Rising inflation in Europe prompts strike threats

PARIS, April 12, 2008 (AFP) – Inflation in Europe, far from being throttled as suggested in some quarters only 18 months ago, is alive and kicking hard at the middle classes as well as ordinary workers. Price rises, and consequent constraints on living standards, are pushing trade unions into confrontation with management in many countries.

A wave of strikes has swept across Europe in recent months, from the “new Europe” of Slovenia and Romania to the “old Europe” of France, Italy and Germany.

Consumers are being squeezed between rising gas, electricity and mortgage bills, and rocketing prices for food staples such as bread, eggs and dairy.

But 18 months ago voices in some quarters, in politics as well as economics, were arguing that there was little sign of consumer price inflation.

However, property prices were coming near to the peak of a boom, as is now recognised, and the impact of demand for raw materials from emerging economies such as China was beginning to be felt, in the price of energy and steel, for example.

Other commodity prices have since risen sharply, and most remarkably the price of foodstuffs.

“The cost of food has gone up so much, even those who can aff