A fresh rift appeared to be emerging in the ranks of the government on Wednesday after an initiative by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras to repeal a law granting greater rights to immigrants prompted angry reactions from the two smaller parties in the coalition.
Samaras’s initiative, which came a day after a court cast doubt on the law’s constitutionality, was conveyed by government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou. He said that the law, which grants citizenship and voting rights to second-generation immigrants, would be “replaced with new legislation compatible with the decision of the Council of State.» The “Ragousis law,” named after former Socialist Interior Minister Yiannis Ragousis, was passed in 2010 but has long been a target of Samaras, who vowed to abolish it.
Both coalition partners were quick to react to calls for a new law to be drawn up within a week.
Socialist PASOK said such reforms “should not be rushed or taken without the agreement of all coalition partners” while Democratic Left described as unjustifiable any reforms that “yield to racism and xenophobia” and said that the link to the country of immigrants who were born and grew up in Greece must be recognized. The left-wing opposition SYRIZA said the move showed “the government has adopted the agenda of hate and fear set out by Golden Dawn,” the neofascist party that has been blamed for attacks on immigrants.
While some critics regard the initiative as an attempt to wean away support from Golden Dawn, a source close to the premier noted that the conservatives had tolerated the critical stance taken by Democratic Left in a recent parliamentary vote on a new austerity package and that «we can’t always be held hostage.»
Kedikoglou stressed that the overhaul of the law would be carried out in consultation with the two junior partners, who both criticized the premier’s zeal to move on the issue before the court’s decision was made public.
On Tuesday, the Council of State questioned the suitability of the criteria established by the law for determining citizenship and said proof of stronger ties to Greece should be required. The law allows those born to immigrant parents and legally resident in Greece for five years to get citizenship if they have studied at a Greek school for at least six years.