Monday, December 22, 2008

greek youth violence could be contagious...,

IHT | Firebombs and breaking glass, tear gas and burning cars. The images from Greece this month were enough to put the fear of youth into the hearts of European leaders.

That dread was palpable in France when President Nicolas Sarkozy abruptly delayed for one year a plan to overhaul France's high schools, after students from Bordeaux to Brittany took to the streets in protest.

Those demonstrations haven't turned violent yet. But French history, and the example of Greece, suggests they might. At least that is what people like Laurent Fabius, a Socialist Party leader, are saying on French radio.

"What we see in Greece is not out of the realm of possibility in France," Fabius said on Europe 1. "When you have such an economic depression, such social despair, all it takes is a match."

An editorial in the daily newspaper Libération said the decision to delay the education law - which would change schedules and academic requirements for the last three years of lycée, or high school - was purely defensive. "One senses among the team in power a hesitation, a dread of riots, a fear of explosion," wrote Didier Pourquery.

The rapid rise in unemployment among people under age 25, particularly in southern Europe, is one concern. In Spain, for instance, youth unemployment shot up from 18.4 percent in August 2007 to 28.1 percent in October 2008. The average jobless rate for young people in Italy, Greece and France is well above the average for the European Union, according to Eurostat, the Luxembourg agency that collects EU statistics.

"All these events have at their core a sense among youth that their lives are not going anywhere, and they have nothing to lose," said Ken Dubin, a visiting associate professor at University Carlos III in Madrid. But economics alone doesn't explain the restlessness in universities and high schools. Students, after all, have no jobs to lose.