May 3 - Protesters have scuffled with police outside a European Central Bank meeting in Barcelona, as ECB president Mario Draghi called for fiscal discipline within the euro zone. Andrew Potter reports.
Police on every corner ahead of the European Central Bank's governing council meeting in Barcelona couldn't stop protesters venting their anger. The ECB normally convenes in Frankfurt. The meeting in Spain is at the heart of a country whose government is making deeply unpopular spending cuts to try and sort out its finances. More than 2000 students protested the 10 billion euros being slashed from Spain's education budget. European Central Bank president Mario Draghi kept interest rates at the record low of one percent. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ECB PRESIDENT MARIO DRAGHI, SAYING: "Both our nominal interest rates are low, historically low, and the real rates, the short-term real rates at least are negative in all euro area countries. Also, nobody would deny that liquidity is abundant in the euro area. But having said that, any exit strategy remains premature." And there was praise for the reforms undertaken by Spain and Italy. Draghi said both countries had made real progress in tackling their problems. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ECB PRESIDENT MARIO DRAGHI, SAYING: "The government of Spain has made a very significant effort in policy reform. It's a series of reforms which it's for me needless to remind you of that have been taken in a very short time.I think we have to acknowledge this significant effort." Spain temporarily suspended the passport-free into the country and drafted in 2000 extra police to try and prevent the protests turning violent. Spain's economy has only grown half a percent in four years and unemployment is running at 24 percent, with half of all young people out of work. That makes an ECB meeting saying more bitter economic medicine is needed hard to swallow, especially when it's taking place in Spain. Andrew Potter, Reuters