Huge Protests Are Lighting Up Europe Right Now And This Is Why

There's dissatisfaction in the air across Europe and the momentum has only grown, as disenchanted locals join hundreds of thousands marching across the continent.

Some have been protesting for weeks, others for months, and although their issues differ, one thing links them all together.

Europeans have become disenchanted with the actions of their governments, for better or worse.

Image: Getty Images

From the yellow vest protests in the west, to the nationalist movements across the east and the Brexit rallies in the north, Europe is rising up.

So when is it going to end?


Yellow vest protests have been lighting up Paris.

While there are fewer people protesting after 10 weeks, Associate Professor at the Sydney University Business and Social and Political Science schools, Jean Bogais believes the movement is stronger now than when it began.

Bogais said the protests actually originated in France's smaller towns, where people felt "disenfranchised and economically disadvantaged".

Image: Getty Images

He said the current protests have seen several generations come together, from youth upset about lack of opportunity to their grandparents who can no longer pay bills.

"It’s a call for help to the government but the government is refusing to listen".

"Entire families are coming... people who have never demonstrated before are actually saying 'this is not working for us anymore'," he said.

READ MORE: Police Use Tear Gas And Water Cannons As French Yellow Vest Protests Renew

He believes while bigger demonstrations will eventually end, the yellow vests will re-emerge because of French President Emmanuel Macron's plans for more reforms later this year.


While Belgium's yellow vest protests also began last year, the nation saw a different generation march through Brussels this week.

Thousands of students skipped classes to flood the city in an unprecedented protest against global warming and pollution, vowing to miss school once a week until the government takes action.

Image: Getty Images

Bogais said yellow vest protests in Belgium are inspired by those in France.

"France and Belgium did not expect to be hit by terrorism and all that plays a role in the dissatisfaction," Bogais explained.

"They are telling the government 'for 30 years we have trusted you, we have paid our taxes and what we have now is a state where we are no longer safe ... and we're struggling'."


Up to 10,000 protesters have marched through Hungary for more than a month, over controversial new legislation dubbed the 'slave law' allowing companies to increase workers' overtime by up to 400 hours a year.

READ MORE: Hungary's 'Slave Law' Has Sparked Huge Street Protests

Prime Minister Viktor Orban claimed it would allow people to earn more money.

"It looks as if the government is trying to keep the promises it's made to multinationals and foreign investors, such as the car industry," Professor of International Politics at Glasgow Caledonian University, Umut Korkut, told 10 daily.

Image: Getty Images

Despite the tense scenes, Hungary's protests were not seeing the same violence as in France.


In eastern Europe, Bogais said demonstrations come with a nationalist agenda.

Last week more than  10,000 people marched through Belgrade to protest  President Aleksandar Vucic and his Serbian Progressive Party (SNS), demanding media freedom and free elections.

Timothy Less, University of Cambridge geopolitics researcher, said protests showed many Serbians dislike Vucic's "indulgence of corruption and Serbia’s drift towards political authoritarianism", but that the president's personal approval rating was still "very strong".

"What matters more than a few thousand people on the streets are opinion polls which give the Serbian Progressive Party an unassailable 40-point lead over its nearest rival," Less explained.

Image: Getty Images

Some protesters wore yellow vests when demonstrations began last year.

"The grievances are broadly the same... namely the irresponsiveness of a political elite which seems more concerned with protecting its own interests than improving the lives of ordinary people," Less explained.

But he added protests against the government begun long before the yellow vest movement, as far back as 2017 when Vucic's rise to presidency saw massive demonstrations.


Current protests in Greece and Macedonia have even less of a common thread with the Western nations.

Demonstrations in the two nations arose over plans to officially change the name of the ex-Yugoslav republic of Macedonia, but Less said the nations had "opposite poles" of concerns.

Image: Getty Images

"Macedonians oppose any change in Macedonia's name because they feel it compromises their identity and they do not understand why they should have to change their identity in order to join the EU and NATO," Less said.

"Greeks oppose it because they claim exclusive ownership of the name Macedonia and its cultural legacy and do not understand why their government is making concessions to Skopje when there is no obvious gain for Greece."

But on Friday protests escalated when Greece ratified the landmark agreement to change the name of its neighbour.

With Reuters 

Featured Image: Getty Images

Contact the author: