Chanting ‘Resistance!’, protesters marched through central Paris in a rally organisers said was aimed at fighting EU-imposed austerity, not at criticising the government of Socialist President Francois Hollande.
‘This day is the day the French people launch a movement against the policy of austerity,’ one-time presidential contender and Left Front leader Jean-Luc Melenchon said at the march, which organisers said gathered more than 50,000 people.
Melenchon denied the protest was aimed at Hollande, saying: ‘This is a left-wing demonstration under a left-wing government.’
Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault is to open what is expected to be a long and difficult debate on the fiscal pact in the National Assembly on Tuesday.
The pact, agreed by EU leaders in March, requires its signatories to write into law a commitment to limit structural deficits to within 0.5 percent of gross domestic product under normal circumstances.
Many on the French left — including within the Socialists and their Green Party allies — have said they will vote against the measure, but with right-wing deputies backing the pact it is expected to be approved.
Speaking to deputies from the left-wing PRG party on Sunday, Ayrault said approving the pact would be an ‘essential step’ in resolving the debt crisis threatening the eurozone and its single currency.
‘Francois Hollande and I will never take the responsibility... of making the euro disappear,’ he said. ‘The future of the eurozone is at stake.’
Hollande’s government on Friday unveiled a 2013 budget aimed at plugging the 37-billion-euro hole in France’s public finances through tax rises and spending cuts.
About 1,500 people also protested against austerity measures in Brussels, police said, in a demonstration called by left-wing groups and unions.
The protest was aimed at pushing for measures in Belgium and Europe ‘to fight against poverty and share prosperity equally,’ the CSC union said.
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