GUE/NGL) requested from the ECB copies of this legal opinion. The ECB’s President Mr Mario Draghi refused the request.  The GUE/NGL has commissioned a legal study by Prof. dr. Andreas Fischer-Lescano (University of Bremen) which finds that the ECB was not entitled to refuse access to the requested documents and will serve as a basis for a potential law suit against the ECB if the refusal is upheld. In view of this Yanis Varoufakis and Fabio De Masi today announced a campaign that involves a broad coalition of citizens, MEPs, national MPs (from several Member States and different political groups), and prominent academics, to demand that the ECB releases the withheld legal opinion. The complete list of supporters will be made public during the campaign.
 
The campaign will unfold in three stages:
As of today, DiEM25 begins a petition to collect signatures from members of the public who want to add their voices to our request to the ECB – please visit https://www.change.org/p/mr-draghi-what-are-you-afraid-of-release-thegreekfiles
On 8th March 2017, Yanis Varoufakis and Fabio DeMasi will hold a Press Conference in the European Parliament in Brussels to present the arguments in support of the freedom of information request to the ECB
DiEM25’s petition will close soon after the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, 25th March 2017, at which time we shall file the freedom of information request along with the complete list of signatories.
 
Commenting on the campaign and freedom of information request, Fabio De Masi, member of the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee of the European Parliament explained:
 


“Blackmail is not the job of the ECB. By restricting liquidity to the Greek banking sector to force cuts in pensions, tax increases and fire-sale privatizations the ECB overstepped its mandate. If the ECB felt that its actions were legal, it should disclose the legal opinion it obtained rather than hiding it from the public eye.”

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