- France - Nicolas Sarkozy - strike
REUTERS - Students demonstrating against government education reforms clashed with police in Strasbourg on Thursday as a protest movement gained momentum at universities across the country.
President Nicolas Sarkozy has pledged to press ahead with his plans for social and economic change but he was forced to postpone some secondary school reforms after violent protests in December raised fears that Greek riots could spread to France.
During a visit by Higher Education Minister Valerie Pecresse to the eastern city of Strasbourg, some 1,600 students and lecturers protested and some started throwing objects at the police, who responded by firing teargas at the protesters.
The protests target a range of reforms, including budget and job cuts at universities as well as plans to introduce performance appraisals for researchers and lecturers.
The government has said it wants to make French universities more efficient and competitive, for example by giving them greater freedom to choose their own students and tap private companies for funding.
Trade unions have called for an open-ended strike at universities and demonstrations in more than 20 French cities on Thursday, to be followed by nationwide protests next week.
Socialist leader Martine Aubry said she would join one of the demonstrations and demanded that the reforms be suspended.