the Summer of Discontent
From Edinburgh to Paris to Kiev, Europe is revolting
Paola Totaro Europe Correspondent
March 28, 2009
THE signs are everywhere, from smashed windows in the mansion of a
British banker to the thousands who took to the streets of Kiev to decry
pay cuts: Europe is rebelling.
As world leaders strut the stages of Washington, New York and soon,
London, in a bid to forge a united response to the global financial
crisis, the rising cost of living, mortgages heading skywards, job
losses and a tide of home repossessions have sparked a chilling fear of
the future and propelled the citizens of Europe into open uprising.
These isolated brushfires of civil unrest could ignite what
Superintendent David Hartshorn of London’s Metropolitan Police warned
could become a "summer of rage" – with the city’s G20 meeting the focus
of widespread dissatisfaction.
Police are bracing for the first round of demonstrations and protests
today in the British capital as trade union bosses from around the world
converge on Hyde Park to lead a "People First" demonstration before
Thursday’s G20 meeting.
ACTU president Sharan Burrow, who is also president of the International
Union Confederation, will speak at the protest. "Workers around the
world in rich countries have lost jobs and homes while those in
developing countries face further poverty," she said. "All are the
innocent victims of this crisis and their anger is growing. This is
understandable as more and more discover that their jobs, their houses,
and their income security in retirement have been stripped away by a
crisis which was precipitated by greed, incompetence and a blind faith
in the market."
Next week, the so-called G20 Meltdown campaign – an informal group – is
expected to set off from four sites in London and converge the day
before the summit on the Bank of England, marching behind one of the
"four horsemen of the apocalypse". A separate group intends to set up
camp outside the European Climate Exchange in Bishopsgate while more
protests are expected to focus on the ExCeL centre in east London where
the leaders will meet. The 60th anniversary meeting of NATO next weekend
in Strasbourg is expected to attract big protests too.
So far, an additional 2500 police have been attached to the London
summit and the security bill for the ExCeL centre is estimated at $15.5
Bank officials say they are taking seriously the safety and wellbeing of
London staff and have suggested working from home next week during the
G20 meetings. Some have advised workers to "dress down" to avoid being
targeted as financial workers.
Iceland, Italy, Spain, France, Latvia, Hungary, Greece and Bulgaria have
already felt the force of civil unhappiness since the economic crisis
began to destroy the hopes and security of their young people and middle
classes. Farmers, truck drivers, teachers, transport personnel and
public servants have taken to the streets to protest. In Eastern and
Central Europe, years of boom after the fall of the Iron Curtain have
made the recession even harder to bear.
In France, the Elysee Palace is still reeling after a "bossnapping" –
manufacturer 3M improved the severance packages for more than 110
workers in exchange for the liberty of manager, Luc Rousselet, who spent
more than 24 hours as prisoner of his own furious employees.
The brazen stunt followed the nationwide strike last week that drew 1.2
million people onto the streets in peaceful protest. It came just days
after it was revealed that the departing boss of car parts supplier
Valeo, Thierry Morin, left the company with $6.2 million even though the
company had been given a state bail-out. It is to slash 1600 positions
in France and reported a fourth-quarter loss of $607 million.
French union official Bruno Lemerle said: "Those who sow misery reap
fury. The violence is done by those who cut jobs, not by those who try
to defend them."
In Scotland, vandals smashed windows of the home of Sir Fred Goodwin,
former boss of the beleaguered Royal Bank of Scotland, and vandalised
the black Mercedes in the driveway of the affluent Edinburgh home. The
first direct attack on an executive since the financial crunch began, it
elicited horror in Britain’s business community.
Sir Fred kept his pension, worth $1.45 million a year, despite a series
of disastrous acquisitions that ended up with the nationalisation of the
bank. He steadfastly refused to give up the payments despite demands
from the Government.
Two senior bosses have resigned from AIG in Paris, citing a "hostile"
environment as the insurer faces a public backlash over
multimillion-dollar bonus payouts made to executives using government
Documents released under the US Freedom of Information Act reveal the
degree of vitriol in emails sent to AIG.
One says: "The family members of your executives are not safe. Your
blood will run through the streets."
