Europe Hit by Wave of Austerity Protests
Students walk in a row on A6 Highway in Madrid, Spain, during the general strike called 14 November 2012 in Europe. Photo by EPA/BGNES
Workers across the European Union are expected to take to the streets on Wednesday in a series of protests and strikes against rising unemployment and austerity measures.
Strikes are expected in Spain, Greece, Portugal and Italy, with other protests planned in Belgium, Germany, France and some eastern EU states.
Airlines across Europe have been cancelling and rescheduling flights.
Spain and Portugal have been particularly hit, and airlines are recommending passengers to check the schedules before traveling to airports.
The European Trade Union Confederation urged workers to walk out on Wednesday.
"Austerity is a total dead end and must be abandoned," the group said in a statement.
Some 40 groups from 23 countries are involved in Wednesday's demonstrations.
Unions in Spain, whose 25% unemployment rate is the highest in Europe, started the strike first with workers taking to the streets in midnight.
There were outbreaks of violence in Madrid and other Spanish cities, and the interior ministry said several arrests had been made.
In Greece, the strike action is the third major walkout in two months, which comes days after the parliament approved a fifth austerity package of salary and pension cuts and labor-market reforms, as well as a stringent budget for next year.
The IMF and EU have demanded the measures in return for the next EUR 31.5 B installment of the bailout.
The government, which is being forced into short-term financing in the bond markets, says it needs the bailout to avoid bankruptcy.
Athens police said they expected about 10,000 people to protest, which is a relatively small demonstration by the standards of Greece.
Protesters are expected in Brussels outside the embassies of Germany, Spain, Greece, Cyprus, Portugal and the Republic of Ireland.
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