The government is determined to move forward with a plan to abolish the university asylum law as part of a broader push to curb lawlessness, with a bill expected to go before a vote in Parliament by August 8, it was decided on Friday at a cabinet meeting.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has long pledged to abolish the law, which was introduced following the fall of Greece’s junta but is being widely abused by self-styled anarchists, and made it one of his key pre-election promises.
His goal is twofold: to allow universities to resume functioning normally, without frequent interventions by members of anti-establishment groups, and to restore law and order, both on campuses and in areas that have long been “no-go zones” for the police, such as the anarchist stronghold of Exarchia.
Although most academics would like the notion of university asylum to be protected, they are anxious for the problem of lawlessness to be addressed.
The union of university professors, POSDEP, regards university asylum as “a historic and highly charged institution that has been corrupted,” the union’s leader Yiannis Nimatoudis told Kathimerini.
“We should focus our discussion on asylum that safeguards teaching and research, not on asylum for illegal acts, as is the case today,” he added.
For his part, the rector of the University of Crete, Odysseas Zoras, stressed that “asylum no longer protects freedom of speech, but obstructs it.”
Student unions and the youth arms of several political parties have spoken out against the proposed changes, describing the university asylum law as “a democratic conquest” that should be protected.
On Tuesday, students and members of leftist groups held a rally in central Athens to protest the reform. More protests are expected when the bill goes to a vote in the House.
A crackdown on lawlessness on campuses – where self-styled anarchists have occupied rooms and are accused of intimidating professors and students – is to be accompanied by measures to control lawlessness in Exarchia, where anarchists have long run amok and clash regularly with riot police.
Rumors of impending raids on squats in the area have prompted anarchists to start guarding their squats.