BRUSSELS, Belgium - Some 80,000 people marched through the
Belgian capital Thursday, demanding the European Union give labor
unions a larger role in shaping social policy and do more to cut
The march came on the eve of a two-day summit of EU leaders that
is expected to draw anti-globalization activists from across Europe
for three other planned demonstrations. Police have stepped up
security, fearing a repeat of the violent protests that have
accompanied gatherings in recent years.
Thousands of people from several European countries protest in Brussels, December 13, 2001. Demonstrators from different European Trade Union associations and anti-globalization groups, asking for a better social system in Europe, took part in the rally set up on the occasion a European Union heads of states summit which will start tomorrow. REUTERS/Yves Herman
However, Thursday's march was peaceful.
``This is an appeal for a more social Europe, we are not against
Europe,'' said Waltraud Etz, spokeswoman at the European Trade
Union Confederation, which organized Thursday's march.
``We want more jobs and better quality jobs as the economic
situation isn't great,'' she said.
The group, which represents 60 million European workers from 25
countries, demands quality public services, more workers rights,
improved safety conditions at the workplace and an EU commitment to
tone down ``today's unbridled globalization.''
Unions and other groups presented Belgian Prime Minister Guy
Verhofstadt, who is hosting the summit, with a declaration setting
out their demands.
A separate declaration was handed over by a group of 45 activist
organizations calling on EU leaders to ``send a strong signal''
that the EU ``is firmly committed to the eradication of poverty.''
Meanwhile Belgian police detained 43 anti-globalization
protesters near the city center, after they chained themselves to
an abandoned building, protesting the lack of housing in Brussels
for visiting demonstrators.
City police Commissioner Christian De Coninck said the
protesters were apprehended as a precaution. ``This was an action
by people that are well organized. We are ready for them,'' he
Thirty of the detained activists came from France, five from
Greece, two from Ireland, and two from Australia, police said,
adding that all non-Belgian nationals detained were told to leave
the country after being released. The other activists detained were
Wary of a repeat of violent summit protests in recent years,
Brussels police are taking tough security measures and deploying
3,000 police officers for the summit.
Police helicopters and water cannons were deployed alongside
riot police and horse patrols on the streets, officials said.
Belgian air force F-16 fighters were also to be placed on alert
as the threat of a possible terrorist attack looms large after the
events of Sept. 11.
Large areas around the wooded grounds of the royal palace of
Laeken - the summit venue - were off-limits to demonstrators as
well as the downtown houses of parliament and the Grand' Place,
Brussels' historic central square.
Copyright © 2001 The Associated Press