Monday

23rd Sep 2019

EU states monitor spread of civil unrest

  • Icelandic riot police (Photo: wikipedia)

EU member states are "intensively" monitoring the risk of spreading civil unrest in Europe, as riots over the economic crisis erupt in Iceland following street clashes in Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria and Greece.

The worst street disturbances for 50 years struck Reykjavik on Thursday (22 January), as police streamed a hardcore of a few hundred anti-government protesters in the early morning with pepper spray and then tear gas after an earlier crowd of around 2,000 gathered outside the Althingi, the country's parliament, to demand the government resign.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

The crowds surrounded the building while banging pots and pans and shooting off fireworks. The demonstrators also lobbed paving stones, rolls of toilet paper and shoes.

It was the second day of protests after on Wednesday protesters jostled Minister Geir Haarde's limousine, pummelling it with cans of soft drinks and eggs.

The regular demonstrations have strained the government coalition, with the ruling Independence Party on Thursday saying it "realises that there will be elections this year."

Iceland is not an EU member, but the protests could result in it being the first European country to see its government brought down by the economic crisis.

"It's a democracy that has its problems like many other states as a result of the economic crisis," European Commission external relations spokeswoman Christiane Hohmann said.

The events in Iceland come hot on the heels of anti-government clashes in Latvia, Lithuania and Bulgaria in recent days, where economic discontent mixed with local issues erupted in violence.

Trade unions in Greece meanwhile warn that further strikes are still likely, after protracted street fighting by students and young workers in December that caused billions in damage.

Concern about the spreading unrest is high on the EU agenda, as governments find it increasingly more expensive to borrow money, putting pressure on social programmes.

"There are concerns. The EU shares them. It is one of the major challenges for the Spring European Council," said a senior EU official, referring to the quarterly gathering of EU leaders.

EU ambassadors in Brussels are discussing the issue and receiving "regular updates", according to another official, although he added that more intelligence on the situation is needed to see whether the riots are "part of a social trend" or manipulation by opposition elements.

Lithuania's interior minister visited Latvia to discuss public security problems related to the economic crisis even before the Vilnius and Riga riots last week.

Lithuania is currently collecting "all available information about similar events in other member states" and sharing it with "concerned" countries Estonia, France, Germany and Latvia, a Lithuanian diplomat told the EUobserver.

"Intensive share of information" is also taking place between the Baltic states and Poland, he added.

Following the ructions in Vilnius, 11 further peaceful demonstrations were organised around the country by trade-unions.

"Due to the declining economic [situation] and problems raised by it, a possibility of similar meetings still remains, but we hope that riots will not be repeated," he said.

More to come

In a Wednesday interview with the BBC, the head of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, predicted that the economic downturn will cause more unrest.

"[It could happen] almost everywhere, in Europe certainly, and also in emerging countries," he said. "You've had some strikes that look like normal, usual strikes, but it may worsen in the coming months."

Asked which countries were most at risk, Mr Strauss-Kahn mentioned Hungary, Ukraine, Latvia and Belarus. "It can be my own country [France], the UK, it can be eastern Europe," he said.

"The situation is really, really serious," he added.

Defending the 'European way of life' name splits MEPs

European People's Party group leader Manfred Weber defended Ursula von der Leyen's decision to rename a commission portfolio, partly dealing with migration, "protecting the European way of life". He said it means rescuing people in the Mediterranean.

Hungary claims EU 'witch-hunt' over rule of law hearing

Hungary was quizzed by EU ministers over its domestic crackdown on media, judges, academia and NGOs. Hungary's minister responded by saying the country had defended "the European way of life" for centuries, and it should be respected.

EU divided on how to protect rule of law

Poland and Hungary have argued that rule of law is purely a domestic matter and the EU should respect legal traditions, but Dutch foreign minister warned backsliding was a worry for all.

Catalonia celebrates national day ahead of trial verdicts

Catalonia celebrated on Wednesday its national day - while awaiting the trial verdict on 12 Catalan separatists, former politicians of Carles Puigdemont's government. That decision is expected for early October.

News in Brief

  1. German bank fined for cheating Danish tax system
  2. Supreme Court ruling on Johnson on Tuesday
  3. 10 arrests over possible Catalonia anniversary attacks
  4. 53% of Europeans think LGTBI discrimination is widespread
  5. Doubt cast on new Maltese inquiry into slain reporter
  6. March by Slovak Catholics seeks abortion ban
  7. 600,000 stranded on holiday as Thomas Cook collapses
  8. Egypt: hundreds of protesters arrested over weekend

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  2. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  4. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  8. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  10. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  11. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  12. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  6. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  7. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  10. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us