The European Crisis

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By Arnel San Pedro

Check and Balance

Sunday, September 23, 2012


AS I sat on the terrace of Raddison Blu along the Promenade des Anglais (Walkway of the English) in the French Riviera, European leaders scrambled to contain the economic cancer that slowly gobbling up one-by-one the Euro state-members –- with Spain wracked by the daily street demonstrations, Greece and Italy facing dissent and increasing suicide rates.

While the French Riviera and the Principality of Monaco do not feel the economic turmoil of their neighboring European countries, Spain, Greece, Italy and other Euro members were on the brink of economic collapse.

Italians and Spanish workers are setting their sights on France, particularly in Nice, France and nearby Monaco which is a tax-free haven. The tiny city-state of Monaco is home to over 2,000 Filipinos half of whom are undocumented. Unlike the US, however, France and Monaco do not go after undocumented Filipinos because they actually search for them to do chores in the households.

I met a few Kapampangans in France, one of them is Restie Roxas of Mexico, Pampanga. Roxas has been in Nice, France for a good 15 years together with his family. His wife works as an “au pair” for a wealthy French couple in Juan Les Pins (pronounced ‘Jhua-Li-Pa) which is very near Cannes. Together they make around 3,500 euro per month (P182,000 at P52 for 1 euro) and that is a lot here in the Philippines but in Europe, the amount is just right to live a modest life.

Roxas told me that the Italians and Spanish were coming in droves to get jobs in France and Monaco. The European economic pinch had been driving residents in a frenzy of job-searching in other opulent Euro zone such as France and Germany.

The “Italian government does not care about us,” said Tiziana Campaniello of Torrevecchia Teatina, Italy. Tiziana’s husband Giuseppe, a bricklayer, doused himself with petrol and set himself on fire in front of the Bologna Tax Office. Giuseppe could no longer pay his mounting taxes after Italy and other European countries intensify tax collections to ward off the economic crisis.

"He was a good person. He wasn't given a chance to redeem himself because that's what he wanted to do. If Giuseppe had had the chance, he would have paid his debt, not what they wanted him to pay because he wasn't earning 20,000 euros a month," Tiziana told CNN. The long drawn out economic crisis had been increasing suicide rates in Europe -- in Greece it increased to more than 40 percent year on year, according to Greek health ministry data. The British Journal of Medicine noted that during the 2008-2010 recession led more than 1,000 people to commit suicide. With no access to health care, no health insurance, no access to hospitals – more sick individuals in Greece will die.

Hard hit Spain and Greece seek a bailout as both governments feel the heat of rising unemployment and almost daily demonstrations. Spain already planned to cut pension spending while business leaders called on Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to act quickly. Spain will reportedly cut up to €4bn of spending a year by deferring pensions and forcing workers to retire later. The Spaniards were fed up with the austerity measures and unavailability of jobs.

The European crisis requires drastic change, more integration to make for a democratic federation. Bailout funds should be readied immediately to save Spain, Greece, Italy, etc from the economic recession. Says Nikolai, a Filipino-French living in Nice: “The French government is not good either. We are next.”

Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on September 24, 2012.

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