Saturday, January 24, 2009

european leaders fear civil unrest

Ottowa Citizen | The latest spate of grim economic news here Thursday included a plunge in consumer spending in France, tumbling factory orders in the United Kingdom, predictions of an even deeper recession this year in Germany, and continued concern about the impact of billion-dollar bailouts of the continent's troubled banking system.

Politicians are warily eyeing the public mood that led earlier this week to riot police being forced to rescue Iceland Prime Minister Geir Haarde, whose limousine was pelted by eggs and drink cans hurled by protesters.

Iceland's government will almost certainly fall in coming days, London School of Economics professor Robert Wade told Canwest News Service Thursday.

"The situation is very tense and very unstable," said Wade, who has just returned from a visit to Iceland where he spoke to about 1,000 people about the crisis.

Thousands of protesters have participated in sometimes-violent street demonstrations in Bulgaria, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania and Greece in recent weeks.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has warned that Europe could face the kind of demonstrations that paralyzed several capitals in the spring of 1968.


But one analyst said Thursday that the comparison could be an understatement.

"I think fears have moved beyond chic academic protests a la May 1968 in Paris," said Fredrik Erixon of the Brussels-based European Centre for International Political Economy.

A more apt comparison for Iceland and some of the Baltic countries could be the French Revolution of 1789, he warned.

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