Greece: So yes, yes you can

Last night's victory for Syriza shows that it is possible for a party system in Southern Europe to collapse as a result of a grave mismanagement of the crisis

Head, ECFR Madrid
Senior Policy Fellow

This article is a translation of a piece that originally appeared in El País on 25 January.

Last night's victory for Syriza has prompted an international reaction that I cannot absent myself from. The following are my initial thoughts on the matter.

Firstly, the set goes to the Podemos party, ‘We Can’. Yes you can. We don't know if this radical left wing party will similarly seize power in Spain but we do know that it’s possible for a party system in Southern Europe to collapse as a result of a grave mismanagement of the crisis. How and why it happened is of course important. But more crucial is the fact that it happened. My reading of it? If the inevitable economic adjustment is not distributed appropriately over time and equally across society, then it simply cannot be sustainable.

Second point. The Social Democrats can in fact disappear. In the case of Greece, where they have ranked sixth, they are on the brink of extinction (for governing in a coalition with the centre-right?). The lesson for Spain? Let nothing whatsoever be taken for granted: no one's existence is guaranteed (as the UCD, a Spanish coalition party of the centre and centre-right who dissolved in 1983, will certainly tell you). The PSOE should seriously start worrying.

 © Greek Ministry of Interior © Greek Ministry of Interior

Third point. We are careering towards a clash of populisms in Europe. The rise of the anti-reformist left in debtor Southern Europe corresponds with the rise of the anti-solidarity right in the creditor North. In Germany, Finland, Austria or Sweden, the reaction to the events taking place in Greece will be one of outrage towards the Greek's lack of gratitude and refusal to respond to blackmail. One phenomenon can fuel another.

Fourth and final point. It is the last chance for the coalition governing Europe (the traditional centre-left and centre-right) to understand all of the above and agree on a programme that will allow Europe to function and grow or the European project is at serious risk. Merkel, Renzi and Hollande must call an emergency meeting and sincerely address the situation.

The European Council on Foreign Relations does not take collective positions. ECFR publications only represent the views of its individual authors.

Author

Head, ECFR Madrid
Senior Policy Fellow