Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has instructed his government to expand the list of countries that will be subject to retaliatory Russian sanctions. The nations affected are the ones that supported the European Union’s decision to extend the sanctions against Russia and include Ukraine, the candidates for EU membership Montenegro and Albania, the member states of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway, and to a partial extent Greece as well.
According to the president’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, Vladimir Putin’s support for these measures is clearly based on the «fundamental principle of reciprocity».
It commonly acknowledged that the restrictions on food and other exports to Russia from these countries are causing pain to economies that were already under strain (this is especially true for Ukraine and Georgia, because of their irrational «European choice»). However, the European leaders who have embarked upon the path of sanctions would seemingly prefer to ignore the obvious costs and continue to crank up the embargo war.
Experts in the West have calculated that the current sanctions against Russia, coupled with Moscow’s retaliatory measures, threaten to deprive more than two million workers in Europe (in addition to the existing army of unemployed) of hard-earned income. Plus, the European Union’s problems extend far beyond the rise in unemployment, and those issues now appear to be behind even broader socio-economic and political woes.
And right at the peak of the new wave of anti-Russian sentiments being promoted by Washington and Brussels, the Economist, a London news weekly, has published a noteworthy article on the problem of unemployment in the European Union. It analyzes the figures that are often overlooked in statistical compilations - specifically, the structural and temporal nature of unemployment.
According to the Economist’s experts, the greatest danger to both a country’s socio-economic cohesion, as well as its internal political stability, is what is known as «long-term unemployment,» in which it takes more than a year to find a new job. Over the past six years, this is precisely the type of unemployment that has increased significantly in Europe.
About half of the 25 million-strong army of unemployed in Europe have not been able to find work for more than one year, and 12% have been without a livelihood for the past four years. In addition to increasing aggregate poverty within a society, rising unemployment also threatens to create future complications, because, as the Economist is suggesting, over time the situation can only be expected to deteriorate.
The London weekly writes that now the main challenge for Europe’s leaders is to prevent cyclical joblessness from becoming a structural problem. Another concern is the geographical distribution of long-term unemployment, which is affecting more countries and regions traditionally considered to be safe.
Unemployment has hit hardest in southern Europe - in the Mediterranean countries of Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Croatia, and Slovenia. There, more than half of job-seekers have been unable to find work for over a year. In Greece that statistic is as high as 80-90%, and this will only get worse, given the crisis in the Greek economy and the external requirements being imposed on the Greeks to make cuts in their social programs.
It is telling that high levels of long-term unemployment are now being recorded in some European countries outside the Mediterranean. Specifically, this can be seen in Ireland and especially Slovakia. As the Economist points out, as many Slovaks as Greeks are currently suffering from long-term unemployment. The two countries are evenly matched in this category, and both are leading the pack in the EU.
The creation of a «flexible labor market» and the «efficient operation of social services» - are seen by the Economist’s experts as prescriptions for combating long-term joblessness. Otherwise, they believe, the countries affected by that scourge could see a radical change in their political landscape. And these changes would not be auspicious for the supporters of European integration.
In addition, the British experts emphasize that the existence of an army of unemployed who have lost hope in their future is creating a favorable environment for radical ideologies and crime. In some European countries the legions of unemployed have grown so immense that this demographic can make or break an election and politicians are being forced take them into account.
If it is necessary to choose between «harsh austerity measures» and retaining the goodwill of voters, writes the Economist, many party and political leaders might well choose to opt out of further integration into Europe...