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From The Socialist newspaper, 19 May 2010

Initiative for a week of European-wide protests

ON THE initiative of Socialist Party (Ireland) MEP Joe Higgins, an appeal letter (extract below) has been issued by members of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) in the European Parliament to the trade union and labour movement throughout Europe, to coordinate protests against government austerity cuts during the week of 21 to 26 June.
Dear friends,

It is clear that the massive financial package agreed at the weekend (by EU ministers on 8/9 May) will only increase the pace of attacks on working people, young people and pensioners that is taking place across Europe.

At this stage, Greek workers, in particular are in the front line of these attacks. They face a 10% cut in wages and spending in the public sector, an increased retirement age, VAT increases and the freezing of pensions. But workers in Portugal, Spain, Ireland and Italy have also faced and continue to face severe attacks on their living standards.

It is also clear that these attacks will not be confined to workers in the so-called "peripheral" European economies - workers in all of the countries across Europe are set to have pension rights further eroded, downward pressure on wages, cutbacks in social services and social welfare as well as the continuation of large-scale unemployment.

These attacks are also combined with a poisonous attempt to divide workers along national lines. This has been particularly evident in the media in Germany and many other countries. Lies about the conditions of workers in Greece are spread to create the impression that ordinary Greeks are responsible for the crisis in their country and must pay the price.

For example, contrary to the myth of lazy Greek workers retiring early, the average retirement age in Greece is 61.4 years, higher than the European average!

The Greek workers have demonstrated a heroic willingness to struggle against these attacks in the last weeks. Portuguese and Spanish workers have indicated the same willingness to fight.

We now feel that there is a need for an active joint response across Europe - to cut across the attempts to divide workers and to give people confidence to fight back. We propose to initiate a 'week of protest and solidarity' for the 21 to 26 June. What we envisage is political parties, trade unions, social movements and activists coming together and discussing holding a major protest in their country in that week.

The purpose is to proclaim that Left and social organisations reject the policy that it is working people who must pay for the crisis, that we demand an end to the dictatorship of the markets, demand that the financial institutions are taken into public ownership and we declare that European workers stand together in solidarity.

We understand of course that the details and precise slogans will have to be worked out to take into account the political situation in the country where the protests take place. However, we propose that the following basic demands could form the basis of the discussion across Europe:

We feel that successful co-ordinated protests in the week of 21 to 26 June would have a major impact and send a clear message to the European establishments. It would assist the struggles of workers in the various European countries and be a vital step in building a European-wide resistance to the ongoing neo-liberal agenda.

Yours in solidarity,
MEPs Joe Higgins (Socialist Party - Ireland), Nikolaos Chountis (Syriza - Greece), Søren Bo Søndergaard (Folkebevægelsen mod EU - Denmark), Eva-Britt Svensson (Left Party - Sweden), Kyriacos Triantaphyllides (AKEL - Cyprus), Marisa Matias (Bloco de Esquerda - Portugal), Miguel Portas (Bloco de Esquerda - Portugal), Rui Tavares (Bloco de Esquerda - Portugal), Jean-Luc Mélenchon (Député Front de Gauche).

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In The Socialist 19 May 2010:

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