Social unrest spreads in Europe

By now we are all familiar with the fact that Iceland's government has collapsed amidst a financial failure and popular protests.
What isn't as well-known is that this appears to be merely the start of a tsunami of street protests, general strikes, and riots that will rock Europe for months (and maybe years) to come.

The problem is especially troublesome in eastern Europe, where it is likely that governments will topple before the economic crisis is over.

Less than two weeks ago, Sofia, Bulgaria, saw a riot in front of the parliament building.

"We are fed up with living in the poorest and most corrupt country," organisers of the Sofia protest said in a statement. "This a unique protest which unites the people in their wish for a change and their wish to live in a normal European country."

Opinion polls show over 70 percent of the 7.6 million population want the government to quit and 75 percent disapprove of parliament's work, citing a lack of progress in the anti-corruption fight.

The rioting lasted for two days.

The previous day a protest of 10,000 against the government in Latvia turned into a riot. 126 were arrested when the crowd tried to storm the parliament building.
Just two days later the police in Lithuania were using tear-gas and rubber bullets against an anti-government protest that got violent in front of their parliament building.

Not much has been heard about Hungary in recent days, but that's because the country is perpetually unstable.

"While Hungary has not hit the headlines in recent weeks, this is only because the country hasn't really stopped having riots since 2006. It keeps coming back sporadically. During national holidays, there has been street fighting regularly since 2006."

Protests have also erupted in the Czech Republic.

While Greece no longer catches headlines with violent riots, that doesn't mean that things have calmed down there. Only a few days ago police were battling rioters in downtown Athens.
However, that is the least of the troubles for Greece. Greek farmers have blocked a major road from Bulgaria into northern Greece in an economic protest.

The farmers are now into their ninth day of protests, which have also shut border crossings to Turkey and Macedonia.

Greece's main highway network is close to being paralysed by the blockades of tractors and trailers, the BBC's Malcolm Brabant reports from Athens.

The latest main road to be severed by the farmers is the one between Athens and the western port city of Patras. The highway was made impassable at the Corinth Canal bridge, where the mainland meets the Peloponnese peninsula.

The farmers' leaders say they do not intend to stop their protest until the government meets all their demands.

If you think the problems are unique to eastern Europe and Iceland, think again.

French labor unions called for a general strike on Jan. 29 to protest what they said were inadequate government measures to counter rising unemployment and falling purchasing power.

Confederation Francaise du Travail, France’s biggest union, Confederation Generale du Travail, the second largest, and six other labor groups asked employees of the public and private sectors to take to the streets in what could be the biggest such action since President Nicolas Sarkozy was elected in May 2007. It comes as France enters its first recession in 16 years.
...
French Prime Minister Francois Fillon dismissed calls for economic-policy concessions to appease the strikers.

“It’s not the government’s role to make gestures,” Fillon said on France 2 television. “It’s the government’s role to keep reforms on track.”

As anyone in Latin America or Asia can tell you, when your government gets in so much trouble that they have to go to the IMF, then tax hikes and massive cuts in social services are coming. That always fall on the poor and unemployed, who's only outlet is in protests and riots.

As Danske Bank notes, the fiscal stimulus option is not possible in most Eastern European countries, as many are struggling with huge funding needs due to large current account deficits and, in some, large budget deficits. Thus, the right policy for many of these countries is actually tighter and not looser fiscal policy - not to stimulate growth, but to reduce external imbalances that today are the main threat to their financial stability. That seems to be the official standing of the IMF, since the bailout packages for Ukraine, Latvia and Hungary were conditional upon radical cuts in public spending.
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Governments that don’t have sufficient political and social capital to implement the austerity measures will become casualties of the severe economic downturn.
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These governments are between a rock and a hard place in battling the effects of the global economic downturn. They are pursuing fiscal restraint, but at the expense of rising political instability. Widely unpopular belt-tightening policies breed social unrest, and the political parties most likely to benefit are those who run on populist economic platforms. Snap elections could disrupt efforts to stabilize an economy and radical political change could cause investors’ confidence to plummet. Iceland could be a case in point. The latest polls show that the Left-Greens – an anti-big business, pro-environment party that advocates renegotiating the terms of the country’s IMF loan – have benefited from a dramatic rise in anti-capitalist sentiment in Iceland following the crisis. Their win would signal a sharp economic and political turn to the left and the impact on the country’s economic future remains to be seen.

