Anti-austerity protests greet start of EU summit

13:58, March 25, 2011      

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Tens of thousands of people marched at the start of the European Union summit on Thursday to protest proposed austerity measures they say favor businesses.

During the morning rush-hour on Thursday, key roads in central Brussels were blocked off by police causing a traffic gridlock in the part of the Belgian capital that houses EU institutions.

Brussels police said over 20,000 people were expected to participate in the demonstrations organized by the European Trade Union Confederation.

The protests are "to say 'no' to austerity plans in Europe, 'no' to cuts in wages and pensions, 'no' to insecurity and unemployment, 'no' to deregulation of labor standards and social regression, and 'no' to rising social inequalities," the ETUC said.

Eurozone nations during the two-day summit are expected to sign off on an economic pact that will see governments coordinate their economies more closely to boost competitiveness. Trade unions complain it will undermine many cherished workers' rights.

The comprehensive package consists of a series of measures, including an expansion of the EU's bailout fund, establishment of a permanent rescue mechanism in the eurozone, and reforms to improve economic competitiveness and convergence of eurozone economies.

Source: Xinhua
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