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Greece election: What does it mean and how does it affect the UK?

Left-wing political party Syriza won Greece’s general election on Sunday.

The radical party wants to put an end to austerity in the country, which is in a lot of debt to other countries in the eurozone – nations whose currency is the euro.

This potentially puts Greece on a collision course with the European Union.

Let’s have a look at both points of view

For years now Greece has been in a financial mess. If you thought the situation in the UK was bad, it’s even worse over there.

The Greek people are sick of austerity. It is choking the economy, unemployment is sky high, many people are leaving the country to find work and countless others are struggling for basics like food, heating, shelter and healthcare. Greece’s new prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, wants to put a stop to it.

On the other hand, EU countries, particularly France and Germany, have leant lots of money to Greece over the years and feel that it would be unfair if they’re not repaid.

The EU is also worried that if it calls off the debt, it will look like a ‘soft touch’. It’s concerned that this will send a message to other European countries that they can be carefree with their finances because if they get out of control, they’ll be let ‘off the hook’.

So what’s going to happen?

In the run up to the election, Tsipras had talked about refusing to pay off Greece’s debt and there were concerns that his hardline approach could end up with the Greeks being forced to leave the eurozone, which could have devastating consequences for the EU.

But Tsipras insists he wants Greece to stay in the eurozone and is in talks with EU leaders in the hope of reaching some sort of compromise. Greece has some real bargaining power because EU leaders want it to stay in the eurozone. If Greece was to leave it’s feared it could spark another eurozone crisis similar to the one that hit in late 2009. And nobody wants that again.

Nobody knows exactly what will come out of the negotiations, and a Greek exit, or ‘Grexit’, is not out of the question. However, most experts are predicting that the EU and Greece will come to an agreement. This could include giving the country more time to pay off its debt and maybe even part of it being written off.

What does it mean for the rest of Europe, including the UK?

The UK isn’t a member of the eurozone but it is a member of the EU and has strong economic ties to eurozone countries. The UK economy was seriously hurt by the last eurozone crisis, so the possibility of a potential ‘Grexit’ will worry David Cameron and whoever the Prime Minister is after the UK general election in May.

The rest of Europe will be watching the negotiations carefully. If Greece gets a good deal it will encourage left wing political parties in other European countries. There is already mounting support for left wing movements in Spain and Italy – two other countries that have been seriously affected by the eurozone crisis. In the UK, left wing parties like the Scottish National Party (SNP) and the Greens are gathering support, while Labour has also moved to the left under the leadership of Ed Miliband.

And what does left wing actually mean?

In very, very simple terms, it’s a bit like Robin Hood’s philosophy; take from the rich and give to the poor.

Equality – sometimes also referred to as egalitarianism – is a central theme of left wing thought. People with left wing views believe that everyone is equal and should have the same opportunities in life irrespective of their background.

Left wing ideology believes that the rich should be taxed more to support those who are aren’t as well off such as the sick, vulnerable and disabled. They argue that a strong welfare system means people will be healthier and more able to work and will contribute more to society and put more back into the economy as a result of this.

Click here for a slightly more detailed description of left wing politics

Related content:

What is the European Union?

What is the eurozone?

What does left wing mean?

What is the European Parliament?

What is an MEP?

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