Protesters take to the streets in Europe
EUROPE – Tens of thousands of people from around Europe have marched across Brussels in a protest against spending cuts by some EU governments.
Spain has held a general strike, with protesters in Barcelona clashing with police and torching a police car.
Other protests against austerity measures have been held in Greece, Italy, the Irish Republic and Latvia.
Trade unions say EU workers may become the biggest victims of a financial crisis set off by bankers and traders.
Many governments across the 27-member bloc have imposed punishing cuts in wages, pensions and employment to deal with spiralling debts.
Portugal’s minority government announced proposals to cut civil servants’ pay and state spending while raising taxes in an attempt to lower the country’s debt levels.
In Greece and the Irish Republic, unemployment figures are at their highest level in 10 years, while Spain’s unemployment has doubled in just three years.
In Britain the government is planning to slash spending by up to 25 per cent in some areas, while France has seen angry protests against a planned increase in the minimum retirement age.
Police sealed off the EU headquarters and barricaded banks and shops ahead of the protest in Brussels. It was described by unions as a day of action under the slogan No To Austerity, Priority To Jobs And Growth.
Tens of thousands of demonstrators, many carrying large red and green balloons and banners, headed towards EU institution buildings in the Belgian capital.
“We didn’t cause this crisis. The bill has to be paid by banks, not by workers”
They made heard their voices, whistles, horns and anything else they could find, says the BBC’s Nick Childs in the city, amid the sound and smoke of firecrackers.
Speaking at the march, Jean Claude Mailly, head of the French union Force Ouvriere, said there was still time to rethink the austerity measures.
“It is never too late because the austerity measures are in the process of being set up now,” he told the BBC. (BBC)