ECB President Draghi's conference disrupted as protester jumps on desk

LONDON (BLOOMBERG, REUTERS) - European Central Bank President Mario Draghi’s press conference was briefly suspended on Wednesday after a protester jumped on the table in front of him and disrupted proceedings.

The protester shouted “End the ECB dictatorship” and threw confetti before she was pulled from the desk and led away by security. Draghi was also huddled away while staff in Frankfurt dealt with the situation.

The ECB president was uninjured and resumed speaking shortly after, gathering the loose sheets of his opening statement as he tried to find his place. Police arrested the unidentified woman and the central bank said it’s investigating the breach of security at its new 1.3 billion-euro (S$1.9 billion) building, which was formally opened last month. It declined to comment further.

Feminist activist group Femen, known for topless protests against what it sees as male “economic, cultural and ideological occupation”, claimed responsibility.

The incident followed clashes last month between police and anti-austerity demonstrators in Frankfurt. Those rallies coincided with the inauguration of the ECB tower on March 18 and police responded with water cannons as they sought to quell the violence.

“Let me start with the positive,” Draghi said as he resumed his press conference and gave an upbeat assessment of the impact of the ECB’s latest stimulus.

Draghi said the euro zone's economy had gained momentum since the end of 2014 and that the recovery would gradually strengthen and broaden.

Noting the small pick up in inflation to -0.1 per cent in March, Draghi said that although it was likely to remain low or negative for months, "inflation rates are expected to increase later in 2015 and to pick up further during 2016 and 2017". 

"While remaining on the downside, the risks surrounding the economic outlook for the euro area have become more balanced on account of the recent monetary policy decisions, the fall in oil prices and the lower euro exchange rate," Draghi said.

Draghi's remarks come ahead of the ECB quarterly Survey of Professional Forecasters on Thursday and follow an ECB survey earlier this week showing banks forecasting the strongest demand for company loans in over a decade.

In March, ECB staff boosted their predictions for growth in euro zone economic output to 1.5 per cent this year but said that oil prices would keep price inflation flat in 2015 before it advances towards 1.8 per cent in 2017.

ECB money printing will help accelerate recovery, with the euro at a 12-year low, buoying exporters, and borrowing in many countries cheaper than ever.