February 26, 2009 / 5:42 PM / 10 years ago

FACTBOX - Financial crisis sparks unrest in Europe

(Reuters) - Thousands of Opel workers from around Germany took part in a mass rally on Thursday demanding parent General Motors scrap plans for plant closures in Europe.

In Sweden unions and the Social Democrat party planned a protest “For Jobs” later on Thursday at a Saab plant in Trollhattan.

The global financial and economic crisis has sparked many protests in parts of Europe. Here are some details:

* BOSNIA — Bosnia’s Muslim-Croat parliament cancelled a session on Thursday rather than confront protesters complaining about its plans to pass a law cutting benefits to narrow a big budget gap.

— It was the latest in a series of protests by workers and disabled people, angry at unemployment and tough measures to keep a lid on government debt that has ballooned with the crisis.

* GERMANY — Some 15,000 Opel workers from around Germany took part in a mass rally on Thursday at the German headquarters of their struggling company, demanding parent General Motors scrap plans for plant closures in Europe. Vice Chancellor Frank-Walter Steinmeier at the rally, added, “This is about more than just Opel. It’s about the future of the car industry in Germany.”

* LATVIA — A new Latvian prime minister was appointed on Thursday after the four-party ruling coalition collapsed on February 20 and the president called for talks to forge a new government to tackle a deepening economic crisis. The government was the second to succumb to the financial crisis.

— Latvia’s agriculture minister had already gone on February 3 amid protests by farmers over falling incomes. A 10,000-strong protest on January 13 descended into a riot. Government steps to cut wages, as part of an austerity plan to win international aid, have angered people.

* BRITAIN — British workers have held a series of protests at power plants, demonstrating against the employment of foreign contractors to work on critical energy sites. The protests follow a week-long dispute at the Total-owned Lindsey oil refinery in Lincolnshire. The protest ended on February 5 after Total agreed to hire more British workers on the project.

* BULGARIA — Police officers, banned by law from striking, have held three “silent” protests since December to demand a 50 percent pay hike and better working conditions. Bulgaria, the poorest EU nation, has been hit by protests demanding the government take measures to shore up the economy.

— Farmers blocked the only Danube bridge link with Romania and rallied across Bulgaria on February 4 demanding a minimum price for milk and an end to imports of cheap substitutes.

* FRANCE — President Nicolas Sarkozy faced criticism from both unions and bosses on February 19 over new measures to tackle the economic crisis. Sarkozy offered an additional 2.65 billion euros (1.85 billion pounds) of social spending in an effort to quell labour unrest over a previous stimulus package. France’s eight union federations called for a day of action on March 19.

— Up to 2.5 million protesters took to the streets of France on January 29 in a day of strikes and rallies to denounce the economic crisis but the strike failed to paralyse the country and support from private sector workers was limited.

— A union representative was killed last week and several policemen wounded by protesters on the French Caribbean island in violence over the cost of living. Guadeloupe, a region of France and part of the EU, has been brought to a standstill in February by a general strike over high prices for food.

* GREECE — Greek farmers protesting low product prices ended a two week blockade of a border crossing with Bulgaria on February 7 when their demands for compensation were met. Greece had endured days of travel chaos with thousands of angry farmers setting roadblocks across the country, but most ended after the government pledged 500 million euros in subsidies on products such as olive oil and wheat.

* ICELAND — Prime Minister Geir Haarde resigned on January 26 after protests. The first leader in the world to fall as a direct result of the financial crisis, he was replaced by Johanna Sigurdardottir, who heads a new centre-left coalition.

* IRELAND — Nearly 100,000 people marched through Dublin on February 21 to protest at government cutbacks in the face of a deepening recession and bailouts for the banks.

* LITHUANIA — Police fired teargas on January 16 to disperse demonstrators who pelted parliament with stones in protest at cuts in social spending. Police said 80 people were detained and 20 injured. Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius said the violence would not stop an austerity plan.

* MONTENEGRO — In Podgorica, aluminium workers demanded on February 9 to be paid their salaries and an immediate restart of suspended production at the Kombinat Aluminijuma Podgorica (KAP), a Russian-owned plant.

* RUSSIA — Hundreds of angry communists rallied in Moscow on February 23 in protest at the Kremlin’s handling of the crisis that has rocked the Russian economy, the latest in a series of demonstrations held across Russia as the economic crisis bites.

— The opposition rallied about 350 people in central Moscow two days earlier to demand early presidential elections.

— On January 31, thousands of opposition supporters rallied in Moscow and the port of Vladivostok over hardships caused by the financial crisis. The next day hundreds of Moscow demonstrators called for Russia’s leaders to resign.

* UKRAINE - Hundreds of Ukrainians protested at separate demonstrations on February 23, with some urging President Viktor Yushchenko to quit while others demanded their money back from banks hit by the financial crisis.

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