Around 50 thousand trade union members marched across Brussels on Friday to protest against austerity measures. In response to the current financial crisis, the newly formed Belgian government agreed last week to cut public spending by 11 billion euros and to liberalise labour regulations. The new budget for 2012 has been described by trade unions as "unbalanced" and "unfair".
Frustration and anger were common feelings amongst the anti-austerity protesters, who feel that orders from the European Union are forcing national governments to adopt severe public cuts. "This government is directing its power towards the working class", they say.
The deal includes restrictions on early retirement age and cuts on public services. The budget was agreed after markets and the European Commission applied high pressure on the government, threatening Belgium with a 700 million euros fine if they didn't commit to severe reductions by Mid-December.
Despite the evident disappointment of Belgians, the demonstration passed off peacefully, with little police presence.
The protests come ahead of next-weeks Council summit, when European heads of state will gather in Brussels to discuss potential treaty changes in an attempt to solve the current sovereign debt crisis.