No domestic or international rail services are running in Belgium today. The strike has shut down all tram, subway and bus services in Brussels. Public workers protesting government reforms to pensions held a similar one-day strike last month, paralyzing public transport across the country.
Many schools and shops shut and production at the Audi and Volvo car plants stopped. Charleroi Airport, a hub for Ryanair and other low-cost carriers, was forced to cancel all flights due to union plans to block the access road.
At the port of Antwerp, Europe's second busiest, all container and some bulk cargo terminals were shut, with shipping traffic suffering delays due to suspended harbour services.The walkout coincides with the 17th EU summit in two years as the bloc battles to resolve its sovereign debt problems. The EU leaders will sign off on a permanent rescue fund for the Eurozone and are expected to agree on a balanced budget rule in national legislation.Unions have called the general strike over government plans to raise the effective retirement age along with other measures designed to save 11.3 billion euros.