News / Europe

G20 Protesters Demand End to Rich Tax Havens

French gendarmes stand near an anti G20 demonstrator who takes part in protest against globalization and tax havens, at the French-Monaco border in Cap d'Ail, southeastern France, November 3, 2011.
French gendarmes stand near an anti G20 demonstrator who takes part in protest against globalization and tax havens, at the French-Monaco border in Cap d'Ail, southeastern France, November 3, 2011.
Lisa Bryant

As G20 leaders seek ways to grow the global economy and stop the spreading Greek financial crisis during a two-day summit in France, thousands of protesters are staging meetings and demonstrations near the Riviera resort of Cannes.

It's a short march to the border of the affluent, and tax-free, principality of Monaco, past luxurious hilltop mansions overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. The scenery here offers a perfect backdrop for the latest demonstration against the G20 summit. Several-hundred activists took part, demanding an end to tax havens for the rich.

The protesters come from around the world.  Eran Hakim, 27, flew in from Israel. He hopes leaders of the Group of 20 leading economies meeting in nearby Cannes will listen to their message.

"We see inequality going higher and higher inside countries and between countries. They are [the G20 leaders] managing it, they're responsible. I do not think they will change it, but I am saying that we want it to be changed," said Hakim.

Global movement

Nellini Stamp took a break from the ongoing Occupy Wall Street protests in New York to join this one in the French Riviera.

"I think it is great because it shows international solidarity, because it is a global economic crisis, so you have to have a global movement, which is happening," said Stamp.

G20 leaders are trying to contain the latest crisis at hand, as the Greek government borders on collapse over a planned referendum on a European bailout deal and popular anger in Greece mounts over tough austerity measures.

Message: people first

French Greens Party presidential hopeful Eva Jolie, who joined the demonstrators, argues Athens and other governments are mishandling the situation.

"If there were not tax evasion, tax havens, the states would be better off," said Jolie. "To ask the Greek people, who are not rich, the salaries are very low, the retirements are very low, some 400 euros or 600 euros a month [$550 - $900], to lower that by 20 percent is not realistic."

The G20 protesters embrace a range of causes. But their overall message this week, through demonstrations, workshops and debates, is that summit leaders should put people first, not financial markets.

As heads of state dine on France's famous cuisine tonight, these protesters are holding a more modest 'alternative banquet' in step with the hard economic times.

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