Mass labor protests: French unions launched their third one-day national strike in a month this week, paralyzing the country in a last-ditch attempt to persuade the government to drop its controversial pension reform. This week’s nationwide strikes and demonstrations were the biggest yet, involving up to a million people, including teachers, students, train conductors, and oil-refinery workers. The Eiffel Tower was closed for lack of staff, airports canceled up to half of scheduled flights, and only one in three high-speed TGV trains were running. The senate was set to vote on the reform bill at the end of this week, but the most contentious item—raising the retirement age from 60 to 62—had already been approved.
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Far right surges: Austria’s far-right Freedom Party has won 27 percent of the vote in Vienna’s city elections, up from 15 percent in 2005. It was the party’s best showing since the mid-’90s, under the leadership of the late, notorious Jörg Haider, and is the latest in a series of successes by anti-immigration parties across Europe. The Social Democrats remained the largest party in the city long known as “das rote Wien”—red Vienna—but lost their majority in the regional parliament. “With a hand on my heart, I am deeply grateful for the confidence the Viennese have given me,” said Freedom Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache, who ran the party’s explicitly anti-Muslim campaign. “And I know what that responsibility means.”
Secession warning: Hillary Clinton, making her first official visit to Bosnia as secretary of state this week, was greeted by threats from Bosnian-Serb nationalists that they would break the country apart. Fifteen years ago, the U.S.-sponsored Dayton accords created a complex governing system for Bosnia based on two separate regions. Now, firebrand Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik has threatened to declare independence for his half of the country. In Sarajevo this week, Zlatko Lagumdzija, the prime minister–elect, said he would sanction physical force to prevent partition of the country. If the international community does not act to prevent a breakaway, he said, the violence that ensues would make the 1992–95 civil war, in which 100,000 people died, “look like Disneyland.”
Policeman convicted: A Greek policeman has been sentenced to life in prison for shooting a 15-year-old boy in 2008, a killing that sparked Greece’s worst civil disturbances in four decades. Alexandros Grigoropoulos was said to have been among a group of youths who had been throwing stones at a patrol vehicle. Officer Epaminondas Korkoneas got out of the car and opened fire, shooting three bullets at the teenager. The teen’s death sparked the “December Uprising”—weeks of rioting that caused extensive damage in several cities. The verdict was a relief to many in Greece who feared that anything but a guilty verdict would have sparked an upsurge of violent protest.
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