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Thousands march in Paris protesting European austerity

By Ansgar Haase –

PARIS — Thousands of left-wing protesters turned out Sunday in Paris for a demonstration against European austerity policies.

“This day is the day the French people launch a movement against the policy of austerity,” Left Front leader Jean-Luc Melenchon said at the march.

Organizers said more than 50,000 people were in attendance. Many of them were members of the Left Front, a coalition composed mainly of the Communist Party and the Left Party.

Protesters directed their anger toward the European Union’s agreement on budget discipline, which is due to be ratified by the French Parliament in the coming weeks. Many protesters demanded that a referendum be held on the treaty.

Rather than helping to deal with Europe’s long-running debt crisis, critics in France contend the pact will only worsen prospects for growth in the eurozone’s second-largest economy.

Sunday’s march was the first major rally since Socialist President Francois Hollande took office in May.

On Friday, Hollande, who promised in the presidential election to challenge the German-inspired insistence on austerity, proposed the toughest budget in 30 years, aiming to plug a $38 billion shortfall in the country’s finances for 2013.

Melenchon, who received 11 per cent of the vote in the presidential election, promised on Sunday that more protests would follow.

Parliament is to debate the EU fiscal agreement on Tuesday, with many politicians on the left — including some in Hollande’s party — promising to vote against it.

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