North, South, East, and West: Austerity Revolt Felt Across Europe

Common Dreams
Europe’s austerity backlash gains steam in challenge to German-driven program
All over Europe, where austerity policies have gripped ruling governments, a broad backlash is growing and as elections appear on the horizon for many incumbents public anger is becoming harder to ignore. (Image: STV)A full 60 percent of French voters who turned out for the first round of presidential elections on Sunday — whether on the right, the center-left, or the far left — agreed on one thing: more austerity is not the direction they desire for France.  Nicolas Sarkozy, the staunchly pro-austerity candidate and sitting president, received less than 27 percent of the vote, and if he loses the presidency in a run-off with Socialist Francois Hollande it will speak loudly about about the growing backlash against austerity taking place across the Eurozone.

All over Europe, where austerity policies have gripped ruling governments, a broad backlash is growing and as elections appear on the horizon for many incumbents public anger is becoming harder to ignore. (Image: STV) In the Netherlands over the weekend, the Dutch government cracked over disputes over proposed budget cuts. Meanwhile, deepening economic downturns in Spain and Italy are adding fuel to opposition against the German-driven campaign to remedy the crisis with massive cuts in government spending aimed at reducing deficits. Large austerity protests took place in the Czech Republic over the weekend, where tens of thousands marched in the streets in Prague calling for the end of austerity proposals and government corruption.

“Deflating your way to prosperity is a fool’s errand. It depresses the real economy, and there is no reward from the speculators of the private money markets no matter how much austerity you pursue.” –Robert Kuttner, Demos
In the UK, a new report put out by the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) shows dismal performance by the coalition government’s economic austerity policies since it took office two years ago. The report showed growth forecasts have been continually revised down and the private sector has been unable to counterbalance the large-scale job losses in the public sector, [ http://news.stv.tv/politics/304357-stuc-report-claims-austerity-will-make-uk-poorer/ ]according to STV in Scotland.

And in Ireland, two of the nation’s largest trade unions – Unite and engineering and electrical union TEEU – are urging their members to vote against the European fiscal compact treaty — pushed by Angela Merkel in Germany, Sarkozy’s France, and the ECB — in an upcoming referendum. TEEU general secretary Eamon Devoy defended their position to the Irish Times, saying, “it is becoming increasingly obvious that austerity is not working.” And continued, “The right-wing agenda of Chancellor Merkel might make sense in Germany but it is a death sentence for our economy and people.”

Bloomberg reports this morning: “Together with anti-austerity rumblings in a campaign for elections in Greece, the shift in grass-roots sentiment at the heart of Europe generated fresh doubts about the German-driven strategy for getting to grips with the two-year-old crisis.” And US economist Robert Kuttner writes, “Deflating your way to prosperity is a fool’s errand. It depresses the real economy, and there is no reward from the speculators of the private money markets no matter how much austerity you pursue.”