Recent political protests in many Arab countries were met with joy in Western, democratic countries, while protests in European countries like Spain, Greece, and Portugal were not met with such unanimous acclamation. The differences between European and Arab protests are greater than their similarities, thus making them something more like distant cousins than brothers.
I want to start by pointing out that the economy, government-level corruption, high youth unemployment, and the current political regime are major aspects behind both protest waves. However, the intensity with which they affect people in different countries varies.
Like I stated in my previous article, cries for regime change in countries such as Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya are not the same as what Europeans are experiencing. No one wants to extinguish democratic regimes in Spain, Portugal, and Greece. The real cry is for an improvement of the system, while in countries ruled by autocratic leaders, the desire is for a profound regime change through the incorporation of democratic values, practices, and institutions.
Every country's situation should be analyzed separately. The political culture of Spanish and Greek citizens is much different than that of the Portuguese. The Spanish 15-M movement has had no effective or real repercussion in Portugal, and Portugal's situation is not the same as Spain's, while bearing some of the same problems. With this I am not trying to say there are no similar driving factors between protests in European countries — there are, such as austerity measures, skyrocketing unemployment, national debt, precarious work conditions as well as a common feeling that governments and parties protect financial and corporate interests more than those of the people.
But what is happening in Greece is a consequence of Greece's state of affairs and what is happening in Spain is a consequence of Spain's political, economic, and social issues. Europe is in flux due to its governments’ decisions. My generation, all across Europe, is paying for mistakes that were made many years ago. I believe that the problem is not the system, but the people who are part of it. And that, unfortunately, won't change with more or less democracy. Not in Europe, and not in the Arab countries.
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