European politicians suffer as protests grow over energy prices – Reuters
Faced with an energy crisis that has only happened once in decades, Europe’s leaders always seem to prioritize politics and ideology over people’s lives and the economy by playing hardball With Russia and hot on the heels of the United States, the coming bitter winter will test European leaders’ political wisdom, experts say.
The rise of populism is another dangerous sign that has emerged, coupled with simmering protests in Europe, experts said, noting that the third wave of populism on the continent could risk tearing apart EU unity and provoking gradually a deeper recession in Europe, reported the Global Times. .
Prompted by soaring energy prices, inflation and other issues, anti-government protesters held rallies in Vienna, chanting slogans on Saturday against the EU’s sanction on Russia and inflation, protested Austrian local media reported.
Rising electricity prices in Europe have already sparked protests and the situation is rapidly deteriorating, former Austrian foreign minister Karin Kneissl said in an interview with TASS.
More and more protests have erupted in European countries as people are angered by soaring energy prices and the government’s inability to deal with them.
In Italy last Saturday, people burned their electricity and gas bills; On the same day, in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, 70,000 people protested against the government’s approach to soaring consumer prices, Fox News reported.
Thousands more gathered in the German cities of Leipzig and Magdeburg last week, responding to calls from extremist parties to resume the civil unrest that brought down East Germany’s communist dictatorship, according to the American media Politico.
“NATO has managed to do everything it can do wrong about Ukraine and Russia,” said Gregor Gysi, the former leader of the European Left Party, to applause enthusiasts in Leipzig.
Mario Salvatore, an Italian resident, told the Global Times that energy bills have gone up at least five times over the past few months. “Some restaurants even light candles at night to save money… We could have continued to live in peace, if we had continued to buy from Russia what our economies need to thrive. Instead, we just had a scorching summer, and we are now preparing for a warm autumn and an even harsher winter, whose fault is that?” he said.
Russia announced last week that gas supplies would not be restored via the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline until sanctions imposed after the Ukraine crisis were lifted. This raises fears of a total cut off from Russian gas.
A typical family in the EU could face energy bills of €500 a month at the start of next year without the introduction of price caps, according to Goldman Sachs Research published on Thursday – up 200% from compared to 2021.
Samantha Dart, senior energy strategist at Goldman Sachs, expects the real effects of the shutdown are yet to come, especially for ordinary citizens. “It’s a very painful process and it impacts the European population in different ways,” she says. “Ordinary people haven’t even felt the full weight of this situation.”
Yet the EU is struggling to find a consensus on the solution. European Union energy ministers on Friday tasked Brussels with drafting proposals within days to cap the revenues of non-gas power producers and help power companies stay afloat, rather than imposing a Russian gas price cap, Reuters reported.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said a few days ago that Moscow would cut off all supplies to Europe if a price cap was applied to Russian gas.
A leaked document within the EU also reveals that the bloc’s executive wants a mandatory 5% reduction in electricity consumption during peak hours.
It is almost impossible for the EU to reach a consensus on how to solve the current energy crisis, because its Eastern European members are more dependent on Russian gas and energy, Wang Yiwei, director of the Institute of International Affairs, Renmin University of China, told the Global Times on Monday.
He also said such proposals raised by EU energy ministers were only “scratching the surface”, such as capping the profits of non-gas energy producers and subsidizing household energy bills. , because many European politicians have proposed neither to open up new energy resources nor to stimulate research and development of alternative energy. “The current measures adopted by the EU are just using non-market methods as short-term solutions, which will eventually disrupt the market,” Wang said.
Experts have warned that as the energy crisis eats away at the economy and the lives of European citizens, governments have their hands tied. “Europeans are now coping with their days, the coming winter will be a crucial challenge for European countries,” said Lin Boqiang, director of the China Center for Energy Economics Research at the University of Xiamen, to the Global Times.
Lin pointed out that the tit for tat conflict between Russia and Europe has only one winner: the United States; “As the United States pushes Europe to take aggressive action against Russia and suffers energy shortages as a result, the United States is sparing no effort to sell gas and oil to Europe and make a lot of money,” Lin said.
The United States sent nearly three-quarters of all its liquefied natural gas to Europe in the first four months of 2022, with daily shipments to the region more than tripling from last year’s average, said Bloomberg citing the US Energy Information Administration in June.
Europe will be the outsider during the Russian-Ukrainian crisis; yet, judging by the reactions of European leaders, they are still determined to further dissociate themselves from Russia, choosing politics and ideology over people’s lives and the economy, Lin said.
He thinks the current energy crisis is a great challenge to the wisdom of European politicians, and that it is time for them to show some degree of autonomy from the United States.
Danger of rising populism
Chinese experts have also warned that the current energy crisis is not only wreaking havoc on the mainland’s economy, it could also have political consequences, such as rising populism.
A diplomat from a Baltic country has predicted that Europe could face another populist surge if leaders cannot rein in costs, Politico reported last week. “This could be the third wave of populism in recent times,” the diplomat quoted by the media said, referring to the financial crisis of 2008 and the migration crisis around 2014 as the two previous waves, and predicting that this time could be the worst and have unpredictable consequences.
The election in Sweden this Sunday will be the first test of political temperature in Europe, and EU officials are watching closely. With issues of crime and the cost of living at the center of the election campaign, Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson’s centre-left government could be in trouble. And the far-right Swedish Democrats, which has neo-Nazi roots, has a realistic chance of being part of a right-wing government – a first for Sweden.
The Italian general elections will also take place later this month. Giorgia Meloni’s far-right Brothers of Italy party is leading the polls, raising expectations of a right-wing government in Rome.
Rising populism in Europe will further tear apart unity within the EU and also disrupt ties between Brussels and Washington, Wang said. He warned that an EU that has suffered from a two-year COVID-19 lockdown, and now the worst energy crisis in decades, may be too fragile to take the hit of rising populism, which will eventually cause a great recession.