March 15, 2015 / 12:16 PM / 5 years ago

Thousands to protest in Frankfurt against ECB 'austerity'

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Thousands of people are expected to march in Frankfurt on Wednesday to protest against austerity policies they blame on the European Central Bank, as the ECB inaugurates its new high-rise headquarters.

Boxes are pictured during an information event of Blockupy at the new European Central Bank (ECB) headquarters in Frankfurt, February 11, 2015. REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski

The gathering follows protests in Cyprus outside a meeting of the ECB’s decision-making Governing Council and marks dissatisfaction with the powerful institution, which has sought to distance itself from political wrangling in the euro zone.

“The main reason for the protest is that the ECB is in the troika and the troika is responsible for the austerity policies that have pushed so many into poverty,” said Ulrich Wilken, one of the organizers of the ‘Blockupy’ protest which will take place near the ECB’s 1.3-billion-euro (1 billion pounds) headquarters.

The trio of inspectors, or troika, includes the European Commission and International Monetary Fund and monitors countries such as Greece and Cyprus that have received international bailouts.

The ECB is also influential as a provider of finance to the banks of struggling countries and has in recent weeks sanctioned a drip feed of extra emergency finance to Greece’s lenders.

Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis last week criticised ECB policy towards Athens as ‘asphyxiating’, a criticism also made by the protest organizers.

“They are not democratically elected, yet they push governments into taking action all the time,” said Wilken. “We saw this again in the manner in which they made the terms harsher for Greece to get finance after the election.”

Earlier this year, the ECB stopped accepting Greek bonds as security in return for funding, when that country’s new leftist government all but abandoned its reform-for-aid pledges.

“These are the policies that they carry out from their nice new offices in Frankfurt,” Wilken said.

Organisers expect 3,000 people from abroad to join the protest, with a further 7,000 coming from Germany.

Reporting By John O'Donnell; Editing by Janet Lawrence

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