In France, health-care reforms are getting people out onto the streets; in Germany, it's planned cutbacks in unemployment benefits. In cities such as Leipzig and Magdeburg in the eastern part of the country last week, around 30,000 took part in protest marches against the proposed cuts.
Eastern Germany, with its 18.5% unemployment rate, is especially incensed about Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's plan to replace income-indexed benefits with flat-rate payments for the long-term unemployed. Schröder's Social Democratic Party (SPD) is bracing for a major setback when state elections are held next month in Brandenburg, Saxony and Saarland.
The SPD is faring so badly in Brandenburg, where it currently rules in a coalition government, that the Party of Democratic Socialism the successor to the former East German communists has overtaken it in opinion polls.