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Demonstrators Clash With Spanish Police Near EU Summit - 2002-03-15

Spanish riot police clashed with anti-globalization demonstrators in downtown Barcelona, as European Union leaders meeting in the city were wrestling with ways to revitalize the 15-nation bloc's economy and make it more competitive. The EU leaders and their counterparts from 13 countries that want to join the EU are also discussing such international issues as the Middle East and Zimbabwe.

Police wielding truncheons waded into a crowd of rock-throwing youths along Barcelona's main downtown artery and arrested at least 10 people for disrupting public order.

Demonstrators staged sporadic confrontations with police to protest what they see as the EU's pro-free market tendencies, just as the EU leaders were debating how fast they should open up national energy markets and make labor laws less stringent.

The violence came a day after 100,000 trade unionists marched through Barcelona to protest against undoing Europe's generous labor and social welfare legislation to enable EU countries to compete effectively with the more dynamic American economy.

Despite host Spain's push for a revitalization of ambitious economic reforms, especially in the energy sector, there is no chance that France will go along with the plan. President Jacques Chirac and his main rival in next month's presidential elections, Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, are both reluctant to offend powerful labor unions by allowing private firms to compete with the government-owned electric power monopoly.

The EU leaders are also expected to urge Israel to immediately pull all of its forces out of Palestinian areas. But Britain's top official for European affairs, Peter Hain, would only say that a statement on the Middle East is still being prepared.

"We're expecting an agreement that both sides be urged to take immediate and effective action to stop the bloodshed, and that the European Council will warmly welcome the adoption of the United Nations Security Council resolution 1397, which, for the first time, called for the recognition of a state of Palestine coexisting in peace and with security alongside the state of Israel, (which would also be) guaranteed its security," Mr. Hain said.

Mr. Hain said the leaders will also issue a tough statement condemning as invalid the recent election in Zimbabwe. He said they will ask their foreign ministers to consider hardening sanctions against Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe when they meet next month.