Wave of angry demonstrations across Europe in cuts protests
Europe went out on strike yesterday as protesters took to the streets of Spain, Belgium, Italy and Greece to demonstrate against tough austerity measures.
Financial markets slipped as protests over the human cost of painful cuts spread across Europe.
Demonstrators took to the streets as new EU rules to prevent national governments bowing to pressure were tabled in Brussels.
Spain was gripped by a general strike, while demonstrators filled the streets of major cities in Italy. Doctors and rail workers in Greece walked out and the Irish parliament was blocked with a cement truck to protest at the high cost of bank bailouts at a time of deep cuts to public spending.
Brussels was paralysed by 100,000 trade union demonstrators from 24 countries, including Britain.
As protests mounted, the European Commission proposed new measures threatening steep fines if countries did not hold firm on budget cuts aimed to stop a Greek-style debt crisis tearing apart the European single currency.
Following massive protests in France last week, Spanish pickets came out to protest against EU-linked austerity measures in a 24-hour general strike, the country's first in eight years. Air travellers were worst hit by the strike, with about two-thirds of all flights to and from Spanish airports disrupted. British travellers were among those stranded at airports throughout mainland Spain and the islands of Majorca, Ibiza and the Canary Islands.
Tourists have been forced to camp out at airports until normal services resume.
Scuffles broke out between police and strikers at factory gates, with reports that at least 15 people were injured.
Spanish unions said about 10 million people, or more than half the workforce, joined the action.
The protest was triggered by Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, Spain's socialist prime minister, who introduced austerity measures to bring down the budget deficit from 11pc last year to within the three per cent of GDP limit set by the EU by 2013.
The European Commission, concerned that some eurozone governments were wavering in the face of mass protests, moved to introduce large fines if governments failed to bring public spending within EU levels.
Under the plans, national treasuries of eurozone countries will have to deposit billions in Brussels, with the cash becoming forfeit if the government then fails to convince the EU that it is carrying out austerity measures. (© Daily Telegraph, London)