While the refugee crisis dominates the headlines, an older, more familiar European problem still simmers beneath the surface. The Financial Times reports:
Government offices stayed shut and public transport closed down on Thursday as Greece’s resurgent trade unions staged the first 24-hour general strike since the leftwing Syriza party came to power in January.
Thousands of public sector employees, pensioners and jobless workers shouted anti-austerity slogans as they marched to the Greek parliament in Athens, giving voice to a growing mood of despondency over looming foreclosures on family homes and further pension cuts agreed with creditors under Greece’s €86bn third bailout.
Riot police clashed briefly with a group of protesters throwing petrol bombs and stones in the square outside the parliament building. Three people were detained, according to police.
Meanwhile on Monday, eurozone finance ministers voted to delay a 2-billion-euro bailout payment because the Greek government is failing to implement promised reforms. Deutsche Welle:
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said Athens had not met “a great number” of commitments agreed to as part of its rescue, following a meeting of eurozone finance ministers in Brussels. He urged the leftist government of Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to deliver.
The package calls on Athens to cut spending, raise taxes and modernize its economy. Greek media reported Monday that key outstanding issues included the details of a plan for taxpayers to settle their arrears, the introduction of VAT on private schools, as well as home foreclosures rules which the Tsipras government insists should protect low-income homeowners.
As we wrote this summer after the Greek crisis had “passed”, the bailout was almost certain to have an afterlife, because the underlying tension between Mediterranean living and German monetary policy had not been resolved. Refugees, euro bailouts, succession movements—European crises continue to mount. And while leaders in Brussels and Berlin have been able to kick the can down the road each time, they don’t seem to have found any long-term solutions yet for the multiple problems plaguing the Continent.