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Debt warnings should be heeded

By Julie Bishop - posted Thursday, 25 October 2012


The announcement last month that the Swiss Government was launching two weeks of military exercises to prepare for the impact of widespread civil unrest within and beyond its borders was a surprise to many people.

Protests have occurred in nations most affected by the European debt crisis, with thousands taking to the streets in Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy.

The only nation of that group to share a border with Switzerland is Italy.

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The Swiss Minister for Defence Ueli Maurer said, "I can't exclude that in the coming years we may need the army."

A spokesperson for the Swiss Defence department said "It's not excluded that the consequences of the financial crisis in Switzerland can lead to protests and violence. The army must be ready when the police in such cases requests … help."

There are additional reports of plans for military police in the Swiss army to be on standby to protect key facilities of national importance including manufacturing centres, airports and the offices of international companies.

While there is some scepticism about political motives for the military exercises, it does reflect genuine concern about the ongoing debt crisis and whether it can be brought under control without a deeper crisis.

Provisional data indicates the situation in Greece continues to worsen.

Several rounds of bailouts and rescue packages appear to have done little to stem the flow of red ink, with debt increasing and the Budget deficit higher than forecast.

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Public officials in Greece are under enormous pressure to stop this debt spiral while simultaneously dealing with increasingly violent protests by groups and individuals opposed to the painful budget cuts.

While public debt in France is much lower than that of Greece, it is sufficiently high that President Francois Hollande recently introduced the type of austerity measures in the budget against which he argued during the election campaign only a few months ago.

The government of President Hollande was facing a budget deficit of €37 billion ($46.5 billion) and was forced to adopt a range of cuts to services while introducing a new top tax rate of 75% for people earning more than €1 million per year.

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About the Author

Julie Bishop is the Federal Member for Curtin, Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs.

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