Anti-austerity protests have erupted across Europe in the biggest union strikes since the debt crisis began in 2009.
Millions turned out to demonstrate against governmental cuts.
In Rome, riot police came up against demonstrators throwing stones, bottles and fireworks. Some even occupied Pisa’s famous leaning tower for an hour. Around 60 people were detained.
Rubber bullets were briefly fired in Madrid and more arrests made. Spaniards are furious that people are made to suffer whilst the banks receive bailouts.
The strike was led by the European Trade Union Confederation, angered by punishing cuts and the 26 million now unemployed across the EU.
Southern Europe is struggling to regain control of it’s economies after years of overspending.
But even normally peaceful Brussels was not immune and the message to governments is that the frustration will continue.
It’s not the first time that we’ve seen protests like these and all the signs are that we’ve not seen the last of them either. Euronews met with Henri Sterdyniak, Professor of Economics and Sciences at Po, in Paris, to discuss what he thinks had led to the current situation, and perhaps what can be done for Europe to emerge from this crisis.
“To discuss the union’s day of strikes, we’re now joined by economist Henry Sterdyniak, Professor of Political Science in Paris – but also signatory to the “Manifesto of appalled economists’, a group of researchers opposed to neo-liberalism. Mr. Sterdyniak, welcome to euronews! “
Henri Sterdyniak, Professor of Economics and Sciences at Po, Paris:
“Thousands of people demonstrated in several European countries – against austerity. What’s wrong with austerity, exactly?”
“In Europe we implement austerity measures, which solve none of the questions brought about by the crisis. In fact it aggravates the situation, by piling pressure on public expenditure and social spending, and asking employees in these countries to accept stagnation or even declining wages, all this kills demand.”
“But Mr. Sterdyniak, when the whole of Europe is on the brink due to several countries living beyond their means, we must reduce spending.”
“I don’t agree, the key issue today isn’t to reduce expenditure. Because of the crisis, we lost eight points of activity – in other words, we now have to recover eight points of demand: so invest more, and consume more in order to employ more people. So the key question is how we kickstart the machine.”
“The entire eurozone is in recession, a recession that now weighs on the global economy. Is austerity really to blame for this recession?”
“Austerity isn’t responsible for the recession. The key idea to grasp is that financial capitalism is undergoing a crisis, the factors that drove growth up until 2007 have disappeared. Whether it’s financial or property bubbles, German and Chinese strategies in research and competition – these have all disappeared and instead of thinking of how to invigorate the global economy, what we do instead is to pour austerity into an already catastrophic mix.”
“But what’s the real alternative to austerity?”
“We need a coordinated strategy at European level. The aim is to fight unemployment, not reduce public deficits. Stimulate activity, support innovative industries like those involved in the ecological transition – urban renewal, sustainable energy – there’s plenty to do. We simply must turn towards a unified, ecological and social Europe that renounces the dogma of neo-liberalism.”
“But how can we implement such a political alternative?”
“Countries like Germany will also suffer consequences of the crisis and so we hope that the more progressive forces take action in these countries. If all of Europe is plunged into recession, Germany won’t be healthy either and we can understand Germany, since their strategy led to an unstable imbalance in Europe.”