Friday, February 13, 2015

A Wind of Change in Europe? Greece Takes Anti-Austerity Fight to Brussels, but Deal Remains Elusive

by Nikolia Apostolou

Vice News

February 13, 2015

"A wind of change is blowing in Europe," Pablo Iglesias, leader of Spain's Podemos party, told the crowd of Athenians gathered to listen to Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras make his last speech before Greece's national elections last month. "The name of that change in Greece is Syriza and the name of the change in Spain will be Podemos."

Iglesias was addressing the rise of leftist anti-austerity parties across Europe, campaigning on a platform of change and a new way of dealing with the economic problems that have plagued the EU since the 2008 financial crisis. With anemic growth, unemployment has risen to around 11.5 percent in the Eurozone, while the bloc is also suffering as a result of economic sanctions against Russia.

Once much more acute in the southern EU countries (Greece, Portugal, Italy, and Spain) economic stagnation is increasingly spreading to some of the more prosperous northern member states. Germany, Europe's economic powerhouse, also had a few quarters of near-zero growth before rebounding at the end of last year. France, the bloc's second largest economy, barely grew at all in 2014.

"I think that after five years of sovereign debt crisis, with extreme austerity in many EU countries, painful stabilization policies, and widely discredited political systems, an emergence of anti-establishment parties of right and left, was only a matter of time," Aristides Hatzis, a professor of law and economics at the University of Athens, told VICE News. "However, I believe that the Greek government will prove to be more conventional than expected."


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