Thousands on Paris streets to denounce EU ‘austerity’ pact

Thousands of left-wing protesters took to the streets of Paris on Sunday to denounce the European Union fiscal pact forcing governments to stick to tough deficit limits.

By (AFP)

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Published: Sun 30 Sep 2012, 8:28 PM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 1:44 PM

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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