Page last updated at 16:35 GMT, Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Industrial unrest in Europe

As signs of the economic slowdown begin to be felt across Europe, protests are spreading. Click on the map below to find more about some of the countries affected.

IcelandRussiaUnited KingdomLatviaFranceBulgariaGreeceIrish Republic


Iceland has been the country probably worst affected by the global economic crisis.

The implosion of its debt-burdened economy and months of popular demonstrations against the official handling of the crisis have led to the resignation of the conservative prime minister, Geir Haarde, on 26 January.

Iceland was also forced to arrange a $10bn rescue package from the International Monetary Fund.

The new interim administration, led by Johanna Sigurdardottir, says it wants to replace the board of the country's central bank, which protestors have blamed for the ultimately ill-fated rapid economic expansion. It is also investigating whether to apply to join the European Union.


Latvia has faced growing public discontent following its economy's headlong plummet from boom to bust.

Prime Minister Ivars Godmanis and his centre-right government were forced to resign on 20 February after the two largest parties in his coalition withdrew their support.

An anti-government protest on January 13 descended into the worst riot since Latvia broke free from the Soviet Union in 1991.

The government agreed to a farm-aid package worth 27m lats (39m euros, 34m) on 4 February after farmers picketed the agriculture ministry demanding support.

The government has slashed spending and raised taxes to cope with spiralling debt repayments, but that has led to increased social tensions.


Anti-government riots over the police shooting of a teenager, which swept through Greece in December, appear to have combined and been infused by more general concerns over the economy.

Thousands of Greek farmers used tractors and trailers to blockade main roads in an attempt to extract increased subsidies from the government. The action cut highways linking Greece to Bulgaria, Turkey and other Balkan states.

The farmers say they are suffering from sharp falls in the prices for corn, wheat and cotton, but the government says it cannot increase the aid it has already offered because of European Union spending curbs.


Several thousand people held rallies in Moscow and Vladivostok in Russia's Far East on 31 January, demanding the government resign over the country's growing economic problems - the biggest anti-government protests in years.

Meanwhile, pro-Kremlin supporters held a rally in praise of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's anti-crisis measures.

Russia has spent a third of its currency reserves - about $200bn (141bn) - to prop up the rouble, which has fallen in value as oil prices have plunged.


A million workers downed tools in a nationwide strike in France on 29 January to protest against the worsening economic situation and what they described as the government's inadequate response to the crisis.

They want the government to do more to protect jobs and wages. Prime Minister Francois Fillon has announced a 26bn-euro initiative designed to revitalise the French economy and create jobs. Plans include 1,000 public projects to build new housing and invest in transport, higher education and the renovation of historical sites, as well as emergency payments for the newly-redundant and training programmes.

But protests in the Caribbean departments of Guadeloupe and Martinique over rising food prices and demands for higher wages have turned violent, culminating in rioting and the killing of a union representative.

The month-long general strike showed no signs of ending as protesters rebuilt roadblocks on 23 February that police had dismantled.


Prime Minister Gordon Brown has taken the lead in calling for a global response to the economic downturn. With unemployment rising, Mr Brown's 2007 vow to create more jobs for British workers has taken on added importance.

So when a dispute arose in eastern England in late January over the use of Italian and Portuguese construction contractors at an oil refinery, owned by the French company Total, illegal strike action spread around Britain's power plant industry.


Bulgarian farmers blocked a major border crossing with Romania on 4 February and held rallies across the country to press the government to cut cheap agricultural imports and set a minimum price for milk.

In January, a peaceful anti-government demonstration in the Bulgarian capital Sofia turned into a riot.

The coalition government has said it will try to pay 2009 subsidies in advance and promised to raise pensions, public sector wages and investment.


About 100,000 people took part in protests in central Dublin on 21 February against government plans to impose a pension levy on 350,000 public sector workers and freeze their pay.

Ireland, once one of Europe's fastest-growing economies, has fallen into recession faster than many other EU countries, and has seen unemployment rise sharply.

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