Financial Crisis Sparks Unrest In Europe

Thousands of Opel workers from around Germany took part in a mass rally on Thursday demanding parent General Motors scrap plans for plant closures in Europe.

The global financial and economic crisis has sparked many protests in parts of Europe. Here are some details:

* BOSNIA  Workers of Bosnia's only alumina producer Birac protested on Feb. 9 in Banja Luka, demanding salary payments and government support to offset falling metal prices.

* BRITAIN  British workers held a series of protests at power plants, demonstrating against the employment of foreign contractors to work on critical energy sites.

The protests follow a week-long dispute at the Total-owned Lindsey oil refinery in Lincolnshire, which resulted in Total agreeing to hire more British workers on the project. Workers voted to end the unofficial strike on Feb. 5.

* BULGARIA  Police officers, banned by law from striking, have held three "silent" protests since December to demand a 50 percent pay hike and better working conditions. Bulgaria, the poorest EU nation, has been hit by protests demanding the government take measures to shore up the economy.

Farmers blocked the only Danube bridge link with Romania and rallied across Bulgaria on Feb. 4 demanding the government set a minimum protective price for milk and stop imports of cheap substitutes. 

 

* FRANCE  President Nicolas Sarkozy faced criticism from both unions and bosses on Feb. 19 over new measures to tackle the economic crisis. Sarkozy offered an additional 2.65 billion euros ($3.4 billion) of social spending in an effort to quell labour unrest over a previous stimulus package that targeted investment rather than consumers. France's eight union federations called for a day of action on March 19.

 Up to 2.5 million protesters took to the streets of France on Jan. 29 in a day of strikes and rallies to denounce the economic crisis but the strike failed to paralyse the country and support from private sector workers was limited.

 A union representative was killed last week and several policemen wounded by protesters on the French Caribbean island in violence over the cost of living. Guadeloupe, a region of France and part of the EU, has been brought to a standstill in February by a general strike over high prices for food.

* GERMANY  Thousands of Opel workers from around Germany took part in a mass rally at the company's headquarters, demanding on Thursday that parent General Motors scrap plans for plant closures in Europe. Vice Chancellor Frank-Walter Steinmeier at the rally, added, "This is about more than just Opel. It's about the future of the car industry in Germany." * GREECE  Greek farmers protesting low product prices ended a two week blockade of a border crossing with Bulgaria on Feb. 7 when their demands for compensation were met. Greece had endured days of travel chaos with thousands of angry farmers setting roadblocks across the country, but most have ended after the government pledged 500 million euros ($640 million) in subsidies on products such as olive oil and wheat.  High youth unemployment was a main driver for rioting in Greece in December, initially sparked by the police shooting of a youth in an Athens neighbourhood. The protests forced a government reshuffle.

* ICELAND  Prime Minister Geir Haarde resigned on Jan. 26 after protests. The first leader in the world to fall as a direct result of the financial crisis, he was replaced by Johanna Sigurdardottir, who heads a new centre-left coalition.

* IRELAND  Nearly 100,000 people marched through Dublin on Feb. 21 to protest at government cutbacks in the face of a deepening recession and bailouts for the banks.

* LATVIA  A new Latvian prime minister was appointed on Thursday after the four-party ruling coalition collapsed on Feb. 20 and the president called for talks to forge a new government to tackle a deepening economic crisis. The government was the second to succumb to the financial crisis.

Latvia's agriculture minister had already gone on Feb. 3 amid protests by farmers over falling incomes. A 10,000-strong protest on Jan. 13 descended into a riot. Government steps to cut wages, as part of an austerity plan to win international aid, have angered people.

* LITHUANIA  Police fired teargas lon Jan. 16 to disperse demonstrators who pelted parliament with stones in protest at cuts in social spending. Police said 80 people were detained and 20 injured. Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius said the violence would not stop an austerity plan.

* MONTENEGRO  In Podgorica, aluminium workers demanded on Feb. 9 to be paid their salaries and an immediate restart of suspended production at the Kombinat Aluminijuma Podgorica (KAP), a Russian-owned plant.

* RUSSIA  Hundreds of angry communists rallied in Moscow on Feb. 23 in protest at the Kremlin's handling of the crisis that has rocked the Russian economy, the latest in a series of demonstrations held across Russia as the economic crisis bites.

The opposition rallied about 350 people in central Moscow two days earlier to demand early presidential elections.

On Jan. 31, thousands of opposition supporters rallied in Moscow and the port of Vladivostok over hardships caused by the financial crisis. The next day hundreds of Moscow demonstrators called for Russia's leaders to resign.

* UKRAINE - Hundreds of Ukrainians protested at separate demonstrations on Feb. 23, with some urging President Viktor Yushchenko to quit while others demanded their money back from banks hit by the financial crisis.

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