The Financial Times reports Brussels hit by strike as EU leaders meet.
Voter distress and open dissent is no where close to peaking.A general strike brought widespread disruption to Belgium on Monday, as European Union leaders arrived for a summit in Brussels with a focus on boosting employment across the region. Trains, shipping, air travel and public transport were all hit by the trade union action, called in response to reforms enacted hastily by the new government of Elio Di Rupo.
It is the first time in nearly two decades that unions from all sectors of the economy have co-ordinated a strike. As well as schools, the postal service and other branches of the public sector, some private enterprises were affected as unions flexed their muscles.
The strikes in the EU’s capital are a reflection of union discontent across the continent, worried that austerity measures will jeopardise the recovery. A Europe-wide “day of action”, bringing together unions from across the continent, is planned for February 29.
France Halved 2012 Growth Forecast to 0.5 Percent6.8% is far from the 4.4% that the European Commission has imposed
IMF predicts two years of recession, with declines of 1.7 and 0.3% in 2012 and 2013
Spain will not meet deficit reduction goals of the European Commission in 2012 and 2013. Specifically, the IMF projects that the deficit will be within 6.8% of GDP in 2012 and 6.3% in 2013, when Brussels requires, at most, a deficit of 4.4% this year and 3% next.
The agency, predicts a recession of two years for the Spanish economy, ending the last three months of this year with a contraction of 2.1%. This indicates the organization in the latest update to its Global Growth Outlook, published today in Washington.
Bickering ContinuesEuropean leaders struggled to reconcile austerity with growth on Monday at a summit that approved a permanent rescue fund for the euro zone and was trying to put finishing touches to a German-driven pact for stricter budget discipline.
Officially, the half-day 27-nation summit was meant to focus on ways to revive growth and create jobs at a time when governments across Europe are having to cut public spending and raise taxes to tackle mountains of debt.
But disputes over the limits of austerity, and Greece's unfinished debt restructuring negotiations with private bondholders, hampered efforts to send a more optimistic message that Europe is getting on top of its debt crisis.
Spain's economy contracted in the last quarter of 2011 for the first time in two years and looks set to slip into a long recession.
France halved its 2012 growth forecast to a mere 0.5 percent in another potentially ominous sign for President Nicolas Sarkozy's troubled bid for re-election in May. Prime Minister Francois Fillon said the cut would not entail further budget saving measures.
Conservative Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, attending his first EU summit, said Madrid was clearly not going to meet its target of 2.3 percent growth this year. That has raised big doubts about whether it can cut its budget deficit from around 8 percent of economic output in 2011 to 4.4 percent by the end of this year as promised.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso hinted Brussels may ease Spain's near-unattainable 2012 deficit target after it updates EU growth forecasts on February 23.
Ten Things to Expect in EuropeEuropean Parliament President Martin Schulz told the leaders the new fiscal treaty was unnecessary and unbalanced, because it failed to combine budget rigor with necessary investment in public works to create jobs.
"To write into law a Germanic view of how one should run an economy and that essentially makes Keynesianism illegal is not something we would do," a British official said.
Merkel has said she will not discuss the issue of the ESM/EFSF's ceiling until the next EU summit in March. Meanwhile, financial markets will continue to worry that there may not be sufficient rescue funds available to help the likes of Italy and Spain if they run into renewed debt funding problems.
The sticking point is German public opinion which is tired of bailing out the euro zone's financially less prudent.