Italy: 200,000 protest at EU summit in Rome

On Saturday 4 October, tens of thousands of people carrying flags and banners took to the streets of Rome in protest against the Europe of bankers and bosses. The Inter-governmental meeting of EU leaders to discuss the new European Constitution became the latest opportunity for Social Forum and Trade Union leaders to remind visiting premiers of the massive opposition among the working class and youth to a constitution that continues to favour the market at the expense of the ’social Europe’ of adequate welfare provision demanded by all.

There were two separate marches against the Constitutional Conference – one by the European Social Forum, the other organised by the European Trades Unions Confederation (the CES). On the trade union march, as well as members of the three big Italian trade unions, the CGIL, CISL and UIL, there were also representatives from Spain, Belgium, Germany, France and the CES itself. The Social Forum march, also of around 100,000, followed a route close to the Palace of Congresses where the inter-governmental meeting was being held.

Despite the tendency by the media to concentrate on the fringe violence that happened on the ‘No Global’ march, Social Forum leader Agnoletto and others were clearly confident that those marching outside the Conference were much more representative than those inside.

Not surprisingly the mood was buoyant on both marches as, more than ever before, people see the Berlusconi government in difficulty on every front. Even on a rather silly TV contest where the public was invited to say ’Basta’ (Enough!) to the person or group of their choice, the biggest number of ’Bastas’ went to ’Berlusconi and the politicians who talk and do nothing’!

Speakers on the marches rejected the proposed new European constitution which would make the EU even less democratic than it is at present and represents the latest attack on many of the social gains of the past. Obviously the pension and social security reform recently proposed by the government in Italy was attacked by all.

The fact that CISL and UIL had joined CGIL on the march was evidence of the importance of this issue. It was another reason for the mounting confidence felt by all workers as they prepare to take on the government on this issue, beginning with the 4-hour strike on October 24th.

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October 2003