1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Softened tone

October 17, 2011

In the wake of massive protests across Europe and the world against the financial sector, EU leaders have said they understand the frustration and that greater financial regulation is necessary.

Herman Van Rompuy and Jose Manuel Barroso
Van Rompuy and Barroso both struck a softer toneImage: dapd

European Union leaders on Monday made conciliatory remarks in response to the weekend's global protests against corporate greed and unemployment, using the opportunity to push for stricter financial regulation.

"The concerns of those young people on growth and employment are totally legitimate," EU President Herman Van Rompuy told reporters after meetings with business and union leaders. "But our responsibility is to go through this unpopular period in order to safeguard a better future."

Hundreds of thousands of protesters, many of them youths, marched through cities across Europe, the United States, Latin America and Asia over the weekend in demonstrations sparked by the Occupy Wall Street protests in New York City.

Protesters at European Central Bank
Protests across Europe included one at the European Central Bank in FrankfurtImage: dapd

The protests were an expression of anger at the banking and financial sectors blamed for causing an economic crisis that has forced governments to cut budgets and roll back social welfare programs.

Van Rompuy said such budget cuts were an unfortunate necessity to restore confidence in European government debt, but he also said that austerity measures "must be as growth- and jobs-friendly as possible" and that the burden should not fall solely on the backs of the poor

EU-wide financial crimes

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso echoed Van Rompuy's sentiment, saying he could "very much understand the frustration and indignation of so many people in our societies."

The European Commission, the EU's executive branch, plans on introducing legislation on Thursday that would penalize insider trading and market manipulation with fines or jail time across the 27-country bloc.

"Some of the behavior you have seen in the financial sector was completely irresponsible, sometimes... of criminal nature," Barroso said, adding that the financial sector must "make a fairer contribution to the common good."

Merkel downplays summit expectations

Meanwhile, as about 200 people continued to camp outside the European Central Bank in Frankfurt, German Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman Steffan Seibert said the protests expressed "a legitimate demand for justice," but that they should not "place all the blame for the current financial crisis on the banks," when governments spending beyond their means were also to blame.

Euro coins over Greek flag
Lenders may be asked to take a greater loss on their Greek government bondsImage: dapd

Leaders of EU member states are to meet in Brussels on Sunday to discuss how to solve the bloc's debt crisis. They are expected to ask private lenders to take an even bigger loss on Greek government bonds, which have already lost 20 percent of their value under an agreement made in July.

Seibert sought to lower the expectations of the summit, saying the problem was too big to be solved quickly.

"Dreams that everything will be resolved and dealt with by next Monday cannot be fulfilled," Chancellor Mekel's spokesman said. "These are important steps on a long path, a path that will certainly continue far into next year."

Author: Andrew Bowen (AFP, dapd, dpa)
Editor: Mark Hallam