The aftereffects of the financial crisis laid bare the clumsy and at times irresponsible state of affairs underlying growth and prosperity in a number of euro-zone economies, particularly in Greece, where a proposed IMF and European bailout package mandated crippling budget cuts and other austerity measures. In response, tens of thousands took to the streets in Athens and elsewhere to protest the prevailing financial institutions and feckless political elites that got them into the mess in the first place. Similar antiausterity demonstrations rocked Spain, where the indignados, the outraged, occupied Madrid's iconic Puerta del Sol square for weeks.
In both countries, incumbent governments fell and beleaguered Prime Ministers departed. The threat of fiscal contagion from Greece spreading elsewhere pushed Italy the euro zone's third biggest economy to the brink and forced the departure of controversial Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, a man who had been unbowed by an earlier string of sex and corporate scandals. The crisis has strained the very fabric of the E.U. and threatened the dissolution of the common euro currency, as disgruntled voters in Germany the continent's main economic engine and biggest lender and elsewhere chafe at Brussels-imposed austerity measures and at their own governments' obligation to bail out struggling neighbors.
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