* EU finance ministers urge Lisbon to commit to more reform
* Finmins say austerity in Europe necessary to ensure growth
* Thousands of European workers protest against austerity
(Adds detail on protest, more comments)
By Marton Dunai
GODOLLO, Hungary, April 9 EU finance ministers
on Saturday urged Portugal to commit to reforms and defended the
region's austerity steps as tens of thousands of European
workers protested in Budapest against spending cuts.
Finance ministers and central bankers from the 27-nation
bloc held a second day of informal talks outside the Hungarian
capital on their response to the euro zone debt crisis after
Portugal on Wednesday became the third euro zone country to ask
for EU and IMF financial aid.
EU ministers said that in return for an estimated 80 billion
euros in emergency loans over three years, Lisbon would have to
commit to further structural reforms to bring down its budget
deficit and debt in a sustainable way.
"The rules are very clear. Whoever needs assistance by other
European member states and member states of the euro zone, he
has to deliver sustainable measures for reducing the deficits
because the deficits are the reason why they need help," German
Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble told reporters.
Some 30,000 people from all over Europe marched in central
Budapest in protest against austerity measures at a rally
organised by the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC).
Demonstrators blew horns and chanted slogans, one of which
read: "We want jobs! Create, do not abolish (jobs)!"
One of the demonstrators, Christian Guldentops from CNE, the
Christian Belgian trade union, told Reuters: "We are coming here
to say no to the plan of Angela Merkel, Nicolas Sarkozy, and to
the EU 's austerity plan."
John Monks, General Secretary of ETUC, said Europe should
not "panic" over high debts and said the cost of paying back the
debt for countries like Greece and Ireland was too high.
"If we're all in it together, then what are the banks, what
are the financial markets, what are the rich and comfortable
doing? We want the broadest shoulders to bear the heaviest
burden, not for the whole weight of the adjustment to fall on
the poor, the low paid, the unemployed ..."
FUTURE GROWTH IN FOCUS
European Union leaders agreed last month that all EU
countries would start consolidating budgets this year as Europe
seeks to reassure financial markets that its fiscal policies are
sustainable and draw a line under the year-long debt crisis.
Olli Rehn, the EU's Economic and Monetary Affairs
Commissioner told a news conference on Saturday that reducing
the debt burden was essential for future economic growth.
"In many countries we have unsustainable debt burdens and
therefore it is important also for the sake of economic growth
and economic dynamism to ensure that this consolidation can be
achieved with full determination and concrete results," he said.
Spanish Economy Minister Elena Salgado said growth and
deficit reduction were essential to ensure governments could
keep funding the welfare state.
"We know that the decisions that are being taken assume
efforts and are difficult. But (these decisions) are necessary
because we need to grow and we need to reduce our deficit to
keep funding the welfare state," Salgado told reporters.
"So, we understand their position (of trade unions) but we
would also like that they understand ours," she said.
But in the streets of Budapest protesters said the measures
devised by EU leaders would make workers in Europe poorer
instead of leading economies out of the crisis.
"These measures will take us back to the 1930s. They will
cut masses of people out of work -- the rich will become richer,
the poor will become poorer," said Fritz Keller from the
Austrian trade unions.
(Reporting by Ecofin team, writing by Jan Strupczewski, editing
by Susan Fenton)