Monday

25th Mar 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.

Centre-right EPP faces showdown with Orban

The EU's largest political alliance, the EPP, will try to put the 'Orban issue' behind it going into the European election campaign. Hungary's ruling party, Fidesz, could be expelled or suspended from the political family.

EU countries push for new rule of law surveillance

Germany and Belgium have put forward a proposal for a "peer review" of EU countries' legal systems as member states and EU institutions struggle with disciplining member states that break EU rules.

Orban hosts Weber in Budapest for EPP showdown

The future of the Viktor Orban's Fidesz party inside the European Parliament's centre-right EPP political group hangs in the balance. On Tuesday, Orban and EPP chief Manfred Weber meet in Budapest in a final effort to iron out differences.

EPP hits threshold to trigger Orban expulsion probe

At least seven national parties from Europe's biggest political alliance, the centre-right European People's Party, want the group's 'enfant terrible', Hungary's nationalist and authoritarian Fidesz kicked out - following Budapest's latest anti-EU campaign.

News in Brief

  1. May admits 'not sufficient support' for third Brexit vote
  2. Orban vows more EU 'information campaigns'
  3. May 'effectively out of power', says Scottish leader
  4. May under pressure to resign over Brexit endgame
  5. Million march against Brexit, five million sign petition
  6. Italy first G7 country to sign China Belt and Road deal
  7. EU leaders at summit demand more effort on disinformation
  8. Report: Corbyn to meet May on Monday for Brexit talks

Opinion

Catalan independence trial is widening Spain's divides

What is really needed is not the theatre of a rebellion trial, but a forensic examination of whether public funds were misused, and a process of dialogue and negotiation on how the Catalan peoples' right to self-determination can be satisfied.

Orban hosts Weber in Budapest for EPP showdown

The future of the Viktor Orban's Fidesz party inside the European Parliament's centre-right EPP political group hangs in the balance. On Tuesday, Orban and EPP chief Manfred Weber meet in Budapest in a final effort to iron out differences.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Latest News

  1. Romania presidency shatters EU line on Jerusalem
  2. The Spitzen process - a coup that was never accepted
  3. Russia and money laundering in Europe
  4. Italy takes China's new Silk Road to the heart of Europe
  5. What EU leaders agreed on climate - and what they mean
  6. Copyright and (another) new Brexit vote This WEEK
  7. EU avoids Brexit crash, sets new date for 12 April
  8. Campaigning commissioners blur the lines

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  2. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  4. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  7. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us