The debt dilemma is knocking at the door of some of Europe’s biggest economies, with investors now turning on Italy and Spain as their default looms large. Some activists In Spain believe that Brussels is to blame – and are marching there to say so.
Economic trouble affects all southern European countries. Italy avoided the worst of the borrowing bubble, but production there remains sluggish and uncompetitive, causing bond interest to surge to a euro high.
Spain suffered massively from a slump in its construction industry and is finding it hard to heal the wound.
Both now face runaway costs on their debt which they can ill-afford, and massive cuts are being touted as one of the few solutions they have.
The 15-M movement blames Brussels for letting the situation get out of control and hopes to make Europe a better place by raising public awareness of what they can do about their problems on the ground.
“The point of it is to inform people who may not be informed about things that they can do with their local governments and to find out what problems they are having with their local governments in small towns and to help them come up with solutions. We have reunions [meetings] every evening when we get to a village. We meet with the locals and they tell us what’s going on in the town,” explains activist Veronica, who came to Europe from the US.
The organization was born from the protest marches in Spain – where more than 20 per cent are jobless and youth unemployment is painfully over 40 per cent – the highest in Europe. It is these numbers that drove thousands onto Madrid’s streets in May.
Now the financial foot soldiers are beating a path to Brussels.
“In some other countries the problems are even bigger and the consciousness about them is big. But in Spain has emerged [above all] the hope that we can change things together. We march like a symbol for everybody to join us,” says activist David, a Spaniard.
Briton Rachel is one of many non-Spanish Europeans with whom the 15-M message resonated. If there is one thing Europeans do agree on, it is who to blame – dodgy politicians promising rescue but delivering recession.
“There’s a lot of corruption, there’s a lot of injustice, and people want to change that. People in other countries are also unhappy with it. All the money is in the hands of a few, there is corruption within the banking system and manipulation and corruption in the political system,” she said.
And they are convinced people-power works – if it is loud enough.
“People are realizing that we do have the power to change things in a certain way. Basically we just have to get on the streets and make our voices heard. So the idea is to march to the central European parliament where all the major things are decided in Brussels and basically protest that we are not having our human rights respected,” Rachel says.
It will take two months to march the 1,500+ kilometers to reach Brussels, and once there, the last thing on their mind will be putting their feet up. While EU leaders go on insisting they are looking for a solution, many people in Europe believe their current economic policies are heading down a road to nowhere.