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Editorials
These are the responsibility of the editor and convey the newspaper's view on current affairs-both domestic and international

Pan-European protest

A strike of uneven adherence and large-scale protests are the reflection of enormous discontent

The second general strike in Spain in less than a year was widely adhered to in industry and public transport but the response in the services sector was more uneven. The stoppage coincided with dozens of well-attended protests that reflected the enormous social discontent sparked by the measures introduced by the government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, backed by the absolute majority it has in Congress. Beyond the numerical battle — the labor unions claimed the strike was widely followed, while business insisted adherence levels were lower — the protest mirrored the aspects of the previous general stoppage in March with fewer arrests but with more people injured, among them a 13-year-old boy who was hurt in a charge by Catalan Mossos d’Esquadra police force in Tarragona. Despite this, the Interior Ministry itself highlighted the absence of serious incidents and the respect shown for the maintenance of minimum services.

 The strike in Spain coincided with a day of pan-European protests against the diktat of austerity. Protests were held in a number of different countries, backed by partial work stoppages in Italy and Greece. There were general strikes only in Portugal and Spain, leaving the impression of growing convergence of the social situations in the two countries. The pan-European protests represent an unprecedented solidarity movement against the budget cuts and sacrifices imposed on people to meet deficit-reduction targets, which in the opinion of the labor unions constitute the direct causes of the recession and massive unemployment in southern Europe.

The European institutions should also consider themselves the object of Wednesday’s protests, and this was definitely the case in Spain. The proof of this is that the European Union’s commissioner for economic affairs, Olli Rehn, dedicated an unscheduled news conference to rule out the need for the Spanish government to turn the screws further on its citizens next year, although he put off until later any decision on whether to relax the country’s deficit objective in the future.

The protest in Spain also had the political objective of pushing demands for a referendum. The labor unions accuse the administration of governing in a way that breaks with the electoral promises made by the ruling party a year ago, which avoided any talk of the cutbacks in education and healthcare spending, of making it cheaper to sack workers and across-the-board hikes in taxes that have subsequently been introduced. It is practically impossible that any government would take on board such demands from the unions, and it is up to voters to sanction the measures taken by the administration and the opposition in the next elections.

The European institutions should also consider themselves the object of Wednesday’s protests

The immediate effect of the protests is once again to demonstrate the scope of the indignation of a population that has been severely punished. This lends legitimacy to the strike and sustained protests that have taken place, although it is doubtful that this will help to produce solutions to the crisis.

Spain wakes up today to the same problems of yesterday. Economic activity continues to show no signs of a recovery, while massive unemployment and widespread poverty threaten to run their course. But a considerable part of the population has sent an unequivocal message of opposition to the government’s policies, and it has done so for the second time in less than a year. For that reason, the government has the ineluctable obligation to listen to this message and take it on board.

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