Europe protesters distrust leaders

Oct. 31, 2011 at 1:27 PM
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MADRID, Oct. 31 (UPI) -- Young protesters in Europe express growing distrust of leaders and blame politicians for having fewer prospects than their parents, a think tank official says.

The Christian Science Monitor reported interviews with about 40 people under 30 in Spain, Greece, Britain and France show protesters are part of a global youth movement frustrated by a lack of jobs and what they see as the indifference or inability of politicians to do anything about it.

An estimated 30,000 youths who camped in Puerta del Sol, beginning a Spanish protest movement in May, drew inspiration from the Arab Spring pro-democracy movement sweeping the Mideast and Africa and inspired Occupy Wall Street protesters in America.

But the online U.S. newspaper said the protesters have gone beyond jobs and the economy to raise big questions "about what it means to be human, what values and truths to accept, how people should be treated, how democracy should work, the role of free markets, money, the social contract, community."

"We are here to claim dignity … [and] a new society that gives more priority to life than economic interest," a flyer for protesters in Spain reads.

Gaelle Simon, 29, who moved back to her home in France after losing a factory job and apartment in Switzerland, said when she saw images of Puerta del Sol protests, "the skin on my arms jumped off."

"I had been depressed," she said. "But after Tunisia and Egypt, I could see what the Spanish kids were doing. Something's not working in our system, but we don't need to accept it."

The protest movement comes after Europe had appeared to be moving toward unity after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the fall of borders, the rise of Democracy, a healthy monetary union, wealth and sustainable, green economies.

But today, idealism has given way to skepticism among many young people, who express distrust of political elites, the Monitor said.

"They see the political class as closed, opaque, corrupt, insensitive. All polls show a wide feeling among youth that the political class and elites are a problem," said Jose Ignacio Torreblanca of the Madrid office of the think tank European Council on Foreign Relations.

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