EU finance ministers run. But they can’t hide forever
The EU Finance Ministers’ meeting this weekend in Wroclaw, Poland, was not going anywhere anyway – Governments across Europe have only one response to the crisis, which is to pass the cost on to ordinary working people. But it still broke up early because they didn’t want their ruminations disturbed by a 20% larger than expected European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) demonstration.
50,000 workers from all over Eastern Europe, but especially Poland, were joined by symbolic delegations from western and southern Europe, such as the TUC. Protesters flooded over the Oder River into the old town of Wroclaw, filling the town square to hear ETUC General Secretary Bernadette Segol demand an end to austerity, and measures to promote jobs and growth. Making pensioners, young people and working families pay for the crisis through cuts to public services, reduced wages and pensions, and continuing unemployment is unsustainable: we didn’t cause the crisis, and we’re not rich enough to pay for it, either!
Demonstrations are not, of course, the answer: we need policies for growth. But they send a strong signal about how ordinary people are feeling, and when the population of the fourth largest city in Poland was swollen by nearly 10% by demonstrators (including the police union!) politicians need to take notice.
On this occasion, they left town early, because the police (yes, the ones whose representatives were on the demonstration with us) refused requests to re-route the march away from the Nazi-era conference centre where they were meeting to fail once again to solve the crisis facing the Euro (Wroclaw was part of Germany before World War Two). This time they ran. But they cannot hide forever, and will have to face the facts as unemployment refuses to fall, as government debt grows larger, and as economies fail to bounce back.