From 1980 to 2004 joining the European Union was quite popular among large sections of the populations in concerned countries. Portuguese, Greek and Spanish citizens regarded their countries’ participation in the European integration both as a guarantee of democratic stability (indeed all three of them were emerging from a period of dictatorship) and as a real opportunity to improve living conditions (there were significant transfers from richer countries in the EU towards the new members from the Mediterranean region during the first years of their adhesion.
There is an increasing fightback against the attacks on public health services and their funding in the countries of the European Union. These attacks, even if they appear to be different because of the diversity of existing health care systems, are coordinated by the institutions of the European Union (EU); the fightback, however, is fragmented. The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), which has the means to coordinate them, does not. Even information on the various methods used in the wave of health service privatisations is not available to those who are victims of these attacks and, in the best of the cases, circulates only among the specialists. The first European conference for the defence of the public health service took place on May 7th and 8th, in the International Institute for Research and Education in Amsterdam.
On the initiative of the Free trade union “August 80” of Poland, trade-union, community and political activists, involved in defence of the health service of six European countries, Poland, France, Great Britain, Ireland, Germany and Sweden, met in Amsterdam May 7th and 8th, 2011.
The level of outrage has once again exceeded all expectations, taking to the streets en masse, and showing the gap that exists between those who are angry and political institutions. From the 19 May (15M) to the 19 June (19J), forces have come together and unity has been created, not just the local areas (protest camps and neighborhood groups), but broader segments of society who identify with our fierce condemnation of the political class and the financial and banking system which are responsible for this crisis. The slogan "we are not commodities in the hands of politicians and bankers" summarizes both demands.
The day of June 15 (15J) was one of those that leave their mark. 24 hours that amounted to much more than that. Time accelerated and condensed. Undoubtedly it marks a turning point, of uncertain outcome, in the history of the movement born on May 15 (15 M).
Two weeks after it started the Greek movement of ‘outraged’ people has the main squares in all cities overflowing with crowds that shout their anger, and makes the Papandreou government and its local and international supporters tremble. It is now more than just a protest movement or even a massive mobilization against austerity measures. It has turned into a genuine popular uprising that is sweeping over the country. An uprising that makes it know at large its refusal to pay for ‘their crisis’ or ‘their debt’ while vomiting the two big neoliberal parties, if not the whole political world in complete disarray.
After 6 days in Greece, all I could hear from many Greek people is: “we don’t know what is our public debt; we can’t understand how come it became so immense, because we don’t see it’s correspondence in investments, benefits, or anything to the country; workers only know we are paying too much taxes and having our rights being cut down every day with closing of schools, hospitals, kindergartens; employee going high and we’re are hit every day with terrorist information about the future of our country’s economy and even risk for our historical monuments”.
A referendum was held in Italy on 12 June and 13 June 2011, on repealing legislation allowing for the privatisation of water services , repealing regulations permiting a return to nuclear energy and criminal procedure, (specifically a provision exempting the Prime Minister from prosecution). There was a 55% turnout of registered voters so the 50% quorum to make referendum results valid was reached – the last 6 have failed to get a quorum. About 95% voted yes on the water, nuclear and other referendums – i.e. about 26 million people. The Berlusconi-controlled media deliberately kept coverage low key and the government parties encouraged their supporters to abstain rather than vote no so that the quorum would not be reached.
One year after the imposition of the Memorandum and the antilabor and antisocial measures it brought in its wake, the situation of the Greek economy, even under capitalist criteria, has not only not improved but instead significantly worsened. Salaries have decreased, provoking a generalized crisis in the market. At the same time the public debt, which served as a pretext for taking these measures, has increased, whereas the state’s income is far below the nominal expectations.
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