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General strike in Belgium as EU leaders arrive in Brussels

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General strike in Belgium as EU leaders arrive in Brussels
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Coinciding with the EU summit in Brussels, Belgium’s first general strike in almost 20 years has brought much of the country to a standstill.

Production at car manufacturers Audi and Volvo has stopped as workers protest austerity plans proposed by a government hoping to save 11.3 billion euros.

Standing outside an Audi plant, leader of the socialist FGTB union Ben Ali said: “We are afraid because it won’t be the last austerity plan. We hear of more plans coming up. This is why we are here. They are targeting the retirement benefits, the early retirement benefits, unemployment benefits and time credit.”

Transport has been hit the hardest with the entire rail network closed. High-speed international trains running in and out of Belgium, like Eurostar, stopped on Sunday evening.

Many low-cost operators had their flights cancelled because of a plan by protesters to block the access road leading to Charleroi Airport.

Some European leaders arriving for the Brussels meeting will have to use Zaventem military airport.