Anti-austerity demonstrators clashed with police in Spain and Italy, as protests and strikes took place across southern Europe.

Police arrested 81 people in Spain and fired rubber bullets on protesters in Madrid.

Transports, businesses and schools stayed closed in the Iberian country and in the neighbouring Portugal, as unions called a general strike against spending cuts and tax hikes.

Rallies were also held in Greece, Belgium France and Italy as part of a coordinated effort of European trade unions that called for a "European Day of Action and Solidarity".

In Italy demonstrations took the streets in numerous cities including Rome, Milan, Turin and Naples.

Episodes of violence were reported across the country and more than 50 people were arrested.

The worst clashes between protesters and police happened in Rome, where the situation was described by local media as 'guerrilla warfare'.

Violent demonstrators threw stones and bottles to security forces that fired back with teargas and deployed armoured vehicles.

Wounded were reported among both protesters and police. The video of a policeman hitting in the face with billy club a demonstrator who had been pushed to the ground was posted by newspaper La Repubblica and triggered widespread outrage.

In Turin a policeman was reportedly hit with a baseball bat.

"More than 25 million young people unemployed are there to state austerity's failure," Italy's CIGL union leader Susanna Camusso said. 

asdasdfaReuters
Riot police run during a demonstration against austerity measures in RomeReuters
A policeman charges at protesters in MadridReuters
Riot police clash with students during a demonstration against austerity measures in downtown RomeReuters
Riot Police hit a demonstrator in RomeReuters
A protester holds a stick while another gestures to riot police during a students' demonstrationReuters
Riot police march down street during a 24-hour nationwide general strike at Sants station in BarcelonaReuters
Protesters carry flags of Italy, Spain, Greece and Portugal as they march through Athens' Syntagma square during an anti-austerity rallyReuters
Riot police clash with students during a demonstration against austerity measures In Rome city centreReuters
A student holds a lighted torch in RomeReuters
Protesters move a life-size puppet made of paper symbolizing a Greek during an anti-austerity rally in AthensReuters
Spanish Police arrest a protester in MadridReuters
A student walks with a shield while another holds a smoke flare In RomeReuters
Students hold signs and placards during a rally against austerity measures in RomeReuters
Policemen detain a man as protesters clash with police during a 24-hour nationwide general strike in central MadridReuters
A cleaner works near an AVE high-speed train at Madrid's Atocha empty station during a 24-hour nationwide general strikeReuters
Policeman clash with protesters during a nationwide general strike in MadridReuters
Spanish policemen in full riot gear stand guard in central MadridReuters
Protesters are pushed away by Spanish police officers during a 24-hour nationwide general strike in central MadridReuters
A policeman detains a man in MadridReuters