Inflation in Europe escalates the wave of protests and threatens political and economic strikes

Inflation in Europe escalates the wave of protests and threatens political and economic strikes Soaring inflation in Europe is behind a wave of protests and strikes that underscore growing discontent over the rising cost of living and threaten to unleash political turmoil, amid soaring energy bills and food prices due to Russia's war in Ukraine.  Demonstrators blew horns and drums in Romania to express their dissatisfaction with the rising cost of living. All over France , people took to the streets to demand a wage increase that kept pace with inflation.  Czech demonstrators rallied against the government's handling of the energy crisis. British railway employees and German pilots staged strikes to press for better wages as prices rose.  Across Europe , high inflation is behind a wave of protests and strikes that underscore growing discontent with the rising cost of living and threaten to unleash political turmoil.  With British Prime Minister Liz Truss forced to resign less than two months after taking office after her economic plans wreaked havoc in financial markets and further bruised a faltering economy, the danger to political leaders has become more apparent as people are called to act.  Europeans have seen energy bills and food prices rise due to Russia's war in Ukraine. Although natural gas prices have fallen from record summer levels and governments have allocated 576 billion euros (more than $566 billion) to energy relief for households and businesses since September 2021, according to the Bruegel think-tank in Brussels, it is not enough for some protesters.  Energy prices have pushed inflation in the 19 countries that use the euro currency to a record high of 9.9%, making it difficult for people to buy what they need. Some see no choice but to take to the streets.  "Today people are forced to use pressure tactics to get a raise" in wages, said Rachid Ouchem, a medic who was among more than 100,000 people who joined protest marches this week in multiple French cities.  The fallout from the war in Ukraine has sharply increased the risk of civil unrest in Europe, according to risk advisory firm Physek Maplecroft. European leaders backed Ukraine staunchly, sent arms to the country and pledged or were forced to wean their economies off cheap Russian oil and natural gas, but the transition has not been easy and threatens to erode popular support.  “There is no quick fix to the energy crisis,” says Torbjorn Soltvedt, an analyst at Firske Maplecroft. “Inflation looks likely to be worse next year than it was this year."  This means that the relationship between economic pressure and public opinion about the war in Ukraine will "really be tested," he said.  In France, where inflation is at 6.2%, the lowest level in 19 eurozone countries, railway and transport workers, secondary school teachers and public hospital employees responded to the call of the oil workers' union on Tuesday to demand a salary increase and to protest against government interference in the refinery workers' strikes that caused... Gasoline shortage.  Days later, thousands of Romanians joined a march in Bucharest to protest against the cost of energy, food and other necessities that organizers said was making millions of workers poor.  In the Czech Republic, huge flags-waving crowds in Prague last month demanded the resignation of the pro-Western coalition government, criticizing its support for European Union sanctions against Russia. They also criticized the government for not doing enough to help households and businesses strained by energy costs.  While another protest is scheduled in Prague next week, the measures have yet to translate into political change, with the country's ruling coalition winning a third of the seats in parliament's upper house during this month's elections.  Railroad workers, nurses, port workers, lawyers and others have staged a series of strikes in recent months to demand wage increases to match inflation, which reached a four-decade high of 10.1%.  Trains were halted during transfers, while recent strikes by Lufthansa pilots in Germany and other airline and airport workers across Europe seeking higher wages in line with inflation disrupted flights.  Truss' failed economic stimulus plan, which included sweeping tax cuts and tens of billions of pounds (dollars) in aid for energy bills for households and businesses without a clear plan to pay for them, illustrates the predicament governments face.  "They have very little room to maneuver," said Soltvedt, an analyst at Versk Maplecroft.  So far, Saltvedt said, the saving grace was more moderate than usual in October in Europe, which means lower demand for gas to heat homes.  However, "if we end up with an unexpected disruption to gas supplies from Europe this winter, then as you know, we are likely to see another increase in civil unrest, risks, and government instability."

Soaring inflation in Europe is behind a wave of protests and strikes that underscore growing discontent over the rising cost of living and threaten to unleash political turmoil, amid soaring energy bills and food prices due to Russia's war in Ukraine.

Demonstrators blew horns and drums in Romania to express their dissatisfaction with the rising cost of living. All over France , people took to the streets to demand a wage increase that kept pace with inflation.

Czech demonstrators rallied against the government's handling of the energy crisis. British railway employees and German pilots staged strikes to press for better wages as prices rose.

Across Europe , high inflation is behind a wave of protests and strikes that underscore growing discontent with the rising cost of living and threaten to unleash political turmoil.

With British Prime Minister Liz Truss forced to resign less than two months after taking office after her economic plans wreaked havoc in financial markets and further bruised a faltering economy, the danger to political leaders has become more apparent as people are called to act.

Europeans have seen energy bills and food prices rise due to Russia's war in Ukraine. Although natural gas prices have fallen from record summer levels and governments have allocated 576 billion euros (more than $566 billion) to energy relief for households and businesses since September 2021, according to the Bruegel think-tank in Brussels, it is not enough for some protesters.

Energy prices have pushed inflation in the 19 countries that use the euro currency to a record high of 9.9%, making it difficult for people to buy what they need. Some see no choice but to take to the streets.

"Today people are forced to use pressure tactics to get a raise" in wages, said Rachid Ouchem, a medic who was among more than 100,000 people who joined protest marches this week in multiple French cities.

The fallout from the war in Ukraine has sharply increased the risk of civil unrest in Europe, according to risk advisory firm Physek Maplecroft. European leaders backed Ukraine staunchly, sent arms to the country and pledged or were forced to wean their economies off cheap Russian oil and natural gas, but the transition has not been easy and threatens to erode popular support.

“There is no quick fix to the energy crisis,” says Torbjorn Soltvedt, an analyst at Firske Maplecroft. “Inflation looks likely to be worse next year than it was this year."

This means that the relationship between economic pressure and public opinion about the war in Ukraine will "really be tested," he said.

In France, where inflation is at 6.2%, the lowest level in 19 eurozone countries, railway and transport workers, secondary school teachers and public hospital employees responded to the call of the oil workers' union on Tuesday to demand a salary increase and to protest against government interference in the refinery workers' strikes that caused... Gasoline shortage.

Days later, thousands of Romanians joined a march in Bucharest to protest against the cost of energy, food and other necessities that organizers said was making millions of workers poor.

In the Czech Republic, huge flags-waving crowds in Prague last month demanded the resignation of the pro-Western coalition government, criticizing its support for European Union sanctions against Russia. They also criticized the government for not doing enough to help households and businesses strained by energy costs.

While another protest is scheduled in Prague next week, the measures have yet to translate into political change, with the country's ruling coalition winning a third of the seats in parliament's upper house during this month's elections.

Railroad workers, nurses, port workers, lawyers and others have staged a series of strikes in recent months to demand wage increases to match inflation, which reached a four-decade high of 10.1%.

Trains were halted during transfers, while recent strikes by Lufthansa pilots in Germany and other airline and airport workers across Europe seeking higher wages in line with inflation disrupted flights.

Truss' failed economic stimulus plan, which included sweeping tax cuts and tens of billions of pounds (dollars) in aid for energy bills for households and businesses without a clear plan to pay for them, illustrates the predicament governments face.

"They have very little room to maneuver," said Soltvedt, an analyst at Versk Maplecroft.

So far, Saltvedt said, the saving grace was more moderate than usual in October in Europe, which means lower demand for gas to heat homes.

However, "if we end up with an unexpected disruption to gas supplies from Europe this winter, then as you know, we are likely to see another increase in civil unrest, risks, and government instability."
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