BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Several thousand protesters in Romania joined an anti-poverty march Thursday in the capital to express dismay over the rising cost of living, marking the latest protest in Europe over high prices and pay that workers say has not kept pace with inflation.
The march in Bucharest was organized by the National Trade Union Confederation, Cartel Alfa, which said the cost of energy, food and other essentials are “spiraling to levels that send millions of workers into poverty.” Inflation has hit a record high in the Eastern European country, a European Union member since 2007.
Many protesters jeered, honked horns and some waved Romania’s blue, yellow and red flag. They demanded that the government increase salaries and pensions and enact price controls to counter the cost-of-living crisis.
“The anti-poverty march is an awareness march for the political class, related to the necessity for them to take decisions regarding the situation the population is facing,” said Cartel Alfa’s leader, Bogdan Hossu. “The impoverishment of the people due to inflation and the lowering of the living standards comes from the lack of decisions and reforms in the energy sector.”
The union said officials, economists and bankers have taken measures “that put even more pressure on citizens” by raising interest rates, while energy companies “have record profits.” It added that “fair wages and pensions, affordable bills, enough food and a decent home … are not luxuries — they are our rights.”
Similar protests over inflation have erupted around Europe in recent months, including in France on Tuesday where thousands of workers took to the streets nationwide demanding wage hikes to match rising costs. People in places like the Czech Republic, Germany, Sweden, and the United Kingdom also have protested in recent months calling for similar demands.
In the non-EU country Albania, hundreds of university professors protested Thursday outside the Tirana University building in the capital, Tirana, asking for a pay raise and complaining they are the least paid in their profession in the Western Balkans.
Earlier this month, the government raised professors’ salaries by 7%, but the professors have complained that it falls below inflation levels of 8% and are demanding a 30% wage hike.
The protests comes as much of Europe is gripped by an energy crisis triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which significantly hiked food and energy costs globally.
A European Union summit this week aims to find consensus among the 27 nations on how to control energy costs that are driving inflation. Individual countries also have passed relief measures.
Romania’s coalition government adopted an emergency measure at the beginning of September to extend energy price caps to help certain consumers — including low-income households and small- and medium-sized businesses — ride out the cost-of-living crisis.
Consumer prices in Romania rose again last month to 15.9% from a year earlier, eclipsing projections made by the country’s central bank. The bank predicts that inflation will steadily drop to 8.9% in the same quarter next year. In comparison, inflation in the 19-country area that uses the euro currency hit 9.9% last month.
According to a report published this week by pro-democracy group Friedrich Ebert Foundation Romania and consultants at Syndex, a family of two adults and two children last month needed 1,750 euros ($1,700) a month to “live decently,” a 19.7% increase compared to the same month in 2021.
The monthly minimum wage in Romania this year was 515 euros, compared with 1,645 euros in France and 268 euros in Albania, according to the EU’s statistics agency, Eurostat.
McGrath reported from Kidderminster, England. Llazar Semini contributed from Tirana, Albania.