Debt-ridden Southern Europe continued to reel from the fiscal nightmare gripping the eurozone, and clouding the prospects of the global economic recovery. Mass protests and general strikes became routine in 2012 in Spain, Greece, Italy, Portugal and elsewhere, as infuriated publics rallied against austerity measures imposed on their countries as the condition of bailouts from further north. Steep cuts in public spending have done little to promote the growth needed to right the listing ships of the Mediterranean economies. Instead, hardship and inequality have deepened, and unemployment has skyrocketed — nearly a quarter of Spain’s workforce is out of a job. Local and national elections throughout the continent saw voters turn against parties associated with the European status quo, which is now often characterized as diktat from Brussels and Berlin—the latter’s wealth relied on for the lion’s share of bailout funds. In Greece, elections saw striking gains for hard left and far-right parties with little inclination to heed the bankers from the north. In France, the Socialist Francois Hollande ousted incumbent conservative Nicolas Sarkozy after a presidential campaign steeped in populist, anti-austerity rhetoric. In the intervening months, Hollande—like many other European policymakers—has found that walking the walk is far harder than talking the talk.
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