World Bulletin / News Desk
Thousands of protesters marched through Paris on Sunday against a European fiscal pact, the first major display of public anger to face President Francois Hollande since his May election.
The march organised by the Left Front coalition drew trade unionists, far-left sympathisers and other opponents of the EU accord, two days before lawmakers start to debate a draft law of the budget pact in the lower house of parliament.
The budget discipline pact, which Hollande supports, is expected to pass in both houses of parliament thanks to support from Socialist lawmakers helped by advocates of fiscal discipline in the centre-right opposition.
But the vote has exposed rifts in Hollande's ruling coalition, with far-left allies and Greens planning to vote against it in a challenge to the increasingly unpopular Socialist leader's authority.
If Hollande has to rely on opponents to pass the pact, the vote could deepen the rift in his alliance and embolden left-wing allies seeking a change of course from strict adherence to European deficit targets.
"To him (Hollande), this vote was a formality that simply needed to be rushed through," said Jean-Luc Melenchon, a fiery leftist orator who ranked fourth in an April presidential vote.
"Now he will understand this is not the case, that in France and in the rest of Europe there is an organised opposition to this pact and to all austerity policies."
Wearing his signature red scarf, Melenchon marched at the head of protesters among giant banners bearing slogans such as "Francois Hollande, We Don't Want Your Treaty" and "In Greece and in France, Let's Fight Against Finance".
It was the latest in a series of protests across southern Europe this week as tens of thousands took to streets in Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal to voice their anger over hardship imposed by austerity policies.
For Hollande, the outcry from many people who voted him into power highlights the difficulty of pleasing a largely left-wing support base even as he shuns painful cuts to welfare programmes.
A 2013 budget unveiled on Friday shaves 30 billion euros off the public deficit, largely through tax increases on big businesses and the wealthy. But it avoids the type of painful austerity measures imposed elsewhere in Europe.
Efforts to preserve the generous public safety net have done little to preserve Hollande's approval rating, which has plummeted since his election, hitting a low of 43 percent in one poll last week.
"This treaty will considerably worsen the situation in the European Union and in France," said one protester, Pierre Khalfa. "We can already see that austerity policies in Europe are leading to recession, so we need to start a movement against these policies, which will lead our country into a wall."
Left Front organisers said some 40,000 people joined the Paris protest. Police declined to provide an estimate.
In a statement, it said this reduction in the tax burden would however lead to a slower drop in the public deficit this year, which it predicts will reach 2.5 percent of GDP -- still below the 3.0 percent limit set by the European Union.
Ryanair said it has agreed to pay the sum for a majority 75-percent holding in Vienna-based LaudaMotion from the former Formula One motor racing champion.
The tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index dropped 1.8 percent to close at 7,344.24.
CPI’s 12-month rate in February fell from 3 percent, official data reveals
Cement exports have gone up 6.9 percent to reach around 8 million tons, year-on-year, in 2017
BIST 100 rises 0.51 pct; USD/TRY exchange rate drops and EUR/TRY exchange rate stays
Of the major indices, Facebook weighed most heavily on the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index, which was down 0.9 percent to 7,411.34 about 20 minutes into trading.
Company to release new commercial and defense products, head of company says
EA19's exports and imports rise 9.1 percent and 6.3 percent, respectively, year-on-year in January
Micro Focus warned in a statement that year-on-year revenues had fallen by more than anticipated since January, sending its shares slumping 55.88 percent to 831.40 pence.
Economy minister: Ankara 'absolutely' against Russia's limit on number of companies importing Turkish tomatoes
Turkey's assets abroad climb 2.1 pct at end of January 2018, compared with end-2017, according to Turkish Central Bank
BIST 100 opens 0.04 pct lower, Turkish lira loses value against foreign currencies
Listed shares in BIST 100 rise 0.01 percent; US dollar/Turkish lira rate climbs over 3.90; EUR/TRY stands at 4.80
Turkey bridges Muslim world and West, according to General Council for Islamic Banks and Financial Institutions
Britain intends to seek free trade deals with its major trading partners once it leaves the EU, as planned, in March 2019.