Many in Europe have to skip meals to cope with energy crisis
Risks of unrest rising in rich European states ahead of winter,
Many in Europe have to skip meals to cope with energy crisis- There is serious and rising concern and outrage among the European public over the cost of living fueled by higher energy prices and approaching winter.
The public despair in Europe is being directed at government policies as energy costs skyrocket out of control ahead of the chilly winter season. The risks of civil unrest, including street protests and demonstrations, in Europe’s richest nations is rising, a risk consultancy firm says.
According to Verisk Maplecroft’s principal analyst Torbjorn Soltvedt, Germany and Norway are among the developed economies witnessing disruptions to everyday life because of labour actions, something already seen in the United Kingdom.
Verisk’s latest report on its civil unrest index, which assesses the risk of disruption to business caused by the mobilisation of societal groups, finds more than 50 percent of the countries covered experienced an increase in mass mobilisations risk, the highest on the company’s records.
“Over the winter, it wouldn’t come as a surprise if some of the developed nations in Europe start to see more serious forms of civil unrest,” Soltvedt says.
More in Common, a non-profit organization, has asked the views more than 7,000 people in France, Germany, Poland and the UK. The polls show the severity of the crisis.
A majority expressed their concern of social unrest over the coming months because of rising inflation spearheaded by the energy crisis. In all four countries surveyed people said the cost of living is now the most important issue facing their country.
“Many are already struggling to cope; having to draw from savings or skip meals, particularly among disengaged and low-trust segments of the population… the vast majority believe this won’t be a short crisis, with many seeing no end in sight.” said a report from More in Common.
The survey points out that Europeans have lost confidence in their governments’ ability to handle the crisis. Few expect rising inflation to end any time soon, with over one in three people surveyed uncertain that it will ever end.
Workers across the UK are continuing to strike, demanding higher wages. According to the trade union Unite, some 1,600 bus drivers in London used the August bank holiday weekend between 27 and 28 August, to strike following similar strike action the previous weekend.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham says “the two words that unite all the individual strikes taking place are ‘pay cuts’. Workers are simply no longer prepared to accept poverty wages, especially when they know employer after employer is guilty of rampant profiteering.”
She adds that “there could be hundreds of disputes involving tens of thousands of workers over the coming months if employers continue to offer real terms wage cuts presented as pay increases. Graham also warns “It’s time to stop telling workers to pay the price for inflation and instead do something to tackle excessive profiteering.
British rail workers are set to stage a fresh round of strikes on September 15 and 17 in a dispute over pay, jobs and conditions, the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) says.
The RMT says over 40,000 of its members will walk out across the country “effectively shutting down the railway network.” More than 560 dockworkers at the Port of Liverpool, one of Britain’s largest container docks, are also among the public workers taking industrial action in this month.
In France, media reports say transport and public services workers are set to protest across the country throughout September demanding better pay. Unions such as the CGT are pushing for public services workers go on strike.
European inflation was already high in the aftermath of the Coronavirus pandemic. However, prices have increased further after Europe imposed sanctions on Russian energy supplies in the aftermath of the Ukraine conflict. The fighting broke out after Moscow warned against the eastward expansion of the U.S.-led NATO military alliance toward its border.
Critics say America is the biggest beneficiary of the conflict as it makes a generous profit on energy sales while at the same time managed to finally prevent Russian energy from flowing to Europe.
German protesters have gathered in the country’s municipality of Lubmin in the country’s north east at the site of Nord Stream gas pipeline terminal from Russia.
They have called for the opening of Nord Stream 2, a new pipeline which was about to go operational, despite Washington’s pressure on Berlin, but has been blocked by the German government after the conflict broke out.
At a rally, speakers called for a ban on exports of weapons to Ukraine and the resignation of the federal government. On the energy crisis, the protesters demanded the Nord Stream 2 pipeline be put into operation immediately and that no LNG terminals be built offshore.
Footage shows the participants waving German and Russian flags. Slogans such “Nord Stream 2 instead of fracking gas” and “Your sanctions hit us” were seen on banners.
Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Czechs protested in Prague against the European Union and the NATO military alliance. They demanded help with rising energy bills, the largest manifestation of public discontent over inflation.
About 70,000 people filled Wenceslas Square in the center of the Czech capital, according to police estimates, holding signs denouncing the country’s membership of the EU and the NATO military alliance, while demanding military neutrality over the conflict in Ukraine.
Czech inflation is currently the highest since 1993 and the central bank forecasts it to peak at around 20 percent in the coming months. Organizers have vowed to stage further rallies unless the government steps down.
Last week, the county’s justice minister, Pavel Blažek, who is also a member of the prime minister’s party, warned of the risk of riots and the fall of the government in the absence of an urgent solution to the winter energy crisis. “If the energy crisis is not resolved, the political system of this country is at risk,” he said.
Demonstrations elsewhere in Europe saw around 8,000 people march in Budapest in solidarity with Hungary’s teachers, who say they are facing low pay and poor working conditions. Teachers in neighboring Poland say they face a similar problem.
The ferocious rise in the cost of living crisis has shaken people in Spain where the conservative opposition has surged to a poll lead of almost nine points ahead of next year’s general election.
Inflation is high on the list of worries among Swedes voting in the general election on September 11. Parties are rushing with promises to ease the pain but take a risk with short term measures that may have long term costs on the country’s economy.
Other places the inflation impact is being felt in politics include the UK where a new poll shows only 12 percent of Britons expect new PM Truss to be a great or good prime minister, with half (52 percent) expecting her to be poor or terrible.
And the crisis may linger on; last week, the chief executive of Shell predicted that Europe is headed for a multi-winter energy crisis. “It may well be that we will have a number of winters where we have to somehow find solutions,” Ben van Beurden told a news conference.