The EU summit brought hundreds of protesters onto the streets of Brussels over a variety of causes – from austerity to food production and military policy.
While European leaders talked about defence and banking rules aimed at protecting taxpayers, demonstrators complained the EU favours vested interests.
“They are pursuing policies for big business, the big bosses, whereas we need all that money for the people. If we don’t fight we’ll be adopting the German model, where the situation of young people, having to work for little jobs, will always be precarious,” said Stephane, a student.
Traffic was disrupted as some 50 organisations turned out to stage demonstrations. Anger was also directed at cost-cutting by Belgium in its new budget, and by other European governments.
“What we see in countries with very strong austerity like in Greece, Portugal or in Spain, is that debt goes up, the deficit goes up, so does unemployment and the number of suicides. It’s economic poison,” said Felipe Van Keirsblick from the CNE trade union representing private sector employees.
Farmers were also out in force to protest against negotiations between the EU and the US over free trade. They are afraid that quality European food will lose out to suspect transatlantic produce.
“There are big problems with the transatlantic treaty which will bring us meat with hormones and antibiotics,” said Luc Hollands from the MIG farmers’ union.
Euronews correspondent Margherita Sforza reports from the scene of the protests in Brussels: “Despite the promises by European leaders to relaunch growth and jobs, for many European citizens Europe and European institutions remain only a synonym for austerity.”