Anti-austerity demonstrations spread across Romania

Anti-austerity demonstrations spread across Romania

Romanians have said, 'enough is enough', and have taken to the streets in cities across the country, demanding an end to austerity measures. The police have attempted to 'calm' hostile crowds, by firing tear gas canisters at them. Numerous injuries and arrests followed.

Over the weekend, security forces have clashed with thousands of protestors in Romania’s capital city, Bucharest. Demonstrations have since spread to at least four other major cities.

People have taken to the streets in response to the government’s austerity measures, and the general poor living standards that many Romanians suffer. Protestors are calling for the resignation of the country’s President, Traian Basescu, and early elections.

The protests have been concentrated in ‘University Square’. Many have been waving flags with holes ripped out, symbolising the 1989 revolution that overthrew Nicolae Ceauscescu. Despite sub-zero temperatures, protestors spent hours in the square, chanting anti-government slogans, and blocking roads.

Police fired tear gas canisters into a hostile crowd, in what was laughably described as, ‘an attempt to calm them down’. The inevitable violence that resulted from the police calming tactics led to several demonstrators requiring hospital treatment. At least three police officers required treatment, including one for a head injury after being ‘stoned’ by protestors.

The unexpected spark for the protests is around on-going debate over massive health service reforms, and the resignation of a popular health minister. Basescu has now scrapped his reforms, due to health care staff, and the general public not wanting them. The reforms included more private sector service involvement in health care provision.

The health reforms are the latest in a long line of measures taken by the government over the last few years. Ordinary Romanians are now saying ‘enough is enough’. Salaries have been cut by 25% and tax has risen. Both of these were stipulations demanded by the IMF, otherwise Romania would have been refused a £20 billion bailout.

Comments

Ed
Jan 16 2012 12:13

Ooh, interesting stuff mate, especially as it seems that Romanians often make up a significant portion of migrants in various countries..

Also, seems like there's generally been a rise in protests across the globe recently.. hopefully 2012 will be an interesting year! smile

Entdinglichung
Jan 16 2012 13:05

any idea if the fascists of the PRM are involved? they were pretty influential in the miners' protests around 2000

Thomas G
Jan 17 2012 19:00

It's strange... I've read no news about these riots in French online papers... Which is not surprising, TV and radio media did not talk about it either...
French journalists might be too dependant to electoral issues. Bunch of crooks !

Thomas G
Jan 17 2012 19:26

As we say in France, I'm a bit "mauvaise langue". The daily paper Le Monde edited an article (see here: http://www.lemonde.fr/europe/article/2012/01/17/en-roumanie-manifestations-contre-l-austerite-les-privatisations-et-le-gouvernement_1630798_3214.html).
I saw other "dispatches" in other online papers...

Mark.
Jan 21 2012 14:10

Romanians stone police as anti-government anger grows (RT)

Quote:
Romania is in the grip of its worst protests in over a decade. For the second week running, amid outbreaks of violence, demonstrators have taken a stand against a government they say has brought in low wages, cuts and rising corruption.

At least 7,000 people took to the streets of Bucharest on Thursday to demand the resignation of the country’s government and its president, Traian Basescu.

Some analysis here:

Romania: a revolution for evolution?

Unrest spread eastwards

Quote:
"The protests are a sign of normality, of a society that cannot bear the harshest austerity measures in Europe," Victoria Stoiciu, a Romanian political scientist told IPS, "but it’s more than that, people are questioning the whole system and the entire way of doing politics in Romania. It resembles the situation of Madrid’s indignados."

In 2009, shortly after the global financial crisis, Romania accepted a 20 billion euro loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the EU Commission which would help stabilise its currency and its banking sector in exchange for government commitment to austerity measures.

Critics say the government’s commitment to austerity policies has given Romania’s ruling politicians more leeway to act as they please: "Romania has been an extremely diligent and submissive student of the EU and IMF," says Ciprian Siulea, a founding member of CriticAtac, the main leftist discussion forum in the country.

"This is why the obvious and repeated infringement of democratic rules and values is overlooked. In a certain sense, politics came to an end and we are governed mainly by economics," he told IPS.
[...]
Labour has been especially hit by the authoritarian drift. Justifying it with austerity measures, the government has promoted temporary employment and facilitated the dismissal of trade union leaders.

National collective bargaining and the collective work agreement, the most important tools in fixing the minimum wage, have been abolished, while the government has created several legal hurdles over demonstrations.

The austerity package has also meant a 25 percent cut in public sector salaries. This has had an enormous negative impact on the image of conservative President Traian Basescu, the ‘big boss’ of Romanian politics.

The EU demanded austerity in Romania – now there are riots

Quote:
If a ‘European Spring’ does kick off in Romania and people power deposes the regime there, it will be interesting to see how the western leaders who cheered on anti-government protestors in Libya and Syria react.

It’s easy to take the moral high ground and condemn Middle Eastern governments for using force against their protesters, but what will the response be if European capitals beyond Athens - where thousands of strikers were on the march yesterday - are taken over by angry protesters, throwing stones and petrol bombs, and making a beeline for the corridors of power?