The Education Ministry clashed with conservative New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Wednesday over a recent spike in crime and lawlessness on Greek university campuses.
The ND chief walked past the Athens University of Economics and Business on Wednesday in the wake of claims by academics about the problem and later expressed his shock at “the unacceptable sight of street vendors occupying a public space,” noting that those same vendors routinely “seek refuge inside the university to avoid arrest.”
Mitsotakis vowed that a ND government would change the asylum laws that currently keep police out of universities in a bid to stamp out rising crime on their premises and ensure that authorities can enter campuses if they determine that crimes are being committed there.
“This is not the image of a state university,” Mitsotakis said after his visit to AUEB. “Neither should asylum be abused in such a way so as to provide a cover for all sorts of illegal and illicit behaviors,” he said.
Responding to Mitsotakis’s comments later in the day, the Education Ministry accused him of being “fixated” on the issue of university asylum.
The ministry also played down the observations from Mitsotakis’s visit to the AUEB, noting that street vendors have done business outside the institution for more than 10 years. It added that the sidewalk outside the institution is not a part of the university and as such not governed by asylum laws.
The clash came a day after Education Minister Costas Gavroglou announced the creation of a committee of experts to examine ways of enforcing the university asylum law while protecting academic freedom.
The 12-member committee is to be led by former justice minister Nikos Paraskevopoulos, an honorary law professor at Thessaloniki’s Aristotle University, and includes several academics as well as representatives of the Greek judiciary and police force.
Members of the committee will be permitted to conduct inspections on university grounds, subject to the approval of the institution’s rector.