Amid a tense climate sparked by the government’s decision to introduce two eleventh-hour amendments to an omnibus bill Thursday, Greek lawmakers voted in favor of a provision that abolished regulations that forbade police from entering university premises.
The initiative had been fiercely debated, with the government saying it will put an end to lawlessness in universities and main opposition SYRIZA calling it a bid to crack down on free expression.
“We don’t want police in university, but we do want to get rid of the hoodlums who police the lives of students,” said Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who had campaigned passionately in the runup to the general election to restore safety to universities and the capital.
The asylum law had been originally introduced in 1982 to protect protesting students and freedom of expression, but the conservative administration says it has degenerated into a cover for lawlessness, including violence and drug dealing.
“During a typical student’s life, he will see faculties controlled by all manner of different groups, drugs, and basements full of petrol bombs and hoods,” Mitsotakis said.
The new legislation does away with a provision introduced by the previous SYRIZA administration which forbade police from entering university grounds unless they were granted permission to do so by the council of rectors in order to respond to a felony or a crime against human life.
The move was slammed by SYRIZA leader and former prime minister Alexis Tsipras, who derided it as an attempt to undermine Greece’s public universities.
“New Democracy has always followed that line to gradually privatize universities and undermine welfare and research,” he said.
Earlier, MPs of leftist SYRIZA, center-left Movement for Change, the Communist Party and the anti-austerity MeRA25 party walked out of the debate on the omnibus bill, which included the scrapping of the asylum law, in protest at the submission of two last-minute provisions by Labor Minister Yiannis Vroutsis.
The opposition parties called for the withdrawal of the Labor Ministry provisions, but their request was rejected.
The omnibus bill also included provisions regarding changes to the administration of local government and provides for the dismissal of members of the independent Competition Commission if they have recently served in government offices.