Europe is witnessing a wave of protests and strikes over rising inflation and living costs, as the continent faces a looming energy crisis and a tense security situation amid the Russia-Ukraine war.
France has been rocked by protests and strikes against a controversial pension reform that aims to create a universal system and raise the minimum retirement age from 62 to 64. The reform was pushed through parliament without a vote by President Emmanuel Macron’s government last week, triggering a backlash from opposition parties, trade unions and millions of citizens who fear the changes will reduce their benefits and force them to work longer. The protests have disrupted transport, schools, health services and other sectors, and have sometimes turned violent. The government says the reform is necessary to simplify the current system and make it more sustainable, but critics say it is unfair and will hurt the most vulnerable workers. The government has offered some concessions, such as exempting some professions from the new rules, but has refused to withdraw the reform altogether. The unions have vowed to continue their mobilization until the law is repealed.
Germany is bracing for one of the largest strikes in decades as transport workers demand higher wages to cope with soaring inflation. The 24-hour strike, which began at midnight on Monday, is expected to paralyze mass transport and airports across the country.
One of the main drivers of the protests has been the soaring cost of living, especially energy bills, as Germany faces a supply crunch partly caused by low gas deliveries from Russia. Russia is involved in a military standoff with Ukraine over its border regions, which has prompted the European Union and the United States to impose sanctions on Moscow and support Kiev. Many protesters in Germany have opposed the sanctions and called for the completion of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which would increase gas imports from Russia.
The protests come at a time when Europe is grappling with a surge in energy prices that threatens to push up inflation and hurt economic recovery. The energy crunch is partly caused by low gas supplies from Russia, which is involved in a military standoff with Ukraine over its border regions.