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.

Written by Umberto Bacchi