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Tens of thousands of protesters take to the street across Southern Europe in May Day anti-austerity rallies;

02 May 2012

Trade unions in Greece, Portugal, Spain, Italy and France used the traditional May Day marches to protest against the austerity measures being imposed by their respective governments. Spain’s two biggest trade unions organised rallies in 60 different cities, and pledged more strikes over the next months unless the government reverses labour market reforms.

Despite poor attendance, isolated clashes broke out between protestors and the police at Athens’ May Day rally. The Guardian notes that opinion polls credit the fascist Golden Dawn party, which has campaigned against immigration and the EU-IMF bailouts, with 5% of votes. The party could secure up to a dozen seats in parliament. Kathimerini reports that the head of the Hellenic Chamber of Hotels, Giorgos Tsakiris, has warned that Greek GDP could shrink by up to 2-3% by the end of the year, due to a sharp fall in tourism revenues.

Süddeutsche
reports that according to German government sources, negotiations are under way to boost the capital of the European Investment Bank by €10bn, a move which would allow the EIB to issue around €60bn in loans.
Repubblica Welt Süddeutsche FAZ Welt Times Le Monde EurActiv Irish Times IHT Guardian Les Echos EUobserver Kathimerini FT FT 2 WSJ El País El País 2 Les Echos CityAM Guardian Les Echos Les Echos 2 Les Echos 3 Les Echos 4

SPD Chairman: Merkel and CDU “smearing” Hollande over ‘fiscal treaty’
Merkel: Growth can be delivered without expensive stimulus packages

In an interview with Die Welt, SDP Chairman Sigmar Gabriel has strongly criticised Chancellor Angela Merkel over her handling of the eurozone debt crisis and treatment of French Socialist Presidential candidate Francois Hollande, claiming that “Hollande is the victim of a smear campaign by the CDU, FDP and the Chancellor herself… Of course [Merkel] knows that it is untrue that Hollande wants to revoke the fiscal treaty and create endless debt”.

In an interview with Hamburger Abendblatt, Chancellor Merkel argues that the fiscal treaty represented a cross-party consensus in Europe that an “ever-growing mountain of debt left to future generations” was not sustainable. Merkel also argued that “It is important we let go of the idea that growth always has to cost more money and result in expensive stimulus programs. Sustainable growth is based more on education and research, the innovation potential of small and medium-sized enterprises, on reasonable wages, and especially on the opening of labour markets”.
Telegraph Bloomberg Welt Hamburger Abendblatt FAZ FAZ: van Altenbockum

Le Pen to spoil ballot;
Sarkozy intensifies appeal to far-right amidst internal criticism
At the Front National’s May Day rally yesterday, Marine Le Pen confirmed that she would spoil her ballot in the second round of the French elections on Sunday. She gave no voting instructions to her supporters. The far-right leader denounced the two candidates, stating that “on May 6 it is not a president who is to be elected, but a simple employee of the ECB…charged with applying the Commission’s decisions without questioning them”.

Le Pen’s announcement came despite concerted UMP efforts to court the FN vote. French President Nicolas Sarkozy appeared on radio station RMC yesterday, during which he claimed that there were too many immigrants in France. Sarkozy used the UMP’s May Day rally as an opportunity to stress his commitment to France’s “values, identity and the frontiers than protect us”. Meanwhile, socialist candidate Francois Hollande has called for Sarkozy’s defence minister Gerard Longuet to resign, after the latter penned an article in far-right weekly Minute, claiming that the UMP could enter into a “dialogue” with Marine Le Pen. UMP secretary-general Jean-Francois Cope told Le Figaro this morning that “there has never been and there never will be a [UMP] alliance with the far-right”, and maintained that the party united “centrists, liberals and Gaullists”.

Hollande and Sarkozy will appear in the only televised debate before Sunday’s elections tonight, widely perceived as Sarkozy’s last chance to convince voters. The latest BVA poll places Hollande on 53.5%, ahead of Sarkozy on 46.5% this morning. The poll indicates that just 11% of voters would reconsider their decision based on tonight’s debate.
Times Le Monde BBC Independent IHT Le Figaro Corriere della Sera Irish Independent Telegraph Telegraph: Brogan Telegraph EUobserver  Guardian Le Monde 2 Le Monde 3 Comment is Free: Guardian Le Monde 4 Liberation Liberation 2 FT: Kay Le Monde 5 Le Monde 6 Les Echos Les Echos 2 Les Echos 3 Le Monde 7

Ruparel: Recession in the Eurozone reminds us why economic reform is so vital
Writing in City AM, Open Europe’s Raoul Ruparel argues that, “austerity has become a dirty word, but this masks the wider failings of individual government policies and is a diversion from the collective challenge of keeping the Eurozone intact.” Raoul notes that there are three key reasons why this ‘austerity bashing’ is an oversimplification: there is much more going on in these economies than just austerity (which has in most places just started), the past decade has seen a huge credit expansion and so deleveraging is a must and the underlying debate is not over growth and austerity but tackling the structural causes of the crisis.

Raoul concludes, “A singular focus on austerity is not desirable but woolly talk of growth only helps to further distort the debate. Addressing the real structural problems in the Eurozone will ultimately be the only way to find a desirable balance between fiscal consolidation and growth. Once again avoiding some necessary short-term pain could be detrimental to the Eurozone as a whole in the long term.”
CityAM: Ruparel

Dutch populist politician and leader of the PVV party, Geert Wilders has said he will now campaign for the Netherlands to exit the EU, ahead of Dutch elections on 12 September. He told Dutch national broadcaster NOS , "we can be a member of the European Economic Area just as Norway, or of the European Free Trade Association, as Switzerland”.
EUobserver NOS Elsevier

EU finance ministers will today discuss a proposed compromise deal on bank capital rules. The deal would see banks taking on a 7% core capital requirement with an additional 3% leeway to be decided by member states, potentially marking a victory for the UK.
EUobserver IHT Le Figaro El País FT EurActiv

Figures released by Germany’s Federal Labour Agency show that unemployment in the country has fallen to below 3 million.
Welt Süddeutsche FAZ

Germany and the US yesterday increased pressure on the Ukraine, following claims that former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has been mistreated in jail. European leaders warned they will boycott the 2012 European Championships next month if the human rights situation did not improve. Officials in Germany said the country was ready to replace Ukraine as co-host of the tournament.
Times

Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty explains in the Telegraph why Canada has decided not to contribute to the latest IMF fundraising, arguing that all countries should be treated equally and that solving the eurozone crisis needs “more than incrementalism and wishful thinking”.
Telegraph: Flaherty

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