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

US Gives Malaysia Questionable Upgrade in Human Trafficking Ranks

Malaysia’s upgrade seen as removing barrier to country’s participation in the US-led 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership More

Turkey, US Try to Establish Buffer Despite Differences

Coalition airstrikes in proposed zone would aim to drive out Islamic extremists, allowing targeted area to come under sway of anti-Assad rebels More

Video US: Millions Exploited by Vast Fortunes of Human Trafficking

State Department's annual report calls exploitation 'modern slavery,' brutalizing girls, women into prostitution and forcing men, women and children into low-wage jobs across the globe 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 Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Wini
X
July 28, 2015 12:21 AM
The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Obama Encourages Kenya to Fix Cultures of Corruption, Discrimination

President Barack Obama bid farewell to Kenya Sunday with a major speech at as stadium outside the capital Nairobi where he called on Kenyans to change the cultures of corruption and discrimination that can hold society back. VOA East Africa Correspondent Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video California Towns Welcome Special Olympics Athletes

Cities and towns in Southern California are greeting thousands of athletes who are arriving for Special Olympics, a competition for people with intellectual disabilities. The games will run from July 25th through August 2nd. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, where athletes from Namibia, Singapore and Tanzania got a rousing welcome from local residents.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.
Video

Video Hoverbike Flying Toward Reality

Another long-standing dream of many technological inventors is quickly approaching reality: U.S.- and British-based firms are cooperating in the development of an individual flying platform they call a hoverbike. They say it may revolutionize the concept of flying, including in the U.S. military. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video As Japan Expands Defense Role, Protests Follow

The Japanese government is moving forward with a controversial security bill that would authorize the military to fight abroad for the first time since World War II. Leaders say it is critical to defend against rising threats from China and North Korea. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Japan on the big changes ahead, and the opposition they are drawing.
Video

Video Replacing Poppies with Coffee in Myanmar

The remote mountains of Myanmar’s Shan state are home to the second-largest opium-producing region in the world. After a drop during the 2000s, production surged in the past eight years to feed an increasing demand for heroin in China. But farmers are now making less on the crop, and the U.N. is hoping many will make the switch to growing coffee. Daniel de Carteret reports for VOA from Taunggyi.

VOA Blogs