European fight against austerity

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Aerial view of Madrid during the general strike. Photo credit: Julio Anguita

 

By Paula Planelles Manzanaro

Austerity measures have triggered protests and strikes around some of the countries more affected by the European crisis. The streets of nations such as Portugal, Italy or Spain became full of disappointed citizens fighting against the austerity measures established by their governments. “It is not our debt”, “They are taking away our future” or “Stop evictions” were some of the mottos that protesters wrote in their banners. A 24-hour general strike was carried out in Spain and Portugal and there were partial strikes in other countries such as Greece, Italy or Belgium. Their aim is clear: trying to change the future of many families affected by the crisis of the economic bubble. 

14N will be remembered as the day when hundreds of thousands of citizens poured into the streets in order to protest against austerity measures. They do not agree with the reforms imposed by the Government in order to face up to the Eurozone crisis. They do not agree with the evictions which are leaving many families without home. They are also against the increase of individual pension payments and the lack of employment, which strongly hits countries such as Spain. This nation faces an unemployment rate of 25.1 per cent, the highest in Europe, according to the Spanish Office for Statistics. There is bad news for this country as the European Commission forecasted that Spain could face more than six millions of unemployed people in 2013. According to the report presented by the economic commissary, Olli Renh, Brussels foresees that the 2.7 per cent of employment could be destroyed next year, which would mean around half million of positions. If this happened, the unemployment rate in Spain would increase up to 26.6 per cent in 2013. However, the president of Spain, Mariano Rajoy, believes that it will slightly decrease to 24.3 per cent. In any case, the unemployment rate in Spain will remain as the highest rate in the EU in the next two years. Greece also faces the same problem, with the second highest unemployment rate, 24.4 per cent.

The increase of valued-added tax (VAT), cuts in pension and education, a reduction of 30 per cent of the incentives for rents, the suspension of government employees’ extra month’s salary paid at Christmas and the reduction in the price of dismissals are some of the austerity measures that have caused citizens’ anger. “In some countries, people’s exasperation is reaching a peak. We need urgent solutions to get the economy back on track, not stifle it with austerity. Europe’s leaders are wrong not to listen to the anger of the people who are taking to the streets”, The European Trade Union Confederation said in a statement.

GREECE: Protesting members of the local government employees’ union at the German consul. Photo credit: EPA

As a way to protest against these reforms, European countries such as Spain, Greece, Germany, Belgium, Portugal, Switzerland or Italy supported the general strike. Hundreds of flights cancelled; schools, factories and businesses closed, trains and buses without service and factories and demonstrations carried out by students and workers were some of the results of the strike call.

Violence was the negative side of the protests with clashes between citizens and Police. For instance, in  Greece the riots led to more than 100 arrests after shipyard demonstrators broke into the Defence Ministry ground. In Portugal, clashes in Lisbon also left nearly 50 people hurt. In Spain at least 70 were injured and some 140 arrests were made. Some policemen’s action was harshly criticized in most of the countries involved in the anti-austerity protests. Nevertheless, in cities such as Frankfurt several Police officers took their helmets off as a symbol of support. Some demonstrators went too far. For instance, in Madrid some picketers set rubbish bins on fire, filling the central boulevard with smoke and other protesters burned police cars in Barcelona. There were also violent clashes between riot police and demonstrators in the capital of Italy, Rome, according to the news agency Reuters.

It is just the beginning of the revolution: the voice of the people against austerity.

 

 

 

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