An article in Reuters reports that major protests have taken place across southern Europe in a coordinated response to the austerity measures imposed by many European governments, notably in Spain, Portugal, Greece and Italy; such measures have hit he middle- and lower-classes the hardest.
Hundreds of flights were cancelled, car factories and ports were at a standstill and trains barely ran in Spain and Portugal where unions held their first coordinated general strike. In Spain, 81 people were arrested after scuffles at picket lines and damage to storefronts. Riot police in Madrid fired rubber bullets at protesters. In central Rome, students stoned police in a protest over money-saving plans for the school system. A few dozen protesters, hurling bottles and large firecrackers, clashed with riot police, who fired tear gas and dragged away at least one bleeding protester into a police van, a Reuters witness said.
International rail services were disrupted by strikes in Belgium and workers in Greece, Italy and France demonstrated as part of a "European Day of Action and Solidarity". It was the biggest Europe-wide challenge by organized labor to austerity policies that have aggravated recessions and mass unemployment in nearly three years since the start of the euro zone's debt crisis. But it seemed unlikely to force hard-pressed governments to change their cost-cutting strategies.
In Portugal and Greece—both rescued with European funds and under strict austerity programs —the economic downturn sharpened in the third quarter, data showed in Wednesday. Portuguese unemployment jumped to a record 15.8 percent while next door, in Spain, one in four of the workforce is jobless. Greece's economic output shrank by 7.2 percent on an annual basis in the third quarter as the debt-laden country staggers towards its sixth year of depression.This will likely be the first of many general strikes across the European Union. Governments and the individuals that have jobs better get used to such demonstrations—an annoyance and an inconvenience to be sure for those gainfully employed—unless the government's leaders come up with a better plan than the status quo. The "inconvenience" of not having a job is surely greater than many other inconveniences in life. Or at least it ought to be.
Close to 26 million people are unemployed in the European Union while governments take aim at spending on treasured universal health care and public schools.
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