European leaders fear social unrest in Greece will spread

European leaders fear social unrest in Greece will spread

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
European leaders fear social unrest in Greece will spread

Protesters attack barricades during an austerity protest in Thessaloniki on Oct 28. REUTERS photo

European leaders are fearful that the social unrest that has befallen Greece will spread to their countries due to the continent’s ongoing economic crisis, according to a top executive at the European Economic and Social Committee.

“European leaders fear that the same protest and strikes [in Greece] will take place in their own countries,” Dimitris N. Dimitriadis, chairman of the Euromed Follow-Up Committee, told the Hürriyet Daily News yesterday on the sidelines of the Euromed Summit of Economic and Social Councils and Similar Institutions, which was hosted by the Turkish Union of Chambers and Commodities Exchanges (TOBB) in Istanbul.

European leaders are concerned that the same scenes that started on May 5 following the Greek government’s cut in public spending and tax hikes could take place in other European countries, paralyzing states that have already been hit by debt, he said.

“This problem is not just related to Greece,” Dimitriadis said, adding that if the Greek economy imploded, Portugal, Spain and Italy would likely experience similar problems.

“The lives of those who demonstrated have changed drastically in Greece,” he said.

The lack of leadership in Europe has sparked a fire of instability during the global economic crisis, he said, adding that the European Union had to rise from the ashes like a phoenix by implementing the correct fiscal and monetary policies among its member states.

“The European crisis stems from political reasons more than economic reasons,” Turkish Development Minister Cevdet Yılmaz told participants at the Istanbul meeting.

Europe’s problems accumulated like a “snowball” due to the vast negligence among European leaders, Yılmaz said.

Political changes in the Middle Eastern and North African countries could serve the interests of both European and Turkish economies in the long run despite the temporary financial loss, he said.

There is a lack of leadership in Europe, Staffan Nilsson, president of the European Economic and Social Committee, told the Daily News on the sidelines of the meeting.

 Civil society organizations in Europe might formulate new ideas to solve the economic crisis, he said. “There is growing fear among employees, employers, entrepreneurs and chambers in Europe,” said Nilsson in reference to the continent’s social unrest. “The increasing cost of living and low incomes are creating serious problems.”

Today’s European Union lacks the vision of its founding fathers, Robert Schuman, Jean Monnet and Konrad Adenauer, said TOBB President Rifat Hisarcıklıoğlu, adding that a “lack of leadership” was preventing successful economic integration within Europe