Continued from page 1

The Spanish strike shut down most schools, and hospitals operated with skeleton staffs. Health and education have suffered serious spending cutbacks and increased moves toward privatization.

Frustration spilled into violence when riot police clashed with demonstrators in Madrid and other Spanish cities. By early afternoon, 82 people had been arrested and 32 people treated for minor injuries.

In Italy, protests turned violent as well, with some of the tens of thousands of students and workers clashing with riot police in several cities. Dozens of demonstrators were detained and a handful of police were injured, according to Italian news reports.

In bailed-out Portugal, where the government intends to intensify austerity measures next year, the second general strike in eight months left commuters stranded as trains ground to a virtual halt and the Lisbon subway shut down.

Airports across Europe were forced to cancel flights to and from striking nations.

In Belgium, a 24-hour rail stoppage severely disrupted the Thalys and the Eurostar high-speed rail services – vital links that connect Brussels, London and Paris.

Philippe de Buck, chief of the EU employers’ federation Eurobusiness, said the strike would cost billions of euros and hurt Europe’s ability to attract investors.