News / Europe

Europeans Brace for Hard Times, Economic Woes

As economic crises intensify in Europe, governments are cutting budgets and ordinary people are tightening their belts.  Even richer countries, like the Netherlands, are bracing for hard times to come. 

Amsterdam's residents took full advantage of the past week's unusual warm and sunny days, setting out chairs alongside the city's many canals to drink and talk.  Others, like 32-year-old Sam Van de Pol, wandered through outdoor markets, checking out stands selling cheese, clothes or vegetables.

Van de Pol is bracing for stormier weather. Not the impending winter, but chances that economic growth in prosperous Netherlands may slow down.  He is out of work, and fears his unemployment benefits may shrink next year.

"And even if it's not so much consequences for me, I'm already in the system, there will be some serious consequences for the people who are not in this position and who need this kind of help," he said.

Fall out of eurozone's financial crisis

Protesters shout slogans during demonstration in Athens, Greece, October 5, 2011.
Protesters shout slogans during demonstration in Athens, Greece, October 5, 2011.

While tough austerity measures in debt-strapped Greece have sparked massive protests, the fallout of the eurozone's financial crisis is beginning to be felt elsewhere.

Banks in Germany and France that have lent massive amounts to Greece, Portugal and other struggling economies are beginning to teeter.  Fears are growing that taxpayers in richer nations like the Netherlands will be bailing out poorer ones.  And a slew of recent forecasts, including one by the International Monetary Fund this past week, are revising down growth estimates across the 17 nations that use the euro currency.

Even countries outside the eurozone, like Britain, are passing austerity budgets.  In an address to his party this week, British Prime Minister David Cameron tried to rally Britons for the hard times ahead.

"I know how tough things are," he said.  'I don't underestimate for one minute how worried people feel - whether that's about making ends meet or the state of the world economy.  But the truth is, right now we need to be energized, not paralyzed, by gloom and doom."

Uncertain future

In France, Parisians like 45-year-old business owner Marc Bakous are uncertain about the future.

The problem, Bakous says, is that nobody knows what's going on.  The government doesn't say much. People are afraid; they don't know how the government is going to get out of the larger financial crisis.

Like Britain, France also is cutting spending, an unpopular move just a few months before presidential elections.  Opposition parties have been quick to criticize a new 2012 austerity bill introduced by President Nicolas Sarkozy's conservative government.

In an interview on French radio, leading presidential hopeful Martine Aubrey of the opposition Socialist Party said that while France's budget deficit needs to be reduced, the country also needs economic growth, jobs and more competitiveness.

Vivien Pertusot, head of the Brussels office of the French Institute for International Relations, says these concerns are reflected elsewhere in Europe.

"People are increasingly realizing that the crisis is going to be hitting very, very hard.  It's been difficult already, but it's going to be more difficult in the coming months and the coming years.  This is something everyone understands and fears," said Pertusot.

In Amsterdam, the financial crisis still feels very far away.  Some Dutch, like Joris Montens, who owns an art gallery, also feel stronger for having survived the last economic downturn, in 2008.

"My first experience in selling art was to law firms and other kinds of enterprises, who just in the downturn of 2008 decided not to buy art any more.  If a company has to let go of 20-30 persons, then it's not the best time to invest in art," Montens.

But Montens got creative, handing out flyers door to door to attract new customers to his gallery.  Today, he believes the solution to Europe's financial crisis is not just an economic one, but a human one.  He believes richer Europeans should help out poorer ones, and ensure that the fundamental concept of a European Union survives.

You May Like

NASA: Pluto Has Blue Sky

New photos also reveal the presence of water ice More

Report: US to Sail Warships Near Disputed S. China Sea Islands

Move will signal nonrecognition of Chinese territorial claims over area, Financial Times reports, citing senior US official More

Study Describes Ancient Deltas, Lakes on Mars

Research builds on recent NASA announcement that water flows on red planet today More

This forum has been closed.
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.
Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanoni
John Owens
October 08, 2015 7:32 PM
Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video Self-Driving Cars Getting Closer

We are at the dawn of the robotic car age and should start getting used to seeing self-driving cars, at least on highways. Car and truck manufacturers are now running a tight race to see who will be the first to hit the street, while some taxicab companies are already planning to upgrade their fleets. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Clinton Seeks to Boost Image Before Upcoming Debate

The five announced Democratic party presidential contenders meet in their first debate next Tuesday in Las Vegas, Nevada. Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton continues to lead the Democratic field, but she is getting a stronger-than-expected challenge from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video South Carolina Reels Under Worst-ever Flooding

South Carolina is reeling from the worst flooding in recorded history that forced residents from their homes and left thousands without drinking water and electricity. Parts of the state, including the capital, Columbia, received about 60 centimeters of rain in just a couple of days. Authorities warn that the end of rain does not mean the end of danger, as it will take days for the water to recede. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs