Who says Romanians have a gift for enduring austerity? Just before the protests by the "Indignados" of Bucharest broke out, a Romanian columnist was shocked that the Financial Times would suggest that his countrymen were “familiar with austerity”, while others in Europe were expressing their admiration of Romanians’ endurance under the measures imposed by the IMF. The €13 billion loan signed back in 2009 has certainly saved the country’s growth, but at what cost?

Demonstrations have accompanied each of the austerity measures adopted by the Romanian government: a VAT hike, lower wages for civil servants, a 60-hour working week... Each time, the group affected has come out into the streets. But the discontent of recent days, which erupted following the resignation of the highly popular Under-secretary of State Raed Arafat in protest against the privatisation of the public health system, has touched all Romanians, and both right and left have flooded into the streets to take on the entire political class. They have, it seems, reached the limits of their proverbial ability to put up with the sacrifices. The government remains unmoved.

Having endured the speeches of politicians who repeat the “austerity-solidarity” mantra and blame their failures on Europe instead of trying to combine austerity and growth, the Romanians have said “enough!"

The protests in Romania are nothing more or less than a reflection of a discontent that could engulf the entire European Union. In truth, Europeans’ support for the sacrifices being asked of them, without any clear perspective being outlined or the situation explained, is fading fast. “For the European project to stay alive, something else is needed,” wrote Luca Niculescu in Revista 22 following the December 9 EU summit. Making peoples already hit hard by the crisis understand that stability requires austerity remains a tough sell. “There will be more demonstrations,” Niculescu predicts. It's blindingly obvious.

To remedy the situation, leaders must change tack. They must stop calling a summit at every “critical” moment. They should just explain, patiently, that the disappearance of the single currency would mean much more than a return to the peseta, the franc or the mark, and understand, as the Dutch philosopher Paul Scheffer has emphasised, that citizens’ support cannot be won without solid arguments. For the death of the euro would mean, quite simply, the end of the Union.