Police in Bucharest fired tear gas to disperse thousands of demonstrators who blocked traffic in the city’s University Square Jan. 14 to protest austerity measures and poor living standards. Protesters called for President Traian Basescu’s resignation and early elections, carrying signs reading “Liberty” and “Down with President Basescu.” In 2009, Romania took a two-year $27.5 billion loan from the EU, IMF and the World Bank, which imposed harsh austerity measures, reducing public wages by 25% and increasing taxes. The catalyst for the protests was the resignation of popular health official Raed Arafat, a Palestinian with Romanian citizenship who opposed health “reforms” proposed by the government. (AlJazeera, AP, CNN, Jan. 15)
Unrest over similar issues is also now breaking out in neighboring Hungary.
See our last post on the struggle in the Balkans.