Alwaght- Six months ago and amid anti-war rallies across Europe, the EU Foreign Policy chief Josep Borrell in comments mainly aimed at distracting the public opinion described Europe as a “garden” and the rest of the world a “jungle” and warned “the jungle could invade the garden.”
However, the so-called garden these days is undergoing an invasion, not from outside world but from within, with the politicians and people being at each other’s throats. Europe’s leaders assert that they will continue to support Ukraine as long as the war in this country lasts, but this support is coming costly to them and the protests that started a year ago have not subsided.
France is one of the European countries where crisis is unfolding. These days, France is more unstable than other European countries because of the ambitions of its leaders. In continuation of French protests against the economic policies of French President Emmanuel Macron, hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets on Tuesday in various cities, including major cities of Paris and Lyon.
In Paris, police closed down Eiffel Tower and tightened security measures under the excuse of a plan by protesters to paint the situation strained by radicalization of the atmosphere. According to reports, in Lyon the police blocked some streets of the city with iron barriers, but the protesters expressed their strong opposition to the government’s policies by staying in the streets, defying the security measures. Also, reports suggest bloody clashes between the police and the protesters in Lyon and Paris, and the protesters have broken the windows of shops and some financial institutions and banks in response to the police’s iron fist approach. Also, protesters gathered in the city of Marseille and seized Saint-Charles train station.
Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the leader of leftist La France Insoumise party, on Tuesday told Macron that they will continue rallies. The French National Party in a statement held that demonstrations will continue and regard the government decision to increase the retirement age to 64 years as illegitimate.
Reports emanating from French cities held that more than two million people participated in anti-government strikes and protests on Tuesday. These protests, which started two weeks ago in response to the Macron government’s pension reform bill, were peaceful at the outset, but after the law was passed and the protests intensified, they turned violent. During the protests in the past few days, there have been violent clashes between the police and protesters in different cities, and according to a report published by the ministry of Interior, hundreds of people were arrested and hundreds others, including security forces, were injured.
Macron not backing off
Despite nationwide protests, Macron does not intend to walk back from his controversial bill and said he will implement the law by end of the year. The government’s insistence on the implementation of the pension reform law has infuriated the protesters and the number of protesters in the streets is increasing every day. The opposition are not satisfied with the revocation of this bill, and have raised the ceiling of their demands to resignation of Macron. The French used to hold protests in the form of ‘yellow vests’ on a weekly basis, but now the protests are held on a daily basis, showing that the opponents see the street protests as the only way to achieve their demands.
With the surge of the protests, the government seems to have lost the control, and the ministry of interior warned the people about violence, saying that 13,000 police forces are mobilized and deployed to various cities to counter the protests. The minister of the interior claimed that this country will remain a “fortress against violence and violent radical groups”, and vowed the government will dissolve extremist groups and never allow violence. By claiming that the protests were designed and plotted by extremist groups, Macron’s government is trying to broaden the range of crackdown on the protesters and suppress the opposition more forcefully under the ruse of them destabilizing the country.
French energy sector paralyzed
Protests are not the only concern of the government, and various parts of the economy are paralyzed by strikes. As a result of major labor strikes, fuel has become scarce across the country, with at least six of the country’s seven refineries closed or running at reduced capacity and LNG terminals blocked. Earlier, France’s largest oil refinery, owned by Total, was completely shut down due to a strike by its employees. The French Civil Aviation Authority announced that air traffic was disrupted at the airports of Paris, Marseille, Bordeaux and Toulouse due to strikes. This is while labor unions have called for the continuation of protests and strikes throughout France, and Macron’s government is likely to face serious challenges in the coming days.
Germany to Britain encompassed by protests
Protests and strikes are not limited to France and other European countries have similar conditions. In Germany, Europe’s largest economy, workers and transportation sector and related services’ employees went on strike on Monday calling for pay rises so that the current inflation crisis that is rocking the Continent would not cause widespread decline in the living standards of the economically vulnerable citizens.
Airports, bus and train stations across Germany were shut down on Monday due to strikes. Persistent cost pressures have resulted in central banks announcing interest rate hikes, and policymakers saying it was too early to discuss prices and wages. However, workers strongly warned the heads of the unions that the increase in wages for millions of workers is a matter of “life and death”. Verdi, a German worker union, at the behalf of 2.5 million employees of the public sector including railways and airports and the German Railway Union (EVG), representing about 230,000 employees of railways and bus companies, are reportedly negotiating with the government for pay rises.
Germany has roughly had calm economic conditions over the past decade, but with the start of Ukraine war, it began to suffer economically. Hundreds of thousands of people in Germany have repeatedly expressed their opposition to Berlin leaders’ support for Ukraine by arranging street protests and demanding the end of military and financial aids to Kiev. After Russian gas exports to Europe were cut off, Germany suffered a severe economic crisis and a number of factories in the country were closed down, and the Germans continue to bear the brunt of consequences.
In neighboring country Austria, demonstrations against government policies continue. Thousands on Tuesday called for cancellation of a meeting of the European oil and gas companies in the capital Vienna. Local authorities announced that two police officers were injured following a demonstration by protesters against a meeting. As the protests turned violent, the police used pepper spray to disperse the protesters, and during the clashes between the two sides, the police arrested 143. The protesters tried to make their way through barriers installed by police to the hotel hosting the meeting. Environmental activists criticized the companies for more natural gas projects amid heightened demand and higher prices due to the Ukraine war and anti-Russian sanctions.
Britain, already hit by medical and transportation employees’ strikes and protests, in recent days witnessed new demonstrations triggered by policies of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. Last week, thousands of people and members of human rights and anti-racism and anti-Fascism groups protested across the country the government’s new immigration policy and voiced solidarity with immigrants. Similar protests were organized in other cities of Britain, as well as Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and the participants rejected the racist and anti-immigration policies of the PM, himself an Indian-origin politician. The British government has recently submitted a bill to the parliament for tougher immigration rules.
But the European leaders are closing their eyes to the facts and what is going on in their countries and instead focus on short-lived riots in Iran, while pieces of evidence show that demonstrations in France, Germany, and Britain developments are way larger than what happened in Iran and winded down after a short time while Europe is still struggling in a self-made swamp.
As a conclusion, the European public find Ukraine war not in their interests and demand stop to aids to Kiev and argue why they should pay for others’ war at their homes. Having in mind that due to the American and European warmongering there are no clear prospects of war end, French and German leaders are not inclined to end their economic austerity policies. Therefore, with economic crises gathering pace, new waves of protests are expected next months, turning the European garden into a wild jungle the EU leaders themselves shaped for their public.