In January 2015, the Greek youth went on the streets and celebrated the win of the radical left party, Syriza, in the elections. Several months later, the youth wait impatiently for the promises to be fulfilled but they remain hopeful. Euroviews spoke to the youth of Syriza, now called by some the “youth of the government”, about their hopes and dreams for the near future and the prospect of leaving the EU.
In the area of Exarcheia in Athens, the Greek youth and supporters of Syriza do not have to fear policemen all over the place anymore. They meet every Monday in a café on Tsamadou Street to share ideas and hopes for the near future or to just have a beer and relax. They can already notice some changes in the area and in Greece generally but all in all they feel safer being able to express their opinions.
Loanna Karavasili and Morakis Panayiotis are both 27 and have been supporting Syriza since 2007 and were happy to see their votes finally paying off.
“There are changes in many things but there’s a lot to be done. For example, before the elections Exarcheia area was full of police but not anymore. There are no more cuts in pensions, and we are promised that taxes will not increase. There aren’t new changes in the laws but we see changes among the people. That takes time and we’ll wait and see” said Panayiotis.
Karavasili talked about her experience after the elections:
“People are optimistic and support the government. In January, it was the first time in Greece that the public went marching to support the government. A lot of things Syriza promised regarding the minimal wage, which concerns a lot of people, have not happened but they will in time we hope.”
The youth do acknowledge that some things have been done. Earlier this week, the government introduced financial help for families with debt problems with banks. The Greek public TV which had been closed by the previous government will be opened again.
The youth organization of Syriza, also located in Exarcheia, has been a big part of the win and workers there have noticed how people feel after the elections. Euroviews spoke to Petros Markopoulos, foreign affairs advisor of the youth organisation of Syriza.
According to Markopoulos, Youth of Syriza has been active the last years in the “whole spectrum of young people’s everyday life.”
The main argument Syriza had in mind to influence people to vote for them is changing and challenging austerity measures. These measures have been a major part of the Greek government debt crisis and the ability or inability to repay the debt. The government was forced by the EU to introduce tough fiscal laws which posed an increase in taxes and cuts in pensions and increased the protest against the government led by conservatives.
“We try to be part of all the struggles and fights that the people gave these last years against austerity whether this means we should be part of a strike organised by workers against wage cuts or fighting in the university against privatisation of studies and even neighbourhood movements” says Markopoulos. These are the things they did before the elections in January while trying to reach young people about their plan.
Young people were a big part of the Syriza win however votes of 100 thousand 18-years-olds were eliminated because of a technical problem as the conservative party in Greece claimed. According to Markopoulos it’s the party’s fault because “they knew most young people would vote for Syriza and especially 18-year-olds.”
Many of the people who have gone abroad were excluded by the voting procedure. 150 thousand young people were not allowed to vote in embassies abroad. That was another political choice made by the former government itself as Syriza claims.
The situation has changed a lot since Syriza won the elections but according to Markopoulos more work is to be done in the months to come. “The aim now is to end the humanitarian crisis and restart our economy based on a new model which will respect the workers, the environment, and democracy.”
The Youth of Syriza had a campaign parallel to the one the party was leading for the elections. Up until the vote was cast, the youth organization was trying to show the depressed youth that “it’s time to create and to be positive and optimistic and take the future in our hands.”
They have had rallies and discussions about what the program of Syriza says about young people, education, and unemployment.
“There has been a positive turn, many were afraid of Syriza because of how the media portrayed us as vandals or even Satanists” says Markopoulos.
Syriza uses social media to reach young people but also to reach out to people where they live, work, or study. They do that through their active groups in Athens University.
In the elections, 50% of people under 30 voted for Syriza. “The people that are not working but want to work are putting the hope on Syriza and many old people now also support Syriza because they see it’s good for the generations to come” says Panayiotis.
EU or no EU
Since the formation of the new government in Greece, there has been an on-going discussion regarding the EU and whether the country should leave as a response and protest to the increasing austerity measures but what do the youth think?
“The youth is not afraid of colliding with the EU and wants to see radical change in Greece and we like that but what most people want right now is that to change Europe. The aim is to challenge austerity and create new prospects for the majority of the society. It’s either that the EU can change or it will eventually dissolve” says Markopoulos.
“There is a lot of thinking, of what would happen if the European Union doesn’t give us the money and what we would do. A lot of people think that leaving the EU will be very difficult in the beginning, but they see it as very strict and oppressing so they want to leave but it’s difficult to do so.” says Panayiotis.
Panayiotis adds: “It would be an opportunity too. They have to be very fair because people here are angry and think they don’t give us money and want us to suffer.”
The supporter cost
Karavasili and Panayiotis spoke about the dangers they face as supporters of a radical left party.
“We face some problems because we are the youth of the government and some pieces of the movement like anarchists clash with us and have tried to set the offices on fire. There’s hope that this will come to end and will be reversed. They have occupied the main radio station and other building of Syriza. They demonstrate, say what they want, and then leave” says Karavasili.
Main supporters of Syriza nowadays are workers and young people. “A lot of things still have to change but we have to pressure the movement and continue to participate” says Panayiotis.
Young people in Greece are known for having a high level of education but 80 % of the youth are unemployed. As Karavasili comments, “most young people want to travel to other countries to seek proper careers.”