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Thursday, 14 March, 2002, 15:38 GMT
Protesters rally in Barcelona
Demonstrators from a French trade union
Protesters have travelled to Barcelona from across Europe
Tens of thousands of trades unionists have demonstrated in Barcelona ahead of the European Union summit which starts on Friday.

Protesters demanding full employment and social rights marched the streets in a demonstration called by the Confederation of European Trade Unions, with representatives from across the 15 EU countries.

They also carried placards with slogans denouncing liberalisation in the energy and transport sectors - an issue to be addressed by ministers at the summit.

It was the first in a series of demonstrations planned over the next three days. The vast majority of protesters say they intend to voice their concerns peacefully, but there are fears about violent protest as well.

Multiple concerns

The Spanish police are taking no chances. More than 8,000 are on duty around the summit venue, which is protected by a huge metal fence.

Police check drains
Sewers are being regularly checked for bombs
An exclusion zone has been declared, and road and transport links nearby have been closed.

The authorities are not thought to be overly concerned with the trades union protest, but with the activities of a loose network of anti-capitalist groups whose members have arrived in Barcelona from across Europe and beyond.

The prospect that Basque Separatist group ETA may try to disrupt events in the city is also being taken seriously by the police.

A senior security official told the BBC that the image of the summit closed off from the world is not a good one, but he insisted there was a responsibility to allow Europe's elected leaders to meet in safety.

The summit is supposed to be discussing economic reform, and efforts to make the European economy more competitive.

The Spanish authorities hope it will not be overshadowed by events on the streets.

See also:

13 Mar 02 | Business
Barcelona's reform agenda
14 Mar 02 | Sci/Tech
Europe lags in internet race
13 Jul 01 | Europe
Flashback to summit flashpoints
21 Jul 01 | Europe
Who are the Genoa protesters?
15 Jun 01 | Europe
Gothenburgers count the cost
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