Europe's 'crisis after the crisis' poses uncertainty in 2014

Europe's 'crisis after the crisis' poses uncertainty in 2014

ATHENS - Is Europe on the verge of a popular uprising? The question was asked by one of Greece's most respected newspapers as another year of painful austerity drew to a close.

If public anger does explode on the streets, wrote Kathimerini, it will not be provoked by politicians or labour unions, but come from ordinary people who "never imagined themselves doing such a thing".

Desperation is weighing not just on Greece, but on countries across Europe facing the same paradox: despite the end of the Great Recession, people continue to struggle with the daily reality of unemployment and poverty.

Greece, Italy and Portugal are forecast to return to growth next year, while Spain has already emerged from recession and Ireland has ended its bailout programme.

But the disconnect between economic data and quality of life is fuelling populism, rightwing extremism and anti-European sentiment - and is likely to play a big part in European Parliament elections in May.

"An improvement? We see no improvement, and will not for quite some time," said Manuel Moreno, a 34-year-old who just lost his job at a humanitarian organisation in Madrid.

"It took 15 years for things to improve after the 1990 economic crisis. This time round, the situation is much worse. We could see no recovery for 20 to 25 years," he said.

Yet according to the figures, Spain is already doing better.

In 2012, its banks needed 41.3 billion euros (S$70 billion) from the European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund - the so-called "troika" - to save them after the collapse of a real-estate bubble. Last November, the government announced it would exit the rescue programme at the beginning of the year.

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