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Issue #1530      7 December 2011

Thousands rally against new austerity measures

A huge demonstration of tens of thousands of Belgian workers marched through Brussels on the weekend in protest against new austerity measures.

The march through the heartland of the European Union was organised by the country’s three main trade unions against the budget cuts which will be forced through next year to get the country’s deficit within three percent of GDP and meet targets set by the European Union.

The unions were specifically protesting against the extension of early retirement, cuts in unemployment benefits and the social security budget.

The themes echoed exactly recent protests in Britain, Greece, Portugal, Ireland — in fact, in almost every country in Europe — and sat uneasily with European leaders and business groups taking an almost diametrically opposite view in the run-up to a European summit in Paris on December 9.

Prime Minister David Cameron arrived in Paris, bringing his “no plan B” austerity measures to the table in early talks with French President Sarkozy, who had already told a meeting in Toulon that “France will push with Germany for a new European treaty refounding and rethinking the organisation of Europe.”

He claimed that without some new “convergence” among European countries, the continent’s debt could destroy the euro.

Speculation is mounting that EU leaders will consider compulsion to force all eurozone countries to align their spending policies more closely, taking over yet more of the role of democratic governments.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel reinforced this speculation, telling German MPs that tougher rules against running up debt were the only path forward.

To ensure that nations are keeping their budgets within the limits of the stability pact, Germany is pushing for the right to take countries in violation before the European Court of Justice over their own domestic fiscal policies.

European Central Bank president Mario Draghi also intervened, appearing to dangle an offer of new, extraordinary measures to lift the banking guillotine at present being suffered by hard-pressed countries if political leaders at the summit answered his call for “a fundamental restatement of the fiscal rules.”

Not to be outdone, the chief executives of five major Dutch companies including Shell, Philips and Unilever called on European leaders to take action to resolve Europe’s financial crisis.

In an open letter the transnationals’ bosses urged politicians to “show courage and act decisively” to restore monetary and financial stability, noting that they opposed “protectionism and nationalism.”

They said politicians should save the euro, integrate markets and cut regulations.

Meanwhile, Greek and Italian unions continued their desperate campaigns to control their unelected banker-led governments installed to enforce “austerity” on their cash-strapped working people.

Morning Star  

Next article – Hawks circling as row deepens, activists warn

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