As European austerity measures take shape, protests that have real economic impact and at times turn violent are erupting country-by-country.
In France, the response to the government’s plan to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62 has sparked nearly a week of national strikes and protests, causing major problems for airports, gas stations, public services and police forces.
With the French Senate set to vote on Wednesday on final changes to the pension system, scores of protesters are taking to the streets, clashing with police, shutting down schools and clogging transportation systems. Joining the protests are French youths who are thought to join the demonstrations for the opportunity to lash out at police. French President Nicolas Sarkozy has pledged to crack down on “troublemakers” to ensure that public order is guaranteed.
The majority of protests, which have been planned since September, are a direct result of the reduction in minimum retirement age, which is among the lowest in Europe.
Click ahead for scenes from the French protests.
By Paul Toscano and Florence Zaitoun
Posted 19 Oct 2010
Striking workers set a fire as they block the access of the National wholesale Market (MIN) of Lomme near Lille, northern France, early October 22.
A public school student clashes with anti-riot policemen, in Ajaccio, in the French Mediterranean island of Corsica, on October 22, 2010, after a new protest against French government pensions reforms.
Rail workers hold flares on October 21 in Paris as part of nationwide rallies against French government's pensions reform. More than a million people took to the streets two days before.
In a street of Marseille, parked motorcycles have been burnt following a garbage fire. The strike of rubbish collectors are part of the national protest against France's pension reform. At the time of this photo, the protests are on their eleventh day.
French gendarmes (armed police) walk inside the fuel depot at Fos-sur-Mer, on October 20, 2010 in Fos-sur-Mer southern France.
A third of France's filling stations ran dry on Tuesday, the government said, while cars were set on fire and shops were looted on the sidelines of protests that brought a million people into the street.
CGT union members of Marseille's public transport (RTM) block the entrance of the Capelette bus depot, on October 20, 2010, to protest against pensions reform in Marseille, southern France.
Some of the more violent and destructive demonstrations by fringe activists aiming to shut down negotiations altogether are thought to potentially undermine the less-violent protests staged by the unions.
French railway workers from state-run company SNCF gather on the railway tracks as they block the Clermont-Ferrand train station, on October 20.
High school students demonstrate on October 20, 2010, in front of the French Senate in Paris. The sign reads: 'Listen to the peoples' anger'.
French Youth run away from riot police forces during clashes on October 20, 2010 on the sideline of anti pensions reform protests in Lyon. Police cleared protestors blockading French fuel depots as the government warned of economic damage from prolonged strikes.
People demonstrate against the French government's pensions reform with the Eiffel tower in the background on October 19, 2010 in Paris.
Riot policemen hold a Flash-Ball during a clash in Nanterre on October 20, 2010, in Paris, France. In addition to general protests and strikes, students are attending demonstrations and have in some cases barricaded entrances to schools.
French workers and union members block a roundabout accessing Bordeaux's airport. Protests and strikes like these have caused the French aviaton authority to cut back on flights in the country.
People stand behind a giant banner hanging on a bridge in Marseille. The banner reads "Blockade, sabotage, unannounced strike, occupation, destruction, confinement, let's fight armed with all our rage"
Policemen disperse youth protestors next to a burning car, set on fire on October 18, 2010 in Nanterre outside Paris, on the sidelines of the strikes again the pension reform. During the protests, France activated an emergency government crisis cell charged with maintaining fuel supplies amid a strike that has shut down refineries and blocked petrol depots.
Firemen work after clashes between policemen and protesters outside Paris have turned destructive.
Car drivers line up to access a petrol station on the ring road of Nantes, western France, on October 19. President Sarkozy vowed to take action against strike shut-downs at all French oil refineries that have caused fuel shortages.
Youth protesters roll a giant recycling receptacle during a demonstration against France's government pensions reform on October 19 in Lyon. The latest mass protests against pensions reform in France drew 480,000 demonstrators into the streets by midday, a slight dip compared with the last comparable day of marches according to the government.
A banner reads 'for the right to retire at 60'.
High school students protect themselves from police tear gas during a demonstration in Lyon. Events such as this were sparked by students throwing rocks and other objects at police during their protests.
Large groups of people assembled in Lyon to protest reforms. The latest mass protest was estimated to have drawn 480,000 demonstrators at its height.
Young men loot a restaurant on October 19 in Lyon during a demonstration of high school students to protest against France's government pensions reform.
High school students walk past riot police as they demonstrate against France's government pensions in Lyon.
French police forces face French workers and union members blocking a roundabout accessing Bordeaux's airport in Merignac on October 19, 2010, southwestern France.
Riot police officers clear the Republic square blocked by high school students on October 19 at Place de la Republique in Paris.
Metallurgists workers demonstrate with flares on October 19 in Marseille, southern France.