Europe has dominated headlines in recent weeks, with the election of France’s new president François Hollande, and the crumbling state of Greece as leaders grapple with the country’s possible exit from the Euro and repeated and failed attempts to form a new government. Austerity measures often feature heavily within these debates about the state of the European Union, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel often touted as the fiscally conservative head of the austerity movement.
Now officials worry that the unrest in the Mediterranean countries of Greece, Spain and Italy could hurt tourism and deal another heavy financial blow to the European Union. Italy and Greece rocked the headlines last week when an anarchist group shot Ansaldo Energia in the leg, the head of a nuclear engineering firm.
The Guardian reports that the group left behind a letter to explain their motives. According to the Guardian:
Authors of the letter claiming responsibility [for shooting Ansaldo Energia in the leg] said they were the Olga cell of the Fedarazione Anarchiste Informale (FAI). The group said it was named after Olga Ikonomidou, one of eight anarchists jailed in Greece. They said there would be seven more attacks to avenge the jailing of the other activists.
Perhaps on a less violent note, but still in the throes of financial discord and hardship, Spain has also had a surge of protests and rallies over the last year. The indignados (“the angry ones” in English) have been protesting for the last year in a style similar to that of Occupy Wall Street in the United States.
In mid-May, anti-austerity protesters in Spain converged in city squares across the country to mark the one-year anniversary of the beginning of the indignado movement. This pulling together of protesters also reflects the deep economic hurt felt by thousands of Spanish citizens. NPR reports that more than 50 percent of the youth in Spain, and one in four of all adults, are unemployed. The Socialist government was defeated and pushed out of office last year, meaning more austerity measures have since been put in place.
Many of the indignados feel a growing frustration at the lack of change taking place in the government. The current government plans to hike property and income taxes while also freezing minimum wage and increasing cuts in health care, RT News reports.
One man speaking with NPR, Mariano Nieto, said that he felt as though the protests were doing little to make changes. In his own words, “It’s more like children that cry when they feel they’ve been treated not fairly. It’s a bit of that. At least, crying, that’s the last thing we have, and that’s what we do.”
The situation appears to be tense across Spain, Greece and Italy, all of which have seen a massive rise in unrest, public protest and resistance. Greece has perhaps seen the most drastic presence of riot police and unrest of the three countries, with an expansion in the police force in recent months. Even in the relatively peaceful demonstrations in Madrid this month, at least 2,000 riot police were deployed to contain the indignados. Tourism will certainly take a hit this summer in the face of such notorious unrest.
The G8 summit, taking place this week, will pull together leaders from the United States and Europe. Meetings will likely focus on the financial state of these countries, with François Hollande likely to come to heads with Angela Merkel and President Obama over austerity plans and intentions.
Photo Credit: Luu