Austrian Citizens Dissatisfied With Anti-Russian Measures
Monday, September 19, 2022
Lucas Leiroz, researcher in Social Sciences at the Rural Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, geopolitical consultant.
Protests against gas prices are rising in Europe. European citizens are increasingly dissatisfied with the directions taken by their countries and organize demonstrations to express their opinions against the EU and its sanctions. In Austria, tens of thousands of people took to the streets to demand political changes. However, the western media continues to ignore the protests.
On September 17th, the streets of Vienna and eight other major Austrian cities were taken over by tens of thousands of protesters furious at the uncontrolled rise in gas prices and living costs. Although local police declined to reveal their official estimates, sources claim that around 20,000 people attended the protests in Vienna, with around 10,000 others in the cities of Linz, Bruck an der Mur, Salzburg, Innsbruck, Klagenfurt St. Polten, Eisenstadt and Bregenz.
The protests were organized by several different political groups, but the biggest one was the trade union federation OeGB. As seen recently in other parts of Europe, individuals of different political ideologies came together for a common cause: the improvement of people’s living conditions and the end of the disastrous economic policy that is currently being conducted. Austrian political leaders reported that the main objective of the protests is to put pressure on the governing alliance – formed by a conservative-green coalition -, which the OeGB considers guilty of “watching idly as life becomes unaffordable”.
In Vienna, where the protests were concentrated, a large rally was held by trade unionists. Many criticisms against the government, big companies, and the EU were made during the speeches. Such was the popular mobilization that the Austrian president himself expressed solidarity with the situation and communicated with his voters through his social networks in order to ease popular anger. He stated that he is in solidarity with the people at this time of economic difficulty but was not able to promise any real solution to the problem.
“This solidarity should not only be felt in the heart but, above all, in the wallet of those who are wondering how to pay for their shopping at the end of the month”, Alexander Van der Bellen emphasized when commenting on the protests in a social media publication.
Other local officials also made statements in the face of the protests. The mayor of Vienna, Michael Ludwig, for example, said that the recent growth in prices is a real challenge for a large part of the population and declared support for the demand of trade unionists for changes in economic policy and salary rises. However, like the president, Ludwig failed to criticize the real root of the problem, which is the adhesion of the European bloc to anti-Russian sanctions, which are generating the current energy crisis.
Most of the western media simply ignored the protests, refusing to report on the events. Another portion, however, reported it “softly”, declining to show the real demands of the Austrian workers. This has been a recurrent tactic on the part of the Western media when reporting the protests against anti-Russian sanctions in Europe: to show that workers are asking for a drop in gas prices, but avoid mentioning that they are aware that this increase is related to the irresponsible European policy of implementing coercive measures against Moscow.
A few days before the protests, in a survey carried out by the Austrian sociological institute Institut fur Demoskopie und Datenanalyse (IFDD) it was revealed that almost 80% of Austrian citizens feel affected by the sanctions on Russia. In the survey, 78% of the interviewees said they had suffered side effects from the sanctions. More than that, 31% of respondents even said they believe that the measures were actually directed against Austria itself rather than Russia, given the impact the country is suffering. In some recent surveys in other European countries, it is also possible to see that local citizens are seeing the sanctions in a similar way, believing that their countries are the real targets of the measures – which reveals how much the European population feels harmed by the attitudes of their own rulers.
Indeed, European citizens are not wrong in their perception. Sanctions in fact affect Europe much more than Russia itself. More than that, they benefit the US, which has finally managed to destroy Russian-European energy cooperation. It is not by chance that it is Washington that plans and proposes such sanctions, which European leaders have subserviently adhered to, affecting their own interests. So, indeed, these sanctions are designed against Europe. And, knowing this, European governments need to immediately reverse these measures before winter comes and the crisis becomes a real social catastrophe.
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