Austerity Anger Grows in Europe

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Agence France-Presse

Austerity Anger Grows in Europe

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Civil servants protest during a demonstration to protest the government austerity cuts in Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday, June 8, 2010. Hundreds of Spanish civil servants took part in a one-day strike to protest wage cuts aimed at reducing the country's huge deficit.(AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

MADRID  – Tens of
thousands protested against austerity cuts in Spain and Denmark Tuesday
as Germany's powerful unions warned of mass action and Hungary became
the latest debt-ridden nation to slash spending.

Tensions also
mounted between European Union governments over how to reduce spending
with Britain rejecting an EU plan for all national budgets to be seen
by other countries before they are passed.

In Spain garbage was
left uncollected and high-speed trains delayed as civil servants went
on strike to protest Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez
Zapatero's plan, which includes an average pay cut of five percent this
year and a freeze next year.

Unions said three quarters of
Spain's 2.6 million public workers heeded the strike call but the
government put participation at just 11 percent.

Spain has
ordered 65 billion euros (78 billion dollars) of spending cuts in a bid
to slash the public deficit to the EU limit of three percent of gross
domestic product by 2013 from 11.2 percent last year.

Thousands
of people marched through the streets of the Spanish capital on Tuesday
evening in one of 60 marches held across the country by civil servants
and their supporters.

Ana Garcia Lago, 40, a teacher and mother
of three whose husband is unemployed, said she joined the strike
because her monthly salary of 1,600 euros will be reduced by around 150
euros this month.

"If I think about it I start to cry. We make
it to the end of the month because we had savings which we are eating
up," she told AFP at a rally outside the economy ministry in Madrid
while others chanted "Zapatero resign!".

Spanish public workers strike against government cuts

Denmark's
deficit reduction plans brought some 40,000 people to a rally outside
parliament in Copenhagen, Danish police said, where union organisers
blasted the government for endangering the country's social benefits.

Prime
Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen last month proposed an austerity plan,
subject to parliamentary approval, that would cut off jobless benefits
after two years, freeze development aid and set a ceiling for family
benefits.

In Germany, industry, trade unions and the media
criticised Chancellor Angela Merkel over the 86 billion euros of budget
cuts she ordered between 2011 and 2014.

"It is not the poor who
have lived beyond their means -- it is the rich who have," said the
head of the German Federation of Trade Unions, Michael Sommer.

Even
big business joined the assault, with German banks and the airline
industry slamming a tax on financial transactions from 2012 and a levy
on flights.

"These are serious times, these are difficult
times. We cannot afford everything we would like if we hope to plan for
the future and that is why the budget has been laid out like this for
the coming years," Merkel told reporters as she announced the cuts
Monday.

Merkel slammed over 'visionless' German austerity drive

In
Budapest Prime Minister Viktor Orban stepped into the budget slashing
fray, unveiling swingeing public spending cuts amid market concern that
Hungary's situation was comparable to that of debt-stricken Greece.

At
the same time Orban proposed tax breaks for families and a flat-rate
tax of 16 percent for individuals, while imposing a new levy on the
finance sector.

"Eighteen months ago, the state came to the aid
of banks which then made significant profits in 2009. Now it's the
banks' turn to do their bit to help solve the current problems," Orban
told parliament.

European finance ministers on Monday agreed a
new 525 billion dollar fund for debt hit nations and EU president
Herman Van Rompuy said they also agreed a right to oversee national
budgets, but Britain rejected any such move.

"The budget will
be presented to parliament first," British Financial Secretary to the
Treasury, Mark Hoban, insisted in a statement as EU finance ministers
held the second day of a meeting in Luxembourg.

France had demanded that Britain fall into line with other EU nations.

However,
Fitch Ratings warned Britain that it needs to put its public finances
in order much quicker as it faces a "formidable" fiscal challenge.

The
new British government of Prime Minister David Cameron announced Monday
that Britain's finances were "even worse than we thought" as he warned
of "painful" cuts to tackle the record deficit he estimated at 770
billion pounds (1.12 trillion dollars, 930 billion euros).

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