In France, the CAC 40 index dropped 84.79 points, or 2.8%, to 2,939.17. The government is bracing for a large-scale strike on May 13 to protest Chirac's pension reform plans, which the government said it needed to save the system.
In Germany, the DAX index declined 119.56 points, or 3.98%, to 2,886.08. Observers believe the ECB will cut rates at its next meeting, but were disappointed that it waited since German employment and factory orders reports in the past few days were weak.
Asian markets finished lower. In Japan, the Nikkei index lost 78.22 points, or 0.96%, to close at 8,031.55, as exporters were threatened by the yen's gains against the U.S. dollar. Hong Kong's market was closed for Buddha's birthday.
Canada's benchmark S&P/TSX fell 29.82 points, or 0.45%, to 6,620.77.