Europe

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Protests over European Austerity Measures

German demonstrators clash with police in protests over austerity measures on Sept. 21.

Belgium – EU Observer (Sept. 30): Tens of thousands of angry workers marched through cities across Europe on Wednesday to protest against the wave of government austerity measures that have swept through the region over the past year. A procession of roughly 100,000 people snaked through the streets of Brussels, led by a group dressed in black suits and masks and calling themselves the European Union of Speculators, a pointed jibe at the bankers many blame for the current crisis. Large numbers of union members traveled to Brussels by bus for the event from as far afield as Denmark, with banks and designer stores along the route being heavily guarded, as were E.U. buildings. Belgian police reportedly arrested 218 "troublemakers."

Czech Republic – Deutche Welle (Sept. 21): Police officers, firefighters, soldiers and nurses were among tens of thousands protesting in Prague on Tuesday over government plans to slash salaries. Between 25,000 and 30,000 people from across the Czech Republic took part in the protest, according to official police figures. The demonstration, the country's biggest labor protest of the past three years, brought traffic in some parts of the city to a halt. The country's new center-right cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Petr Necas, has resolved to reduce the budget deficit from 5.3 percent of gross domestic product this year to 4.6 percent next year.

France – France24 (Sept. 8): The French cabinet meets Wednesday, a day after over a million people took part in demonstrations across France to protest against pension reforms that President Nicolas Sarkozy says he is determined to implement and are necessary. French unions threaten to continue strikes if the government doesn't respond to their demands. The strike was part of a high-stakes showdown between the country's largest labour unions and Sarkozy's administration over the government's reform proposals, among them a proposal to raise the minimum retirement age from 60 to 62 over the next eight years. The main CFDT union on Tuesday afternoon estimated that 2.5 million people had taken to the streets across France, while the government claimed the figure was nearer 1.1 million.

Germany – Expatica Germany (Sept. 27): Talks on toughening budget rules to prevent a new European debt crisis heated up Monday as Germany called for the hammer to drop on countries that repeatedly run excessive deficits. Germany launched the opening salvo in intense negotiations between European Union finance ministers meeting in Brussels as part of a task force looking into ways to strengthen the 27-nation bloc's fiscal discipline. The moves to punish budget bingers came as trade unions prepared to lead demonstrations in Brussels and other parts of Europe on Wednesday to protest austerity measures launched by E.U. states to bring down huge public deficits. In a letter to his E.U. counterparts, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said he "chiefly supports" tough proposals, including fines against deficit sinners, to be unveiled by the European Commission on Wednesday.

Greece – Balkans.com (Sept. 22): Greece's public sector union ADEDY on Tuesday called a 24-hour strike on October 7 to protest against the government's austerity policies including wage and pension cuts to reduce deficits. "All workers are asked to massively participate in the rallies and demand the termination of all agreements that did away with rights to work and pensions," the union said. Greek labour unions have staged repeated strikes this year against austerity measures and reforms the debt-stricken country has agreed with the IMF and its euro zone partners in return for a 110 billion euro ($138 billion) bailout.

Poland – TheNews.pl (Sept. 29): Representatives of the All Poland Trade Union Agreement (OPZZ) and Solidarity are holding a demonstration in Warsaw today, demanding better pay and protection of jobs. Held under the motto "NO for budget cuts, YES for job security and economic growth," the protest is part of an international action by the European Trade Union Confederation. Similar protests have been organized in Italy, Spain, Portugal, Romania, the Czech Republic, Serbia, Lithuania, Latvia and Cyprus. Trade union delegations from 14 E.U. countries have also arrived in Brussels. The trade unionists are protesting against repeated attempts to raise retirement age, a slower than envisaged minimal wage growth and plans of freezing income thresholds entitling to social assistance.

Portugal – The Portugal News Online (Oct. 1): Portuguese have this week been told that belt-tightening measures enforced to date by the government have been inadequate in reducing the country's burgeoning budget deficit. As a result, taxpayers have been asked to make further sacrifices as the minority Socialist cabinet seeks to stop the deficit reaching double figures. Portuguese will now be paying the highest VAT (value-added tax) rates in the Eurozone, while civil servants will have their wages slashed by up to ten percent from 2011.

Romania – Balkans.com (Sept. 23): Thousands of Romanian clerks, nurses and teachers marched through the capital Bucharest on Wednesday protesting against tax hikes and state-sector wage cuts, but the demonstration looked unlikely to sway policy. Austerity measures in recession-hit Romania, vital to the country's 20 billion euro aid package led by the International Monetary Fund, have left the government deeply unpopular and facing a no-confidence vote in parliament next month. Around 10,000 people protested outside government headquarters in Bucharest, according to riot police, although union leaders put the total at up to 17,000. The protesters blew whistles and urged Prime Minister Emil Boc to resign.

Spain – Expatica Spain (Sept. 29): Leftist demonstrators clashed with police and set fire to a police car and rubbish bins in Barcelona on Wednesday on the margins of a nationwide general strike. Spanish unions launched a 24-hour nationwide general strike Wednesday to protest the socialist government's tough labour reforms and austerity measures aimed at slashing unemployment and reviving the battered economy.

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