Belgium - Spain

Thousands protest against austerity across Europe

Thousands take to the streets of Brussels, 29 September
Thousands take to the streets of Brussels, 29 September Photo: Reuters

Angry workers were on the streets across Europe on Wednesday in mass protests against spending cuts. Cities were brought to a halt, and there were clashes with the police. Some of the biggest demonstrations were seen in Brussels, Barcelona and Madrid.

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In Barcelona demonstrators set fire to a police car and rubbish bins. Police said they were forced to eject protestors from the former headquarters of the Bank of Spain.

Correspondent Graham Keeley in Madrid

“Public workers have supported the strike. It was a real struggle to get to work this morning with trains and buses operating minimum services. However if you talk to Spaniards who work for private companies they’re very dismissive. Public sector workers are regarded as well paid, and staffing levels are too high,” Madrid correspondent Graham Keeley told RFI.

In Brussels unions said around 100,000 protestors staged the biggest march in the city for a decade. Marchers from thirty different countries joined in. Police say a total of 148 people were arrested.

Analysis: Frederic Bonnevay, Montaigne Institute in Paris

Economist Frederic Bonnevay believes the problem across Europe is the lack of any harmony between different government's spending and taxation.

“There is no real plan. There is no real coordination of fiscal policies which is a major flaw. You cannot have a monetary union and on the other hand next to no budget coordination."

The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) said it is fighting against the severe austerity measures that have hacked into wages, pensions and public sector employment.

"We didn't cause this crisis. The bill has to be paid by banks, not by workers," the ETUC said.

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