Europe Rallies Against Imposed Austerity

17:43 Wednesday 14th November 2012
Drive BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

CHRIS MANN: People travelling to Spain and Portugal are experiencing travel problems today, due to general strikes being held. Unions are protesting against austerity measures and rising unemployment. Businesses and schools have also been shut, and there have been some clashes between police and protestors.  There have also been smaller demonstrations in Greece and Italy and Belgium. Our Europe correspondent Duncan Crawford is in Barcelona. (TAPE)
DUNCAN CRAWFORD: Well it’s a general strike here today in Spain, and I’m in Barcelona in one of the central squares, where people are gathering at the moment where a big rally is due to take place a little later on. There have already been demonstrations and protests taking place over the course of the day. Many union members out in force waving placards, shouting slogans, calling for an end to the austerity measures, the spending cuts and tax rises which have been brought in by the Spanish government. You may hear some firecrackers or fireworks going off. They’re being fired off over the course of the day as well. All the shops pretty much around central Barcelona have been shut. They’ve had their shutters pulled down. It’s actually been quite a mix of an eerie atmosphere when you walk along these what usually are very busy shopping streets and they’re absolutely deserted, you cross into different streets where you’ve had protestors making a lot of noise with a lot of riot police stationed nearby, making sure that trouble doesn’t break out. There hasn’t so far been much trouble. There’s been a few scuffles, but overall it’s largely been peaceful, as people here campaign against the austerity measures.
CHRIS MANN: What kind of people are taking part in this in general Duncan?
DUNCAN CRAWFORD: I’d say it’s a real mix, a real cross-section of Spanish society. Young and old, many people who are in jobs who are on strike today, teachers, health workers, taxi drivers, civil servants. You name it, they’re out here on the streets. But obviously there’s a lot of unemployed people as well in Spain. A quarter of adults out of work at the moment. Over fifty per cent youth unemployment. So a lot of the people on the streets as well venting their anger jobless, who are calling for growth orientated measures to try and get this economy moving again, and to get people into jobs.
VOXPOP: I think that people is being punished a lot. It’s not really fair. Many families in Spain are being sustained by their grandparents.
VOXPOP: Banks shouldn’t be rescued. The people should have been rescued.
VOXPOP: We are fighting against austerity policies, against European Commission policies.
CHRIS MANN: So a lot of disgruntled there, and a lot of fear I think in people’s voices. They just don’t know what’s going to happen.
DUNCAN CRAWFORD: Fear and frustration, a growing frustration as well. The economy in Spain is in recession. It’s predicted to continue shrinking into next year as well, so with this level of unemployment, and little sign that things are going to improve any time soon, it’s certainly a tough sell for the Spanish government to say they need to continue implementing more spending cuts and tax rises to try and get a balanced budget, which I have to say at the moment they’re way off. Their debt and deficit targets, they’re no way going to hit this year. (LIVE)
CHRIS MANN: Duncan Crawford there, our Europe correspondent in Barcelona.