At least six demonstrators were arrested after Belgium police broke up a demonstration at the headquarters of the European Union against a controversial pension plan, and more than 100 protesters were injured.
Police say the demonstrators were trying to block traffic on a motorway into Brussels after trying to visit the European Parliament to urge the EU to scrap a planned system of “double eligibility” for paid-for health care and pensions, whose costs will total nearly €1 trillion ($1.1 trillion) over the next 20 years. These measures were described by critics as “welfare cuts”.
Allies of Prime Minister Charles Michel and the Social Democratic Party (PDS) argue that the system, the latest of the EU’s many expansionary proposals to improve its finances since 2014, should only cover health care costs, not pensions. The idea of “double eligibility” has been criticized both in Europe and in the United States.
With the EU’s continued expansion, and the right-wing, nationalist right in power in countries like Poland and Hungary advocating austerity, the issue of how the EU should be run has grown even more divisive. Similar protests took place on Wednesday in France and Austria, with participants chanting “Yes, we’re poor, yes, we want equality.” The PDS’s socialist counterpart, Socialists and Democrats (S&D), has attacked the “double eligibility” plan as an example of “social dumping”.
Belgium’s Prime Minister Charles Michel, after the demonstrations, said: “I am surprised that the police intervened to disturb peaceful demonstrations of what we have called ‘solidarity marches’ in Brussels.”
“Covid, the pension system, needs to be adapted, but not those not related to pension – not the salaries of public employees.”
Read the full story at The Guardian.
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