Anti-austerity anger sweeps Europe on May Day
MADRID - Agence France-Presse
A protester shouts slogans during a demonstration in central Athens to mark the May-day celebrations on May 1. AFP photoFed up with high unemployment and austerity, May Day protesters took to the streets across Europe yesterday in a wave of anger that threatens to topple leaders in Paris and Athens.
From the eye of the eurozone debt storm in Madrid to the streets of Paris and Athens, where tottering governments face elections within days, marchers spoke of job losses, spending cuts and hard times.
More than two years after the eurozone sovereign debt crisis erupted, frustration with austerity is boiling over across the continent as voters wait in vain for signs of the economic pay-off.
In Spain, suffering the industrialised world’s highest jobless rate of 24.4 percent in the first quarter of 2012, the major unions called protests in about 80 cities.
Tens of thousands massed in central Madrid’s Neptuno square, decrying the jobless queue, new labour reforms that make it easier and cheaper to fire workers, and a budget squeeze in health care and education.
“They are going to destroy more jobs with the labour reform,” complained 28-year-old graphic designer Sonia Calles.
“Already in Spain almost everyone is an intern up to the age of 30. And now employment insecurity is going to hit those in their 30s and 40s,” she said in the capital.
Thousands more rallied in Athens, Thessaloniki and other cities around Greece, five days ahead of cliffhanger general elections with voters fed up with years of austerity.
“No-one Alone, Together We Will Get There!” read a banner draped on a stage in Athens’ central Kotzia square.
Polls indicate that Greeks are fleeing the main parties for smaller groups in revenge over a European Union-IMF economic recovery plan that has brought repeated waves of pay and pension cuts.
In contrast to Western European rallies, more than 100,000 people held a Soviet-style march through Moscow to celebrate labor day and show support for president-elect Vladimir Putin ahead of his inauguration.
Accompanied by kitsch brass music and surrounded by multi-coloured balloons, Putin and outgoing President Dmitry Medvedev led the march through a central Moscow avenue.
Police said around 120,000 people took part in the “Holiday of Labor and Spring” march in Moscow.
Elsewere in Europe, people showed growing frustration with an era of crushing economic hardship.
Across Poland and in the Czech Republic’s capital Prague, people protested against unemployment, homelessness, and the dogged pursuit of austerity policies. Some 100,000 Social Democratic Party supporters rallied in Vienna for better education and a fairer distribution of wealth, and some 2,000 packed Bulgaria’s capital Sofia urging the conservative government to resign.