October 1, 2012
The French President’s bi-annual plan for the refreshment of France’s economy was expected to be a well-organized series of development measures, including the confrontation against the increasing rates of unemployment, the invigoration of national economy and competitiveness, and the battle against public deficit. Yet, this plan finally seems to follow the line of austerity measures that overdebted states like Italy, Spain, and Greece decided to take in order to lower public debt. A plan with no reference to growth, nor concrete measures for job creation.
Unemployment rate in France reached 10.5 % as of the first semester of 2012 according to the Ministry of Labour. This percentage is translated into almost 3 million jobless people, the highest rate since 1999. This is really bad news for the government, but nonetheless it is not only the one to blame, as during his short Presidency Hollande could not do more. Sarkozy’s heritage in the labour market is something really hard to deal with. Nonetheless, Hollande’s government is firmly responsible for the new financial and budgetary plan as it has nothing to do with the statements and promises of the President about bringing growth and fighting against unemployment and poverty the time he was running for Presidency few months ago.
As a consequence of the announcement of the new economic plan, French people protested yesterday in Paris. This is the first proof of social unrest against Hollande, just four months after his being elected. The march was organized by the French Front of Jean–Luc Mélenchon which seems to get significant ground of support as concerns over unemployment and austerity politics are growing. Wearing his red scarf, Mélenchon marched in the head of the rally, amongst big banners filled with slogans like “Hollande, we don’t want your plan” and “In Greece and France we will fight against austerity measures”.
The growing unrest and the well-organized rallies against austerity politics are spread all over the European Mediterranean zone with French society being listed along with Greece, Spain, and Italy as the most affected ones. Two days ago in Madrid, the government of Rajoy declared a new series of measures mounting up to 30 billion euro, whereas one day ago in Italy Monti’s government did the same.
From a wider perspective, the general image shows that a new wave of protests is growing in South Europe against policies that do not take into consideration the real needs and powers of the public, but instead they are principally designed to address budget deficits per se, in a robot-like way of thinking and acting. Needless to say that this growing wave of unrest is the preparing stage for a counter-austerity mechanism that will substitute current political leaderships shortly. The leftist front of the South is getting prepared for assuming the burdens of the precedent and disappointing political leaderships.
In a similar view, the Arab Spring was the consequence of a decades-like tough authoritative regimes that were suppressing their societies in every possible manner. In Europe, even if democratic regimes leave significant space for free expression, economic conditions and the growing scale of civic hopelessness can equally lead to the fall down of the current regimes, not necessarily through democratic procedures, but also through violent abrupt. This is the scenario that I repeatedly point out as the worst in case governments do not finally realize what these blind austerity measures might lead to.Dimitris Rapidis