Anti-austerity message dominates May Day marches in Europe

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Anti-austerity message dominates May Day marches in Europe

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‘No’ to austerity…

That was the message on the streets of Europe in protests on May 1, less than a month before crucial EU elections.

Forty years after its Carnation Revolution, Portugal is reflecting on where it stands, amid belt-tightening imposed under an international bailout.

“Salary cuts, tax increases, unemployment, all that is really affecting the people,” said Eunice Verissimo, one of those pounding the streets in the capital Lisbon.

“Labour is not just about farmers or workers,” said fellow May Day demonstrator David Oliveira. “It is to do with the rights that have been achieved over the years, even if at this very moment there is a regression in Portugal and in other countries. There is a regression in terms of what was accomplished by previous generations.”

Union leaders came together in the Spanish city of Bilbao to denounce unemployment in a country where one in four people is jobless.

There and in rallies nationwide, many are indignant at government reassurances about the first signs of recovery, with growth yet to be reflected on the work front.

In France, union disagreements over the government’s 50 billion euro savings plan meant separate marches in Paris.

Opponents are outraged that the cuts will be implemented by a Socialist administration that many marchers in the capital and across France voted for two years ago.

“This is not a government of the Left,” said Jean-Baptiste, an artist who goes by the name of Voltuan. “We have been betrayed. We voted for Hollande and now we are telling him ‘Give us our money back’. We want a real social policy.”

The wrath of its traditional supporters will do nothing to encourage Francois Hollande’s Socialist Party in the run-up to Europe’s big vote.