Europe's Angry Youth: Flash Points Across the Continent
Violent riots like those that raged through London and Britain this week have rung the alarm bell for politicians. Frustration is also high among young people in other nations across Europe. As the gap between rich and poor widens, the next outbreak could happen in a number of countries.
For four days earlier this week, young people in Britain rioted, marauding through the streets of England's big cities. Prime Minister David Cameron called off his summer holiday in Tuscany to deal with the situation, and members of parliament were recalled from their recess.
Cameron's government has described the rioters as criminals looking to plunge the country into chaos, but that's only part of the truth. A recent study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) reveals another piece of the puzzle: Of all the European Union countries, only Portugal is home to greater wealth disparity than Great Britain.
These riots are a specifically English problem -- at least for now. But the divide between rich and poor is growing all across Europe, helped along by austerity measures, especially those implemented by the countries worst stricken in the debt crisis, including Greece, Spain and Italy. Not only are social services being slashed, but school budgets and health care services as well. And nearly every European city has its disadvantaged neighborhoods, places where opportunities for young people in particular are limited.
Prosperous Germany is also feeling the pinch of cost-cutting measures. The German National Poverty Conference (NAK) warns that prospects for young people are only growing worse. As youth welfare services are cut, they say, other services, such as the charity missions run from train stations throughout the country, are seeing more young people in need. And to find proof that Germany is also home to a latent tendency toward violence, look no further than the yearly riots on May 1 -- International Workers' Day -- in Berlin's Kreuzberg district and Hamburg's Schanzenviertel.
The "Losers' Uprising," as German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung termed it, could spread beyond Britain in the future. Many EU countries already fear the development of what the German media are describing as "English-style conditions." The Continent could be in for an explosive autumn, a situation some have already called a crisis of European democracy.
SPIEGEL ONLINE has compiled an interactive guide to potential youth flashpoints in Europe:
Reported by STEFAN SIMONS, BERND DÖRLER, FABIAN REINBOLD, BJÖRN HENGST and FLORIAN GATHMANN
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|Youth unemployment in Europe1) (seasonally adjusted2)results from workforce surveys in June 2011)|
|European Union average (in percent)||20.5|
| Sources: German Federal Statistical Office/Eurostat, July 2011
1) Refers to individuals aged 15 to 24 in private households, excluding those in military service or civilian alternative
2) Trend estimate for Germany, Finland, Austria
3) For the reporting month of April 2011
4) For the reporting month of March 2011