Europe’s deepening debt crisis sparks a day of protests, strikes and clashes with police

200,000 take to the streets of Dublin to protest cuts in government programs

NY Daily News, November 24th 2010


Debt-stricken Europe was hit by protests, strikes and clashes with police Wednesday.

Strikers brought much of Portugal to a standstill. They all but closed the airport, with passengers unable to get in or out of the country, the Associated Press reports.

In Ireland, proposals were made for its deepest budget cuts in history.

The Irish Stock Exchange saw a plunge in bank stocks as investors panicked and traders speculated on when Portugal and Spain would be the next countries begging for bailouts.

Facing criticism that he has downplayed the scale of Ireland’s financial meltdown, Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen said he expects the European Union-International Money Fund bailout loan to total $115 billion.

“The government is completely in denial about the amount of money they’ll have to borrow,” said Constantin Gurdgiev, a finance lecturer at Trinity College Dublin.

He compared Ireland’s plight to that of Greece, which received a $145 billion EU-IMF rescue bailout in May.

“Our economy is more than three times over-indebted than Greece. If Greece is insolvent, where does that put us?” Gurdgiev asked.

In Italy, students took over university buildings in protest at education cuts currently being considered by the government. Bridges were blocked during brief clashes with cops.

Students also took to the streets again in Britain to protest government plans to triple tuition fees.

In London, university students and even kids in school uniforms marched in the center of the city chanting, “No ifs! No buts! No education cuts!”

Hundreds of police officers stoody by as students attacked a parked police van, smashing its windows and scrawling graffiti.

“Education is not a rich kid’s game,” said Tash Holway, a 19-year-old student in London, told the Associated Press. “If this keeps up, the entire industry will change. It won’t be about talent, but only about who can pay.”

In Portugal, commuter Luis Moreira, catching one of the last trains out of Lisbon, said Europe’s woes only seem to be getting worse by the day.

Moreira, 51, told The Associated Press, “People have to fight for their rights. People have to fight against what is happening.”

Government policies have “sent people into poverty and misery,” said union leader Manuel Carvalho da Silva, adding that Portuguese civil servants will see wage cuts averaging 5 % next year.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy – the two biggest heavyweights in the euro zone – are due to meet to discuss “current problems in the euro zone” Thursday.

It even got overheated at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, where British legislator Godfrey Bloom was expelled from a debate on Ireland’s financial meltdown after he called a German legislator an “undemocratic fascist.”

The protests look certain to continue. Analysts are piling on the gloom by saying they see no immediate end in sight for Europe’s financial upheaval.

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