PM open to education talks

The government is willing to discuss its proposed controversial reforms to the tertiary sector but this does not change the need to press ahead with necessary changes, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said yesterday. Karamanlis, in Brussels for an EU summit, pointed out that there have already been talks on the reforms but that the government remains open to whatever constructive proposals are put forth. «We must make Greek universities competitive, we must improve their quality and we must proceed with the necessary reforms,» he said. Following strong opposition from students and teaching staff in the last few weeks, the government has been forced to delay the submission of the bill to Parliament, allowing more time for negotiations. Students believe the reforms to tertiary education, which include the setting up of private universities, will mean an end to free higher education because public funding will dwindle. Education Minister Marietta Giannakou, who has been facing calls of resignation over the issue, said the draft bill will be available for public debate in the coming week. Meanwhile, student groups said yesterday they will continue their protest action a day after a gathering in central Athens resulted in anarchists throwing Molotov cocktails and rocks at banks and cars. Two gatherings in the last 10 days have each drawn crowds in excess of 10,000 people and both ended in violence. Yesterday, the civil servants’ union ADEDY called a 24-hour strike for Thursday in order to support the next scheduled student gathering in central Athens. The General Confederation of Greek Labor (GSEE) also announced a three-hour work stoppage for Thursday.

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