Workers take to the streets of Europe for May Day rallies | News | DW | 01.05.2012
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Workers take to the streets of Europe for May Day rallies

Workers across Europe and beyond gathered for May Day rallies on the international labor day. Among the issues to be highlighted were concerns about the effect the eurozone's sovereign debt crisis is having on workers.

Trade unions organized demonstrations across Europe and much of the rest of the world on Tuesday to mark the May 1 holiday.

In many countries the unions were expected to use the international workers' holiday to protest against government austerity programs introduced over the past couple of years in an effort to get to grips with spiralling public debt.

Among the countries expected to see the biggest demonstrations were Greece, Spain and Portugal, all of which have been hit hard by the eurozone's sovereign debt crisis. In the past, May Day protests in Athens in particular have been known to turn violent. The holiday comes less than a week before Greeks are to go to the polls in a general election.

Key day in French campaign

French voters will also be casting their ballots on Sunday - in the second round of the country's presidential election. Far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who took almost a fifth of the votes in last month's first round, used a rally to weigh in with her opinion on the run-off.

There had been speculation that she might advise her supporters to vote for either conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy or his Socialist challenger, Francois Hollande in the second round. However Le Pen declined to do so, telling her supporters instead to "vote according to your conscience." She said she personally would cast a protest vote in the form of a blank ballot.

Germany too has a long tradition of May 1 labor rallies. Although Europe's largest economy continues to perform well compared to many of its EU partners, the unions planned to use the demonstrations to highlight the effect the sovereign debt crisis is having on the country's workers.

The head of the German Federation of Trade Unions was expected to use the main rally in Stuttgart to call for fair wages and increased job security.

Vladimir Putin has already won Russia's presidential election. The current prime minister, who is to be sworn in next Monday, joined an estimated 100,000 people in a march through Moscow.

Earlier, May Day rallies were held in numerous Asian cities. Thousands took to the streets of Malaysia, Taiwan and the Philippines to demand higher wages.

pfd/ncy (dpa, EPD, AFP, AP)