Italian protesters clashed with police Thursday as thousands took to the streets around the country in anger at budget cuts and the Brussels-backed “bankers’ government.”
The student-led demos came just hours before new Prime Minister Mario Monti, whose government was sworn in on Wednesday, revealed his anti-crisis measures in his first address to parliament. He is expected to face a confidence vote before the upper house on Thursday night.
As protesters in Rome hoped to march on the Senate while Monti delivered his speech, students in Italy’s financial capital Milan battled with baton-wielding police as they headed for Bocconi University, which is chaired by the prime minister.
Demonstrators in Palermo and Sicily were reported to have thrown stones at police, while others hurled eggs and smoke bombs at a local bank.
Violence was also reported in Turin, when protesters met police head on as they came up on the city headquarters of the Bank of Italy.
Coinciding with the demonstrations were a series of walkouts and strikes across the country by transport unions demanding better contracts.
James Waltson, professor of international relations at the American University of Rome, told RT that further protests are almost inevitable, as Monti’s success depends on economic revival.
“He cannot succeed unless he manages to get the Italian economy going again, he can’t just cut,” he said.
Perhaps recognizing this, the premier, who said the country is facing an emergency, called for a three-pillar program of economic growth, social fairness, and fiscal responsibility.
Monti also said the scope of the crisis facing Italy threatens the future of the euro.
As the third largest economy in the eurozone, an Italian default could lead to the disintegration of the monetary union.
However, as Monti’s cabinet of technocrats was not elected, it will be harder than ever to win popular support for more austerity measures which would include pension reforms and job cuts.
Recognizing fears among protesters who say they have become victims of an undemocratic transfer of power, Waltson said:
“Brussels is still dictating, is still calling the shots. The eurocrats, the bankers who have taken over here, are most of them pro-euro and friends with Brussels, so they will be willing helpers to try and get Italy growing again and cutting the huge public spending.”