News / Europe

Eastern EU States Under Pressure Amid Social Unrest

Demonstrators shout slogans during a protest against the government at the University Square in central Bucharest, Romania, January 23, 2012.
Demonstrators shout slogans during a protest against the government at the University Square in central Bucharest, Romania, January 23, 2012.
Stefan Bos

Eastern members of the European Union are facing social and political turmoil due to the EU's austerity measures imposed on them. The EU and other institutions have insisted that member states enact sharp budgetary restrictions and carry out other policy changes in return for the many billions of dollars of financial assistance that have been committed to shore up eurozone finances.

The resulting political tensions have revived a debate over how much sovereignty eastern EU members should give up, more than two decades after freeing themselves from the Soviet Union's sphere of influence.

Impoverished Romania, one of several European Union states that shed communist control more than 20 years ago, is under pressure again these days.

Rough demonstrations

Scores of people have been injured during two weeks of sometimes violent protests against austerity measures and perceived widespread corruption in the capital, Bucharest, and other Romanian cities.

Angry crowds of protesters from all parts of Romanian society - from students disillusioned by an education system they say leads to nowhere, to pensioners and nurses who have no financial resources - have been demanding the resignation of the government and president.

Prime Minister Emil Boc says he understands their frustration. On Monday he dismissed his foreign minister for calling the demonstrators "inept and violent slum dwellers."

Romania's worst social unrest in years has been linked to reforms demanded by the International Monetary Fund, the European Union and the World Bank, in exchange for more than $27 billion in financial assistance.

Discussion about EU

Boc’s center-right administration was forced to reduce public wages by 25 percent while increasing taxes. He also slashed benefits, and cut health care and education costs. Romania's experiences have fueled an ongoing debate in Eastern Europe about putting limits on how much influence the EU and other Western institutions should have over member states' internal affairs.

Prime Minister Boc nonetheless says he still favors a more centralized Europe.

"We should not be afraid to talk about a United States of Europe. Maybe not today, [or] not tomorrow. But I think we should... start to talk about that internally in our countries and, after that, at the European level," said Boc. "Because a United States of Europe does not mean that the states will lose their [character], their assets. But [it will] improve the ultimate way [we] act together in order to be able to succeed in a global competitiveness, which is not easy. We should start to talk about that."

In neighboring Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orban says harsh austerity and political demands by the international community are a threat to his nation's sovereignty. He has been criticized by the EU and the United States for broadening government controls over previously independent institutions - the central bank, news media and the judiciary. His government also has limited churches and religious groups recognized by the state.

EC exerts pressure

The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, has threatened legal action if Hungary does not relax government control of the central bank and the courts, and over the protection of private data.

Orban, who was meeting Tuesday with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, said recently it is very difficult to strike a balance between the EU's demands and his electorate's needs.

"As a politician, it is difficult to imagine that I have to have to stand up in the Hungarian parliament and I have to say to the people who are elected representatives, members of the parliament elected by the people, that, 'OK, we have an idea. We would like to go [in] that direction but because of the European Union Commission ... we have to go [elsewhere].' So, I think I would not survive even for a minute [with] that kind of discussion. So therefore, politically, it's a very difficult question," said Orban.

Prime Minister Orban later said he is prepared to change some of Hungary's laws to suit the EU, but no quick agreement is expected.

Hungary's predicament is not unique. Slovakia faces early elections in March, after the government collapsed in a vote about increasing the size of the eurozone nations' rescue fund.

And in the Czech Republic, there is domestic political haggling over a new treaty on EU budget rules.

The financially troubled EU is due to expand to 28 nations next year, when Croatia joins. Meanwhile, there is mounting pressure on the former communist member states to adjust their policies and help the union look more united.

You May Like

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid