Europeans against austerity cuts: thousands clash with police in Brussels

A new threat to the euro overshadowed Libya and other issues at an EU summit in Brussels. A possible international bail-out for Portugal dominated talks, while nearby, police used water cannons to disperse crowds protesting against austerity cuts.

­No to more layoffs, no to pay cuts, no to late retirement: this is the message from 20,000 angry demonstrators, pushed back with water cannons and pepper spray by riot police. The protestors tried to get in touch with EU leaders, who are meeting in Brussels to slash spending.

“This money was made to be used for social security,” said Serge Monsieur from Central General Public Services Union. “It was meant to be used for social health, not to help the banks.”

Across Europe voters are saying a loud “No” to more austerity measures. Portugal’s Prime Minister has quit after parliament voted down a fresh round of cuts. The country has three months left to repay almost 10 billion euros at a time when its sovereign credit rating has been cut. Analysts say the only options left are either national default, telling lenders the country cannot pay back its loans, or accept an EU bailout similar to Greece and Ireland.

"It has not happened in the west since the Second World War, but the longer you postpone this necessary evil, the more costly it is going to be,” said Pieter Cleppe from Open Europe think tank.

At the same time, military intervention in Libya is costing hundreds of millions of euros. Many are furious at what they see as an unnecessary and expensive campaign.

"Somebody asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Finance Minister about the financing of this,” said Jim Brann from “Stop the War Coalition.” “I think the overwhelming sense that you got from it among the public in Britain was skepticism.”

With growing poverty and millions unemployed across Europe, people seems to be losing patience with politicians who seem out of touch with reality.

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Dr. Markus Kerber, Professor of Political Economy at the Technical University in Berlin believes that Europe needs austerity cuts, no matter if there is a costly military conflict going on or not.

“We need them [austerity cuts] even more draconically, as we’ve had them in the past. Those are protests today, and don’t forget that there will be other protesters in the very, very near future who will refuse a bailout policy,” he said. “If we do not adapt the expenditure to what is bearable, what will be reasonable, and we are so far from that in almost all countries of the Euro zone, then there will be a total collapse of the Euro zone, and this will have repercussions which go far beyond what we can imagine today.”

­As public outrage at austerity cuts sweeps across the Eurozone, more than a hundred thousand people are expected to take to the streets of London on Saturday in protest.

It's set to be the largest demonstration in the British capital since the rallies against the Iraq War in 2003.

Patrick Hayes, reporter for the online magazine Spiked says that anticipation of an event brewing is tangible in London.

“People are handing out leaflets on the streets and people are putting up signs on walls and also on street lights,” he said. “That is quite unusual for London. You don’t normally get the sense that an event is going to happen, so there’s a strange atmosphere walking through the capital this evening.”