November 14 General Strike Across Europe

photo: Álvaro Garcia (El Pais) Tens of thousands gather at the plaza de Colón in Madrid, Spain[/caption]

Workers and the unemployed alike coordinated a multi-national protest on November 14th spanning Portugal, Spain, Greece, Italy, Belgium, and France. Several smaller demonstrations took place in Germany, Denmark, and Britain.  The Guardian estimated the number of attendees in the millions as the protesters marched into the night.

Primarily coordinated by the European Trade Union Confederation, the November 14 general strike across Europe grounded flights, halted trains and other transit services, and culminated in several violent skirmishes between protesters and riot police in Portugal, Greece, and Spain — the countries hit hardest by imposed austerity measures.

Though each country faces slightly different challenges with Germany’s austerity demands, the European Debt Crisis has pervaded the region. Spain in particular is facing a possible fine or further austerity requirements if it is unable to produce a budget plan that reduces its deficit down to 3 percent of GDP by 2014. It is currently projected to be 6.3 percent for 2012.

On the heels of the protests, European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs, Olli Rehn made this statement yesterday:

“Spain has adopted sizeable measures of fiscal consolidation to restore confidence to its public finances and these measures amount to around 5¼% of GDP in 2012 and to 2¼% of GDP in 2013. The estimated annual improvement in the structural balance this year and next year is in line with the effort required in the Council recommendation… The Commission’s view is that no further steps in the excessive deficit procedure of Spain are needed at present. However, the measures announced so far for 2014 fall short of what is required by the revised Council recommendation.”

Critics of the austerity program charge that forced budget cuts have worsened unemployment and deepened an already brutal recession. The European Commission reports an average unemployment rate of 11.6 percent among the countries that utilize the Euro as their currency. Greece and Spain are the highest at 25.1 percent and 25.8 percent, respectively.

A much awaited troika report compiled by the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the IMF, is likely to provide greater clarity for the Eurozone, in particular Greece, going forward. Civil unrest will continue to bubble as many indicators suggest that most austerity measures will remain in place, especially for countries like Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Ireland.