Tuesday

28th Feb 2017

Up to three million march in French mass protest

In a record turn-out, as many as three million people hit the streets in France on Thursday (19 March) to protest against the government's economic policies in response to the global crisis, according to union estimates. The numbers were closer to 1.2 million, say the police.

The country's airports, trains, schools and public transport were disrupted by the mass demonstration - the second general strike faced by France in two months.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The event mobilised more people than the similar one in January when between one and two million people protested in France's cities.

The country's eight main trade unions, who had called for the protests, demanded that the government react.

"I cannot believe the government will stay immobile in the face of a phenomenon of this size," Bernard Thibault of the General Labour Confederation said on state television France 2.

"If things continue like this, the marches will get bigger," Bernard van Craeynest, the leader of trade union CFE-CGC, was reported as saying by Le Monde.

Representatives of the opposition were also participating in the protests.

"It is important that the government changes its economic, social and fiscal policy," Paris' Socialist mayor Bertrand Delanoe said.

For his part, French Prime Minister Francois Fillon defended his government's actions and ruled out any new economic recovery plan in France at this stage, saying it should first be clear what the effects of the €26 billion plan announced in December are.

"Mobilisation [in the streets] will not solve the problems of the world crisis," Mr Fillon said.

EU-wide problem

The French protests come as unemployment reached eight percent in the country, and new figures published on Friday by the National Institute for Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE) say the number of jobless people will reach 8.8 percent by the end of the first half of 2009.

The institute also forecasts a "prolongation of the recession" in the first half of this year in France, saying GDP will shrink by up to 1.5 percent in the first quarter alone – its worst drop since 1975.

Meanwhile, strikes have been taking place in other EU countries as well, including Italy. A major demonstration is also to be organised by unions, NGOs and charities on 28 March in London, ahead of the G20 meeting on 2 April, to call on global leaders to "put people first," Le Figaro reports.

EU premiers and presidents, gathered for a two-day summit ending on Friday in Brussels, are expected to declare in a final document that the "rapid increase of unemployment is central to our concerns."

The Czech Republic, currently at the helm of the EU's six-month rotating presidency, has also called a social affairs summit in Prague on 7 May, aiming to tackle the social consequences of the economic crisis.

On Thursday, John Monks, secretary-general of the European Trade Union Confederation's (ETUC), called on the EU to be "ambitious" and adopt "a new social deal" at this summit.

Dutch plan global fund for safe abortion

The Dutch want to lead efforts to make up the shortfall in aid for safe abortions around the world, after Donald Trump announced the US would not fund such projects.

EU to tighten rules on social benefits

EU citizens working away from their home countries will face tougher hurdles if they need to claim benefits, under plans from the commission.

Europeans still blaming women for rape

One in four Europeans think rape can be justified in certain circumstances, while one in five say violence against women is often provoked by the victim.

Column / Health Matters

The yin and yang of Chinese medicine

Can traditional Chinese medicine help the modern European patient? Malta thinks so, in a new agreement with China.

Visual Data

EU farming policy: The damage done by 20 years of inertia

The EU Commission will ask the public later this week how the common agricultural policy should be overhauled. Data from the past two decades reveals a catalogue of missed chances and failed reforms.

News in Brief

  1. Le Pen party in new EU fraud allegations
  2. May to end rights of EU nationals after Article 50 triggered
  3. Nato warns against Armenia-Azerbaijan 'escalation'
  4. EU: No military solution to Nagorno-Karabakh war
  5. EU adopts visa-free brake mechanism
  6. Trump and Brexit drew on same resources
  7. Romanian protestors form EU flag at anti-government rally
  8. Over 3,500 attacks on refugees in Germany: report

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFA Deadly Journey for Children: The Migration Route From North Africa to Europe
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsFreedom of Association and Expression Under Threat in Kazakhstan
  3. QS World MBA TourMeet with Leading International Business Schools in Brussels on March 6th
  4. EURORDISJoin Rare Disease Day and Help Advocate for More Research on Rare Diseases
  5. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceStudents Who Are Considered Fit Get Better Grades in School
  6. QS World MBA TourMeet with Leading International Business Schools in Paris on March 4th
  7. Malta EU 2017Economic Governance: Agreement Reached on Structural Reform Support Programme for Member States
  8. Socialists & DemocratsWomen Have to Work Ten Years Longer to Match Lifetime Earnings of Men
  9. Counter BalanceTrans-Adriatic Pipeline Is a Major Risk for Banks, Warns New Analysis
  10. Martens CentreEU and US Migration Policies Compared: Join the Debate on February 28th
  11. Swedish EnterprisesTechnology and Data Flows - Shaping the Society of Tomorrow
  12. UNICEFNearly 1.4 Million Children at Risk of Death as Famine Looms Across Africa and Yemen