Tens of thousands of people marched through Brussels on Wednesday on a day of protests across Europe against government austerity measures, which unions say will slow economic recovery and punish the poor.
Trade unions said they had called rallies in 13 capitals from Lisbon to Helsinki, while Spanish unions held a general strike to oppose measures such as spending cuts and pension and labor market reforms intended to stave off economic crisis, Reuters reports.
Ahead of Wednesday's strike, the Spanish government obtained agreements with labor unions on maintaining minimum transport and other basic services. These accords appeared to be broadly functioning, to the relief of the government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero.
Across Europe, many countries are struggling with the fallout from the economic crisis that saw their governments intervening to support banks that teetered toward collapse following risky investments beginning with the sub-prime mortgage market in the United States.
The spread of economic woes forced the European Union as a whole to arrange an emergency bailout for the Greek economy while Ireland, already reeling from a banking crisis that is threatening its financial credibility, suffered another setback last week when fresh data showed that its ailing economy shrank 1.2 percent in the second quarter, according to New York Times.