It was an Arab Spring, but will it be a European Summer?
Hungary is the latest nation on the continent to stage rallies against proposed austerity measures and budget cuts. Over the past week, demonstrators have taken to the streets in Greece, Spain and Belarus to voice their revulsion with the nations' economic leadership. Britain plans nationwide protests later this month.
More than 10,000 people marched Thursday in Budapest. The protest, organized by the nation's largest trade union, was a response to Prime Minister Viktor Orban's plan to cut pension benefits. Orban, like many European leaders, is attempting to alleviate his nation's economic woes. Hungary currently suffers from a massive state debt which sits around 80 percent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Dubbed the clown revolution, thousands of protestors in Budapest marched from parliament to the presidential palace in clown costumes and make up. Earlier, President Orban said that he would send his Secretary of Clown Affairs to deal with upset citizens.
Unlike other with rallies in Europe, police officers in Hungary are on the side of the protestors. Orban's cut has a huge effect on public workers, such as police, firefighters and the armed forces. Public sector and high-risk workers have been allowed to retire at 57, or earlier if injured, since the 1990s, but the government says it will no longer pay out pensions to anyone below the general retirement age of 65.
I worked as a policeman all my life and for 25 years I thought I could retire, Attila Bogdan, 49, told Reuters. Now I feel like someone who had been cheated on by his wife when he became a grandfather,
Kornel Arok, leader of the firefighters' union, told the Associated Press: they can call it something else, but what the government is imposing are austerity measures. We are experiencing only the negative aspects of the changes and none of the positives.