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Europeans protest belt tightening

Tens of thousands of people marched in a day of protests across Europe yesterday against government austerity measures that unions say will slow economic recovery and punish the poor.

Tens of thousands of people marched in a day of protests across Europe yesterday against government austerity measures that unions say will slow economic recovery and punish the poor.

Big marches were held in Brussels, in Portugal's capital of Lisbon and its northern city of Porto; Spanish unions staged a general strike.

Unions called protests in 10 other capitals against steps such as spending cuts and pension and labor market reforms.

"This is the start of the fight, not the end. That our voice be heard is our major demand today — against austerity and for jobs and growth," John Monks, head of the European Trade Union Confederation, told a rally near the European Union's headquarters in Brussels.

Marchers were angry that governments that spent vast sums rescuing banks now said ordinary citizens had to accept austerity.

“The main feeling of the people is that for the banking system there are millions and billions of euros, but the social payments are being cut. That's not right,” said Ralf Kutkowski, a German coal miner protesting in the Belgian capital.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso told reporters the EU was aware of the “social knock-on effect,” but governments saw the measures as the only way out of crisis.

 
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