It's hard to say how deep this unrest could spread. If the economic crisis in Europe hasn't bottomed out by summer we could be looking at countries leaving the Euro currency, governments overturned, and possibly much worse.
With the approaching collapse of Britain's banking system, and the financial instability in Ireland and Spain, we could be looking at the most serious, worldwide economic crisis in the developed world since the 1930's.

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Comments

oh yuck

Although throughout History, the minute the middle class is flattened is an opportune time for political takeover and upheaval. In the 1930's we got FDR and Germany got Hitler.

Frankly while the people of Europe are way more likely to hit the streets, protest and demand their government represent them, I just do not believe, because their governments are more responsive to the Populist voice plus their own tragic history in the 20th century, that such events are likely.

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"The previous day a protest

"The previous day a protest of 10,000 against the government in Latvia turned into a riot. 126 were arrested when the crowd tried to storm the parliament building."

Actually, only about 1,000 of the 10k attending turned violent.

"Protests have also erupted in Estonia"

This is a blatant lie.

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Anonymous Drive-by

This is a blatant lie.

Who am I to question an Anonymous Drive-by?

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Like the new term?

EP allows anonymous comments but they go into a moderation queue. If not spam, etc. approved.

yesterday I changed the anonymous title because more than once we get some criticism with no link or reason and so I decided sometimes they are more like drive-bys. ;)

Some drive-bys are ok, they are just sight seeing, others carry weapons!

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I'm not sure, but the point

I'm not sure, but the point is, that I kinda live in Tallinn, the Capital of Estonia and from my point of view, I do not need a news site supporting my argument about something that isn't there.

Also, I do not remember seeing a referral about this supposed event in the original post as well...I wonder if it's because it didn't happen.

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tere tulemast!

Midtowng. What (s)he is referring to is we just got picked up as an authoritative news source on seeking alpha.

I had something similar happen when I wrote an Instapopulist on GM sending bail out money to Brazil. We had a GM representative claim it was not true so I updated the post with that comment, yet kept the source of the original quote. I have yet to see it disproved but the point is to be deadly accurate...

because we are starting to get picked up as an authoritative source, accuracy & credibility is key.

So may I suggest checking all of your sources again and updating the post.

Estonia is the dribble puddle for the icicle called Finland (across the Baltic sea, Gulf of Finland) and frankly it's so damn cold at this time of the year I doubt they had people running the streets in protest. Their economy is very well managed, while implementing a lot of "market based" policies, it's small, homogeneous demographics and it's implemented very differently than the U.S.

In addition, they have zero debt and I am unsure of their banking regulations but they have just a few banks and I do not believe got suckered into the Ponzi scheme.

If this person lives there they probably know what's going on in that domestic economy/political environment. Bottom line Estonia is not the same as the situation in Iceland or even the UK.

(sorry about the short end of the Popsicle comment, couldn't resist!)

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the dribble puddle

Well, it's not like I made things up.

Jan. 16 (Bloomberg) -- The Baltic countries of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia are facing unrest and street protests over government austerity measures that may make political leaders casualties of the worst economic collapse in the European Union.

However, it's not critical to the diary that I include this, so I'll just remove it and make your life a little easier Robert.

By the way, I just spotted this today. Check out the Youtube videos. Could this be America's future?

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more ice cubes

I don't think you have to remove anything. All I'm saying is we're being included in some pretty large financial news aggregators so it's clear we have credibility. I got the same thing, major accusation what I posted was fiction...
so I put in the criticism but I went and triple checked those sources. I could find no GM press release, no refuting by the Brazil GM division, nothing to say the Herald news article was false.

It's more a "check your sources".

On the other hand, stoicism in Estonia is well known. Their economic "free trade" has worked for them, but it's a small country, surrounded by other nation's absurdly high taxes, especially on certain goods. Estonia is a Ferry ride from most of these countries, kind of like us driving to the Costco that's maybe an hour away. Finland, the culture built on top of an ice cube machine, has a luxury tax on cars and it's massive, like 70%. So, if you can imagine being in -40 degrees Fahrenheit and being told a nice warm transport device is luxury....well, they flock to Estonia to avoid taxes. This is especially true on things like Vodka!

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