Red Cross boss warns of upheaval similar to the Arab Spring.
January 2, 2013
The International Committee of the Red Cross said on Tuesday that the organization’s staff experienced working in conflict areas will now concentrate on Europe.
“We need to prepare for more violence here,” ICRC Director General Yves Daccord told the Danish daily Politiken.
“For the first time we see growing pressure on Europeans, where more and more people have become really poor. Secondly, European countries use less money on social welfare due to the economic crisis,” Daccord said. “That creates new challenges for the Red Cross that we have not experienced previously.”
In Spain, the ICRC now supports about 300,000 “extremely vulnerable” people unable to fend for themselves and helps millions more who cannot make ends meet. Meanwhile, in Greece, the organization’s operation is preparing to go bankrupt.
Eurostat, the European Union’s statistical agency, reports that almost 120 million EU citizens live below the European poverty line, which is defined as less than 60 percent of median income.
The European Commission has set aside about 18.6 billion euros ($24.7 billion) for a poverty fund. “We need new mechanisms if we are to help all the poor people who in many cases are now living in a real social emergency,” said Jonathan Todd, spokesperson for the EU social affairs commissioner.
Daccord said southern Europe may experience the sort of violence and upheaval that the so-called Arab Spring produced in Arab and Muslim nations. Rising food prices, mistrust of government and demands for more political freedom are said to be contributing factors in the uprisings, Europe Online reports.
In November, labor strikes in opposition to austerity measures in Spain led to violent clashes between police and protesters. In Rome, students attacked police and international rail service was interrupted in Belgium. Workers in Greece, Italy and France demonstrated as part of a “European Day of Action and Solidarity” in response to mass unemployment and the ongoing eurozone financial crisis.