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What does the victory of Syriza mean for the future of the EU?

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[caption id="attachment_120016" align="alignright" width="437"]Image: >Lorenzo Gaudenzi
Image: Lorenzo Gaudenzi

The news regarding the recent electoral victory of a Greek anti-austerity party Syriza have shocked European and international community. A range of scholars, journalists and passionate observers had made a range of gloomy predictions regarding the future of EU, the development of next economic crisis in the Eurozone and the possible withdrawal of Greece, along with Spain and Portugal from the EU.

Whilst these predictions might hold true in long-term, the recent negotiations between EU institutions and the Greek finance ministry give greater credibility to contrary claims. The Greek ministry, despite heated rhetoric, long complex negotiations and the whole atmosphere of change, has dropped all of its major demands and reluctantly agreed to extend the bail-out on Europe-dominated terms.

This result itself demonstrates few important things on the current condition of contemporary global governance. Politically, parties with a "radical agenda" both at right and left side of the political spectrum, such as UKIP, Syriza and the New Anti-capitalist party in France, are often quite successful in criticizing the existing system and utilizing widespread popular anger for their electoral gain, but far less successful in the actual implementation of their promises. This happens because in each state these parties find a well-established political system, which is not only deeply entrenched in national tradition, but also protected by strong political and economic interests, which benefit from the system per se. As the result, changing the system becomes a complex task, requiring skilful leadership and the ability to balance different interests, which means that once in office the parties prefer to endorse the current system with slight modifications instead of radically transforming it.

This thought in itself is very sad conclusion for reform minded individuals, groups and organisations of any political orientation. In essence, this leaves us as a society within a system, which has wide a range of problems. It might possibly outlive its creators and potentially could lead to unexpected consequences, yet without any tangible and cohesive alternative and without a chance to implement the required changes. As a result, our intellectual efforts should be instead be directed either at thinking how to reform the system without endangering its essential components or at generally thinking of what we would like to see in our ideal society (often this starts with idea of what we would not like to see in our society). Thus, we as people, despite the fact that we might live in different states, have wide range of ethnic, cultural, religious and social differences have a very striking similarity: we live in a condition of a shifting identity, whereas our previous ways of thinking are slowly decaying, our new ideas have yet to materialise or develop. Certainly, this might add an additional pressure to our daily struggles, yet it also gives us a very important function as individuals living in societies: we have to think outside of the box and our zones of comfort and develop new ways of thinking and living, which might work not only for us, but for other future generations.

Geopolitically, this is particularly vivid with the example of the state of the EU after the Syriza victory. Whilst the EU had successfully developed over the last six decades and indeed successfully pressurised Greece into a reluctant agreement, the organization has been experiencing a geopolitical, cultural and social challenge since the end of the Cold War. It has clearly stalled in its development, while many of the pivotal questions including the necessity of creating a successful negotiation strategy for the EU-Russia relationship, the need to transform itself into a major alternative source of power in an emerging multipolar world and the necessity of popular democratization remain unanswered.

This creates a challenge and the opportunity for the EU: unless it can successfully respond to the pressing questions, transform itself in response to the challenges of the 21st century world order and democratise its bureaucratic structures in response to popular demands, the existing system is even more likely to be pressurised and challenged by some anti-system movements like Syriza.


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