Huge anti-austerity protests took place Saturday in Spain, Portugal and Italy while Greek voters prepare to have their say about the cost-cutting measures in a key vote Sunday.
The largest confederation of Portuguese workers (the CGTP) organized a rally in Lisbon to protest against the International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank and European Commission - the institutions that are enforcing austerity, which is strangling some southern European countries.
The confederation of Italian labor unions (CGIL ) organized protests to demand lower taxes for workers and retired people, more resources toward reducing unemployment, and more efforts by the government to catch tax evaders.
In Spain's capital Madrid, protesters rallied against government plans to save the country's leading bank, Bankia. Euro zone leaders last week approved a $125 billion loan to shore up Spain's leading banks which are in trouble, but warned of the need for economic reform.
Protesters said the government is more concerned with saving the country's financial systems than with easing austerity measures which hurt ordinary people.
Such loans usually carry an obligation on the part of the borrowing country to implement reforms and cut spending. Harsh economic measures have caused hardships and sparked anger and unrest in southern European countries.
In Greece, where the economic crisis is the worst, many voters have turned to the leftist parties who promise to do away with austerity. If the leftist coalition wins in the Sunday parliamentary election, Greece may be forced to exit euro zone, which would undermine Europe's common currency.
European leaders have urged Athens to fulfill the commitments it has made in exchange for a huge bailout loan and appealed to the voters for support.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy Saturday expressed hope that Greece will stay in the eurozone.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti urged Greek voters again Saturday to favor the parties that want Greece to stay in the euro zone.
In a speech in Bologna he hinted that some leeway may be offered to Greece so it can stay in the the euro zone.
Earlier in the day, Monti warned Italians that Italy also is on the verge of economic disaster and urged them to support his austerity plan.