The Latin American Herald Tribune reports, “Some 10,000 demonstrators congregated around midday in Brussels’ European Union Quarter, where the heads of state of government of the 28-nation bloc will meet on Thursday and Friday. …Marches by demonstrators early Thursday clogged this capital’s main thoroughfares, especially those leading to the neighborhood where the headquarters of several EU’s institutions are located. Belgian police opted to close several streets and tunnels to avert traffic chaos in the city, while authorities have urged people to use public transport and avoid driving or even walking in the area affected by the protests.”
“The demonstrators belong to 50 citizens’ groups and labor organizations that have united under the ‘Alliance D19-20’ banner (referring to the dates of the summit) to protest EU-wide austerity measures and euro-area economic coordination imposed by Brussels. Austerity measures favored by Germany and other northern European countries are deeply unpopular and viewed as counter-productive in other parts of the eurozone, particularly among workers in Spain and Greece, which are struggling with sky-high unemployment rates.”
“Demonstrators also oppose a proposed U.S.-EU free trade and investment agreement currently being negotiated in Washington, saying the talks are being held in secret and without the consent of the general public. They say EU economic-coordination and budget agreements and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) will have a negative impact on European workers’ quality of life.”
The Wall Street Journal notes, “Protestors used tractors to block main routes into the city, starting at 7.00 a.m. local time. They also tweeted pictures of bonfires on Rue Belliard, one of the main streets close to the European Council building. ‘The idea is to block access to the European summit,’ said Nic Goertz, a spokesman for the protesters.”
And Euronews adds, “‘They are pursuing policies for big business, the big bosses, whereas we need all that money for the people. If we don’t fight we’ll be adopting the German model, where the situation of young people, having to work for little jobs, will always be precarious,’ said Stephane, a student. …’What we see in countries with very strong austerity like in Greece, Portugal or in Spain, is that debt goes up, the deficit goes up, so does unemployment and the number of suicides. It’s economic poison,’ said Felipe Van Keirsblick from the CNE trade union representing private sector employees.”
Council of Canadians trade campaigner Stuart Trew has commented, “The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, like the proposed Canada-EU deal, will include strongly worded and enforceable chapters on investment protection, food and health regulations, market access, procurement, state-owned enterprises, etc, but cosmetic filler on environmental protection, labour rights, and the ‘right to regulate.’ Reading the tea leaves, U.S. and European social justice and environmental groups have registered their concerns and will line up against the deal once it becomes obvious their concerns have been ignored.”
A report on the impact of austerity measures on the human right to water has been produced collectively by groups in Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Bulgaria in collaboration with the Blue Planet Project.