A wave of protests triggered by rocketing living costs and a looming recession is sweeping across Europe, testing the resolve of governments that have so far maintained unity in their costly economic war with Russia.
The public backlash against high prices for electricity and heating as temperatures begin to fall is also fueling tensions between European capitals over richer nations’ larger relief packages, which poorer neighbors say are distorting the market and compounding the crisis.
On Thursday, thousands of people are expected to take to the streets across France to demand higher wages. Recently, striking teachers, railway and health workers staged marches in dozens of cities, including Paris, snarling traffic and disrupting public transport.
In Belgium, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Germany, tens of thousands have marched in recent weeks, demanding pay rises to offset inflation, more state support, government intervention in the energy market and, in some instances, an end to sanctions against Russia.
Despite measures to support households and businesses totaling 264 billion euros, equivalent to $266 billion, according to Brussels-based think tank Bruegel—by far the largest such package in Europe—Germany has seen weekly protest rallies since the end of the summer, many of them concentrated in the country’s former communist east.
Popular support for Ukraine remains high across Europe and the protests in France haven’t targeted Paris’s Ukraine policy. Yet demonstrators in eastern Germany have been more political, demanding an end to Western sanctions against Russia in a warning to Europe about the political risks it could face should Moscow’s war on Ukraine drag on.