Some more info on Sir Fred that I thought might be illuminating. I went to the following link and clicked on the video. http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/industry_sectors/banking_and_finance/article5974253.ece
It has an interview with the deputy business editor of the Times regarding the vandalism attack on the house of Sir Fred Goodwin, the former chief excutive of the Royal Bank of Scotland who has just walked away with close to a 17 million pound pension. He says and I quote "The whole point of being an MP and a politician is to surely uphold the law and the law of contracts. If you undermine the law of contracts and the laws which enshrine the legality of ownership and property rights, then you start damaging not only the democracy of a country but its attractiveness to do business."
Who knew? I thought the role of an MP was to represent the people!
I could just keep adding ‘links’ all night and I wouldn’t run out of it!!
The ‘Hungarian Riots’ link was from 2006, when Prime Minister Gyurcsany admitted to a journalist that he’d lied his way into winning the elections whilst being recorded. However, rising disaproval has been mounting toward intolerable levels here and were set for equal amounts of carnage last weekend. Fortunately. Gyurcsany appeared to see the light and quit office via a new early election. But my (and local) gut feeling is that there will be yet another sham election equal to the recent American one where out of 257 shakers and makers of the USA, only 8 actually changed between Republican and Democratic positions and only the puppet-leader had a face change!!
In essence, cheap labour and low cost exports with an under-the-thumb currency such as Hungary’s has been the main driving global economic force in recent up-turn years. However, with this deepening recession and large business’s withdrawing their assets, 10% are now unemployed and that figure may well quickly double over the next several months. The people here are pretty well ignorant of honest news. little more than 1 in 25 actually have access to the internet and have been dealing with masked media bull on radio and tv. I can’t believe how much can be gotten away with here but, 10 million people are fed cr*p and they’ve been eating it up for years.
A very interesting political group have around 1 million strong here and are advancing with word-of-mouth meetings in transition town and religious groups. They’ve laid out this piece that I translated and recently put up onto another thread. I believe they played a great part in ousting the Prime Minister last weekend. This is their ideals laid out :-
1.The creation of public and State System based on the historical constitution.
2.Uniting The Nation. All our members of the Hungarian nation, who believe themselves Hungarians, regardless their place of residency, and for whom the Hungarian citizenship (conditions of which to be determined at later stage) should be given. Representatives of the separated national areas to be involved in the nations vital decision making.
3.To set up a smaller, two chamber parliament. Reform of the referendum and electoral processes, the exclusion of potential fraud. Elected members who represent the nation should hold their posts for a specific time and with specific program, at local and national level. Members to take responsibility for their actions, be liable, and maybe recalled.
4.Take into and keep in community ownership of national assets which serve the nations long-term objectives.
5.Independent Hungarian foreign policy based on the nation’s self-interests.
6.To create the possibility of the use of local and community money, and subordinate the National Bank to bodies of national representatives.
7.Review the components of the state debt, establish their legitimacy, start negotiations for their elimination or re-scheduling.
8.Restoration of the ratios of rights and obligations. Prohibition of abusive exercise, proper exercise duty.
9.The creation of Hungarian defense based on shared responsibility. The Hungarian soldiers to come home, and the foreign ones to go home.
10.Transparent public administration system, the strict punishment of abuse. A review of unfairly acquired assets, and the material-moral reparation of those omitted from recompensation, privatization.
11.Review of large irrational investments/projects.
12.The formulation and enforcement of briefing the nation to quality requirements.
13.The creation of economic balance for the state and public authorities, to increase the opportunities for self-administration. To set up local government law enforcement agencies (game-, fish-, field warden, provost).
14.The educational program to also draw on folk tradition, at all levels of education. The protection of national symbols and traditions. Develop support systems for soul-building works of art.
15.The protection of families, encouraging the regeneration of communities.
16.Development of National health and pension systems, reform of benefit/aid practices.
17.Grant land for those who wish to work in land based production, restore common proprietaryship.
18.Create a program for those without jobs – the creation of jobs based on local resources, thus the ability to succeed locally, setting up of regional and subregional training centers (retraining courses, for example; folk crafts, organic farming, etc.)..
19.Prioritise the support of inventions, research and development, practical help with their implementation. Encourage production facilities to become Hungarian property.
20.Give priority to Hungarian products, marketing support. Promotion of trade to be in Hungarian hands.
21.We strive for all activities to be in harmony with the living environment.
This is going to be an incredible year. Roll on the G20…
(edit) The clocks change tonight and I’ll be 8 hours behind you instead of 10. Lets hope we get to talk ‘live’ more often over the coming months!!!
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