Thousands in Paris denounce EU austerity
Updated: 2012-10-02 08:21
Tens of thousands of left-wing protesters took to the streets of Paris on Sunday to denounce European Union-driven austerity measures being pushed on member states, a day after similar protests in Spain and Portugal.
Thousands of protesters, including French politician Jean-Luc Melenchon (bottom 4th R), march through the streets of Paris against austerity plans, September 30, 2012. [Photo/Agencies]
Chanting "Resistance!" protesters marched through central Paris in a rally organizers said was aimed at fighting EU-imposed austerity, not at criticizing 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.
Melenchon denied the protest was aimed at Hollande, saying: "This is a left-wing demonstration under a left-wing government."
Organizers said 80,000 people took part in the rally. The Paris prefecture said that in keeping with its policy for demonstrations by political parties, it would not release an estimate.
"It was very successful, beyond our expectations," said Annick Coupe, a spokeswoman for the Solidaires union.
Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault is set 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 Radical Left Party, 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 unveiled a 2013 budget on Friday aimed at plugging the 37-billion-euro ($47 billion) hole in France's public finances through tax increases and spending cuts.