As Europe emerges from a brutal winter that saw plummeting temperatures, a critical energy shortage, and Russia's war in Ukraine enter its second year, the discontent of its people seems to be expanding and spreading from one struggling country to another. While the French protest and burn garbage in the streets of Paris and Greek teachers and students gather in Athens to protest an archaic rail system, Germany's Verdi union and railway and transport union EVG prepares for massive strikes on the nation's railways and airports next Monday.
The Verdi union has been demanding higher wages due to skyrocketing inflation and has been negotiating on behalf of 2.5 million public sector workers, which includes airport and other public transportation employees.
Meanwhile, EVG is negotiating for 230,000 workers at railway giant Deutsche Bahn and bus operators.
While massive strikes appear to be inevitable for Germany, a recession continues to loom for Europe's largest economy as Berlin continues to struggle under rising inflation. In the fourth quarter of 2022, Germany experienced a 1.4% GDP contraction, and it is expected that its economy will contract again in the first quarter of 2023.
According to the Bundesbank, "German economic activity will probably fall again in the current quarter."
"However, the decline is likely to be less than in the final quarter of 2022," Bundesbank added.
Discontent is mounting across the country as inflation continues to climb, and two consecutive quarters of negative financial growth indicate a recession. The combination of the two economic issues is delivering a crushing blow to living standards across Germany.
Meanwhile, Germany is not the only country struggling with disgruntled citizens. In France, demonstrators setting Paris streets on fire while striking sanitation workers are causing piles of garbage to crop up around the city as they protest French President Emmanuel Macron pushing through very unpopular pension reform. France is Europe's third-largest economy.
Add to France and Germany's strikes and protests a burgeoning banking crisis in the U.S., and Western countries are facing difficult times as the war in Ukraine continues, and China becomes a global mediator, successfully negotiating peace accords in the Middle East. One can only hope that NATO can handle multiple conflicts at once.
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