Arrests, tear gas and widespread anger as protesters across Europe join a general strike against austerity in Spain, Greece, Portugal and elsewhere.

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Co-ordinated action is taking place in Portugal, Greece, the European Union capital Brussels, and other European cities for what has been called a "European Day of action".

Some of the most violent protests have taken place in Spain, where police used tear gas against demonstrators in Madrid. Police have made 42 arrests across the country. At the same time, transport hubs have been shut, flights grounded, and schools closed to protest against spending cuts and tax hikes.

Spaniards are furious at banks being rescued with public cash while ordinary people are suffering. One in four workers in Spain is unemployed.

These measures, far from restoring confidence, are only aggravating imbalances and creating injustices. ETUC statement

Spanish banks have received financial assistance from the European Union, and Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is now under pressure to ask for a full European bailout, something that could require even more EU-mandated budget cuts.

In France, several thousand people have been demonstrating in the southern port city of Marseille in the first of several dozen expected anti-austerity protests. In Poland, trade unions activists are staging protests in the country's major cities in solidarity with the European wave of demonstrations.

The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) said in a statement: "The ETUC strongly opposes the austerity measures which are plunging Europe into economic stagnation, recession, and dismantling the European social model.

"These measures, far from restoring confidence, are only aggravating imbalances and creating injustices."

Greece and Spain have been blighted by protests since austerity measures began to take hold.

Flight cancellations

The action has lead to five departures and five arrivals being cancelled at Gatwick. More than 600 flights have been cancelled in Spain.

A spokesman for Gatwick said services between the UK and Lisbon, Porto and Madrid were affected. Heathrow Airport said 12 flights have been cancelled as a result of the austerity strikes.

"British Airways flights travelling both to and from the continent are affected," a spokesman added.

"Passengers due to travel today are advised to contact their airlines for the information."

Southampton, Luton, Stansted and Birmingham airports said no services are yet to be affected by the strikes.