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European austerity protests: country-by-country links

Protests against the austerity budget cuts broke out all over Europe today (and all week).  Most of the coverage focuses on the massive 100,000 person demonstration in Brussels at the European Union’s headquarters, but there were also in various actions in other countries, such as a general strike in Spain, railway workers and doctors refusing to work in Greece, and customs officers and journalists walking off in Slovenia.

Below are links to news from each of those uprisings.  Analysis of the uprisings to come in the next couple of days and this page will be updated as more stories come in.

People Power In Brussels
Austerity protests: The view from the street

General strike in Spain to protest against austerity measures. Across Spain picketers took to the streets to protest against government austerity measures in a 24-hour general strike called by the nation’s main labour unions.

Austerity on Fire: Video of street battles in Spain as protests heat up

Thousands in new protest against Romanian austerity plan: third protest in a week
Romanian Govt In Uproar Amid Austerity Protests

Greek railway workers, doctors walk off the job over austerity cuts

Unions stage protests in Dublin and Galway over cuts

Thousands of Slovenian public workers strike to protest planned freeze of their wages

Portugal prepares more austerity, talks resume amid protests


Tens of Thousands March in Brussels Over Austerity

by David Brunnstrom Reuters

Tens of thousands of people marched through Brussels on Wednesday on a day of protests across Europe against government austerity measures, which unions say will slow economic recovery and punish the poor. (Editors note: many are reporting over 100,000)

“The main feeling of the people is that for the banking system there are millions and billions of euros, but the social payments are being cut. That’s not right,” said Ralf Kutkowski, a German coal miner protesting in the Belgian capital.

Marchers in Brussels, heading for the EU’s headquarters, waved union flags and carried banners saying “No to austerity” and “Priority to jobs and growth.” The 50 unions represented included German coal miners, Romanian gas workers and Polish shipbuilders.

The protest was led by a group dressed in black suits with black face masks, carrying umbrellas and briefcases, acting as the head of a funeral cortege mourning the death of Europe.

The protest organizers, the European Trade Union Confederation, were aiming to get 100,000 people to march. Belgian police and the unions did not immediately estimate crowd numbers but one police official told Reuters at least 50,000 people were taking part.

Spain’s first general strike for eight years, a protest against the Socialist government’s public spending cuts and easier hire-and-fire laws, had a limited impact beyond disrupting transport and some factories.

Spanish unions said 10 million people, or more than half the workforce, were on strike. The government gave no numbers.

European governments say they have been forced into austerity to avert the danger of a sovereign debt crisis like the one suffered by Greece, but many workers feel they are being punished for problems that were not of their making.

“We don’t want to take it on our backs,” said Philipp Jacks, a German trade unionist marching in Brussels.

Graham Smith, a public sector youth worker from Edinburgh in Scotland, said: “The message is we need our public services because the people who need them most are the people being hit most by the crisis.”


Protests have taken place in many countries in the last few months. Protests on Wednesday were planned in Brussels, Dublin, Lisbon, Rome, Paris, Riga, Warsaw, Nicosia, Bucharest, Prague, Vilnius, Belgrade and Athens.

Greece’s main unions, representing about 2.5 million workers, did not strike on Wednesday but plan to march to parliament in the evening to protest against measures prescribed by the EU and the IMF in return for bailing the country out.

A few smaller unions called job walkouts. Greek hospitals doctors stopped work for 24 hours and public transport was disrupted.

In Slovenia, about half of public sector workers remained on strike for the third day against a planned wage freeze, causing jams at border crossings with non-EU Croatia.

Economists say strikes and protests are unlikely to force any government to abandon structural reforms or savings measures but could make it harder for some leaders to win re-election and limit the scope of some reforms in the long run.

Economic growth has revived in the European Union, home to 500 million people and the executive European Commission expects the bloc’s economy to grow 1.8 percent this year after a 4.2 percent contraction in 2009.

But EU unemployment is running at 9.6 percent of the workforce, and at around twice that rate in Spain, Latvia and Estonia. Unions say austerity will curb job creation.

Financial markets are also worried about whether countries such as Ireland and Portugal can manage their debt burdens and the Commission wants tough sanctions imposed on countries that break debt and budget deficit rules.

“We understand there is a crisis, but it is being used as a very good excuse for all kinds of pressure on the people who are employees, workers and not in big business,” said Alexander Nikolov, who drove from Bulgaria to protest in Brussels.

Dennis Radtue, a coal mining union representative from Germany, said the gap between rich and poor was growing.

“Rich people have a lot of opportunity to save their money and pay no taxes, while a normal worker has to pay taxes whether he wants to or not,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Emily Coleman, writing by Timothy Heritage; Editing by Ruth Pitchford )

Austerity round-up

Austerity round-up

I am going to get back on the saddle with this site after a 2 month hiatus – I had a lot of catching up to do after the G20 in other areas of my life, leaving G20 Breakdown on the back burner.  But it’s now back, and I plan to be posting at least 2-3 times a week…

The plan is to focus it on the austerity plans around the world, tracking what is happening and reactions to it.  It is not going to be solely G20 focused, though I will certainly be covering the G20 meetings in Korea in November 2010.  Basically, the site will become about the austerity measures overall, with reports on the G20’s role, etc…

There is certainly a lot happening around the issue of economic austerity right now, from Romanian protests to the 300 U.S. economists who are warning against spending cuts, to the Bank of England working to get UK unions on board with the cuts (to mixed results). And mass protests are expected in Europe on September 29th against the austerity plans.

More to come…

The European right is capitalising on a crisis

The European right is capitalising on a crisis

I have been out of the loop the past two weeks and not posting much, but that is about to change as I embark on a project or two for the site…

For one thing, I am going to start doing some research into how the austerity programs will be implemented and set up a bit of a web template for each of the twenty G20 countries to follow their ‘progress’ in implementation and look at the real world effects it is having on their populations. I will be doing some other research and writing as well on other G20 related topics, including following Wall Street’s ‘recovery’ at the same time all these austerity measures are being put forward.

In the meantime (over the next week or so), I will be posting articles such as this one to keep people up to date on what others are writing.


The European right is capitalising on a crisis

Eurozone governments and European authorities are using the economy to justify pushing through rightwing policy changes

One thing should be made clear about the situation in the eurozone economies that is not clear at all if we rely on most of the news reports. This is not a situation where countries face a “dilemma” because they have overspent and piled up too much public debt. They do not face “tough choices” that will force them to cut spending and raise taxes while the economy is weak or in recession, in order to “satisfy financial markets”.

What is really going on is that powerful interests within these countries – including Spain, Greece, Ireland and Portugal – are taking advantage of the situation to make the changes that they want. Perhaps even more importantly, the European authorities – including the European commission, the European central bank and the IMF – who are holding the purse strings of any bailout funds, are even more committed than the national governments to rightwing policy changes. And they are further removed from any accountability to any electorate.

In 13 Bankers, by Simon Johnson (a former chief economist at the IMF) and James Kwak, the authors describe the emerging market crises of the 1990s and note that Washington used them to promote changes that it wanted: “When an existing economic elite has led a country into a deep crisis, it is time for a change. And the crisis itself presents a unique, but short-lived opportunity for change.” Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine, provides an excellent history of how crises have been used to introduce or consolidate regressive and unpopular economic “reforms”.

continue reading full article


The Meaning of “Austerity”: Understanding G20 planned cuts

With the G20 announcing that austerity will reign – with efforts to cut deficits on the backs of the poor and not banks, it is important to understand exactly what it is. James Corbett of the Corbett report does a fantastic job explaining ‘austerity’ of  with this overview of what it is, how it works, who it hurts.

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