EU expects more Portugal austerity as unions march in protest

Thousands of European trades union members demonstrated against austerity measures as EU finance ministers closed a two-day meeting in Hungary that confirmed Portugal was next in line for tough spending cuts.

Thousands of people marched in Budapest to protest against EU austerity measures on behalf of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) on Saturday, April 9.

ETUC estimated the turnout of European workers at about 40,000. They were in Budapest to protest against EU-driven reforms to cut state spending and to make wages and pensions more competitive, as part of a bid to trim governments' growing deficits.

"We want jobs, growth, our welfare state intact, and we are not going to pay for bankers' mistakes," ETUC general secretary John Monks told the crowd.

The protest came as EU finance ministers and central bankers from the 27-nation bloc gathered for a second day of informal talks on the response to the ongoing eurozone difficulties underlined by Portugal's request for an EU bailout.

As part of the 80 billion-euro ($115-billion) bailout deal, the EU is asking Portugal to commit to further financial reforms in order to bring its budget deficit and debt into more sustainable territory.

The ministers have defended the need for painful austerity measures despite the protests.

"People must understand that we are not making savings to make people angry, we are making savings in order to pay for our social policies," said Luxembourg's Luc Frieden.

Germany's trade minister said that today’s governments have to implement tough measures if they didn’t want to abdicate their "responsibility to future generations."

"What we are doing is to work for a sustainable framework for growth. For sustainable growth, a stable currency is a pre-condition, and [so are] stable budgets," Wolfgang Schäuble told reporters.

Spanish Finance Minister Elena Salgado said it was "normal" for trade unions to protest against budget consolidation measures, "but I think from the governments' [side] what we have to say is that ... they are necessary."

According to European Commission estimates from November, deficits in the EU are expected to fall from 6.8 percent in 2010 to 5.1 percent of gross domestic product in 2011, against an EU-recommended limit of 3 percent.

Author: Stuart Tiffen (dpa, AFP)
Editor: Toma Tasovac

 DW-World.De, Sat Mar 9 2011

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