Recession and unemployment, a double bane that has been trying the patience of the Greek people for four years, are now threatening to provoke a social rift in larger European countries as well. The sociopolitical crisis is rearing its ugly head and manifesting itself in different ways in countries as diverse as Portugal, Ireland, Italy and even France, where automaking giant Peugeot Citroen has decided to proceed with 8,000 layoffs.
In peace-loving Spain, burgeoning unemployment is being addressed with more austerity measures and with police putting an end to a protest by thousands of coal miners from the region of Asturias by firing rubber bullets at them. The escalation of violence in Asturias is a reminder to the Spanish people that that was where a 1934 revolutionary uprising took place ahead of the country?s 1936-39 civil war, and that that was where the dictatorship of Francisco Franco tried unsuccessfully to violently quell the country?s general strike in 1962.
The true dimensions of the European economic crisis that began in 2008 are now becoming apparent and its medium-term consequences are being felt by all. Obviously this is not just a liquidity crisis and obviously it will not be solved with large cash injections and fiscal discipline alone. Europe?s overdue and cowardly management of the crisis lacks radical new strategies and historical perspective, and it is resulting in a chain reaction of social fissures both within each member state and in the European Union as a whole, whose outcome cannot be predicted.
The leaderships of the EU and of its members seem powerless to grasp the historical magnitude of what is going on, and they continue to pressure the people to make more sacrifices and to watch their standards of living deteriorate even further without offering a road out of the crisis, without offering hope and without a vision for a sustainable future. They have no plan for a transition toward a new, balanced system.
The situation as it stands today reveals a Europe that is tired and deteriorating, a Europe without a destination that is losing its step and falling behind in the global economic competition. But the most important part of the problem is that the chasm between the EU?s leaderships and its people is ever-widening and is reaching dangerous proportions as it is fed by distrust, the lack of a mutual understanding of the risks and by the impoverishment of the lower and middle classes.