World Bulletin / News Desk
At least 21 people have been hospitalized in clashes between angry protesters and Belgian security forces when tens of thousands of people took to the streets in Brussels Thursday to react against country's austerity measures.
A tear gas and water-canon using police force intervened with the protesters when protests turned a violent turn with cars overturned and set alight and stones were thrown at security forces.
Organizers said about 100,000 people attended to what it can be described as one of the biggest anti-austerity rallies in Belgium but violence broke out as police have fired tear gas and water cannon on workers who marched in protest against government’s policies including raising the pension age, restricting wages and cutting public services.
Local media reports that about 50 protesters have been detained on Thursday however Belgian police refused to give out the exact number of the people arrested.
Belgium’s unions have called for a series of strikes every Monday, starting from Nov. 24, leading up to a general strike on Dec. 24.
Local transport company MIVB reported in a statement released on Thursday that subway, tram and bus lines were heavily disrupted as staff members joined the demonstration.
The protest also came on the day European media reported on an investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists which revealed Luxembourg has secretly been helping multinational corporations avoid tax, while much of Europe is undergoing government-imposed austerity measures under the label of "free-market reforms".
The protests, which came after 40,000 people demonstrated against labor reforms in April, was larger than organizers had anticipated.
Belgium’s new center-right, four-party coalition government under Prime Minister Charles Michel took office on Oct. 11, pledging to balance the national budget by 2018 by cutting about €8 million ($10 million) from the state budget and raising the retirement age from 65 to 67.
The linguistically divided country – which has French, Dutch and German speakers – is facing a slow-moving economy, which is expected to grow little more than one percent this year.
The demonstration comes amid heightened tensions within the European Union with the newly-elected President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, saying the 28-nation bloc "urgently" needs reinvestments.
Plans for a €300 billion investment package also come shortly after the U.K. was presented with a demand to pay at least €2 billion extra into the EU budget by Dec. 1, which has created a political storm in the country.Last Mod: 07 Kasım 2014, 12:03