THE BLOG

Europe Must Challenge Austerity

29/01/2015 17:19 GMT | Updated 31/03/2015 10:59 BST

This weekend the eyes of Europe turned to Greece as Syriza won the elections there on an anti-austerity platform.

The reason the result has raised hopes across the continent is because it shows that in these troubled times, the response to austerity and to a lack of trust in big institutions does not have to come from the far-right.

Greece has a uniquely bad economic situation in Europe, and Syriza's appeal has expanded as a result of that. I would not suggest that Wales or the UK has a similar economic record. If anything, we have a better chance than the Greeks do of overturning austerity and achieving real, positive change. But we need that same enthusiasm and sense of hope that drove people to choose an alternative.

Greece's problems stem from the conditions imposed upon it by a distant centre. The price being paid for the country's bailout has been almost unimaginably harsh, and the pro-memorandum parties have refused to entertain the notion of the pain being alleviated or even lessened.

The agenda and programme of Syrizais interesting. Echoing Greek public opinion, Syriza has prioritised saving the country's status in the Eurozone and keeping the single currency. We are not dealing with a crude Eurosceptic party in that sense. The party is committed to renegotiating the conditions of Greece's bailouts in a way that will allow more public investment. It is too early to tell whether a significant renegotiation can achieved. It is also true that they will have to form a coalition with another party that isn't on the left politically. Rejecting the original memorandum and attempting to renegotiate it seems to be the overwhelming issue of national importance.

I would not like to predict the future for Greece, except to say that positive change is now at least possible. In a world and on a continent where the actions of politicians are constrained by the international financial systems and the realpolitik it enforces, there must always be a role for democracy to ensure that different choices are possible. The people of Greece will determine the country's future path democratically, depending on what the government can achieve.

So what about the future for the European Union and for the UK?

The UK is not Greece but has its own challenges. In Wales, the best vote against austerity is a vote for Plaid Cymru. Working with allies in the other UK countries Plaid Cymru would hold the balance of power in a hung parliament and offer a clear alternative.

Events on the European mainland are also proving right what Plaid Cymru has been saying in the European Parliament. Our MEP Jill Evans stated in 2012 that; "improving economic governance through stringent austerity is not the answer. We need a focus on jobs and investment in a Europe that gets its legitimacy through being both democratically accountable and part of the economic solution, rather than the problem."

A lesson we might learn from Greece is for the need to challenge the centre and to be bold. There is an alternative and it is up to those of us on the peripheries of our states and unions to stand up for our interests.