Thousands of workers from all over Europe gather in Belgium to call on democratic forces to create a more social and sustainable EU over the next five years.
The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) organized Friday a rally for "A fairer Europe for workers" in Brussels, Beligium to alert Europeans about the need to prevent the advance of far-right parties in the next European Parliament elections set for the end of May.
“This year’s European elections are the most important in decades,” the ETUC Secretary General Luca Visentini said and added that “we are calling for all citizens to vote and to vote for candidates and parties that will fight for a fairer Europe for working people. Do not be fooled by far-right, anti-European and sovereignist parties. They offer no solution to the problems facing working people today,” Visentini told the press.
The workers' march began at the European Parliament in Luxemburg Square and moved towards the European Council. Protesters came from all over Europe, including Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Hungary, Slovenia, Austria, Estonia and Switzerland, reports local media.
“We've come here because we want to say Europe is not only for those who have money,” the German Union IG Metall representative Rolf Winkler said. He stressed: “Europe is for all people, not only for companies, but for employees."
In the next European elections, which will be held between May 23 and May 26, citizens will have to choose 705 representatives, down from 751 because of the Brexit debacle. According to the French media RFI, the European far-right could achieve "a fifth of the seats or even more." Among the main far-right parties are the Marine Le Pen's National Regroup (RN) from France, Matteo Salvini's Italian League, and the Alternative for Germany (AfD).
According to the protest leaders, preventing the far-wing politicians from controlling the European institutions is necessary to reach more socially-oriented policies, such as quality jobs and higher wages and pensions and transitions to low carbon energy.
“We need a better and more social Europe, not less Europe, a Europe with democratic values. The far-right, anti-Europeans and nationalists are on the rise in many countries. The European Parliament to be elected in May can either join a race to the bottom with tax and wage competition, and social dumping, or it can make the EU a better place to live and work," an ETUC press release announced.
Among the participating organizations was the European Trade Union Committee for Education (ETUCE), which had urged all of its affiliated organizations to get involved so as to “make the voice of teachers heard," ETUCE Director Susan Flocken said.
Their participation is directly linked to their campaign "Shaping the future of Europe with teachers" which, in the context of the European Parliament elections, aims to raise awareness of the challenges facing education staff and to reject the privatization and commercialization of education.
"Our message is clear. We need a social Europe. Since its creation, Europe has been oriented towards finance, towards capital... That's why we are gathered today," said Secretary-General Philippe Martinez of the French union, General Confederation of Labor.