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Europe Eases The Austerity Whip _ A Little

"We refuse to add austerity to the recession," the minister, Pierre Moscovici, said.

The austerity rethink may come as cold comfort to millions of Europeans, especially those living in countries that received bailouts, such as Greece, Ireland and Portugal. These countries remain under pressure to keep spending levels down and continue unpopular tax hikes â¿¿ even as they battle recession.

The Greek economy is in its sixth year of recession and the unemployment rate there has reached 27 percent. Portugal's economy contracted 3.2 percent last year â¿¿ its severest annual downturn since 1975 â¿¿ and its unemployment rate is at a record 17.2 percent.

In Portugal, hundreds of thousands of people recently turned out at to protest austerity measures being implemented to meet the conditions of its bailout. The opposition Socialist Party leader said: "Are we emerging from the crisis? No, we're worse off than we were before."

___

AP writers Barry Hatton in Lisbon, Portugal, Juergen Baetz in Brussels, Elena Becatoros in Athens, Greece, and Sarah Di Lorenzo in Paris contributed to this report.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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