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Issue #1519      21 September 2011

Poland trade union raps EU ministers

WROCLAW, Poland: About 15,000 trade unionists staged a protest march last weekend against neo-liberal economics and in support of greater European solidarity after EU finance ministers rejected calls to spend more to revive the bloc’s flagging economy.

Blowing toy trumpets and waving banners, the protestors marched peacefully through the Polish city of Wroclaw where earlier European Union ministers had discussed ways to end the bloc’s debt crisis and to restore economic growth.

“The [ministers’] meeting was very disappointing,” said Ignacio Toxo, president of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), which organised the demonstration.

“Given the situation we are in, there was no U-turn in crisis resolution policy ... It is neo-liberal ideology that is being imposed on Europe. But one thing that is clear for Europe is that the austerity measures being promoted are not helping to solve the crisis, quite the contrary.”

Union leaders called for the introduction of euro bonds to help resolve the debt crisis engulfing Greece and other weaker euro zone economies, a tax on financial transactions and a big increase in the EU’s common budget.

“For us (Germans) it is very important that other EU countries can come out of the crisis,” said Gabriele Bischoff, head of the European Department of German trade union DGB.

“If Greece goes bankrupt it will cost a lot, much more than helping it now. We do not understand the opposition to euro bonds among some of the German parties ... help for Greece is also in our interest.”

Many of the protestors were Polish but there were representatives from about a dozen other countries including Germany and Hungary.

They carried banners that read “Jobs and prosperity instead of cuts” and “European priorities: Jobs, workers, social rights and solidarity”.

“We are the ones who end up having to pay the costs of the crisis,” said a 34-year-old Polish hospital worker. “We want the state to provide better living conditions, better policies.”  

Next article – Taking on Turkey: Israel’s “dangerous” game

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