ATHENS – Major rival New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis said if he’s elected there would be changes in a university asylum law that has led to growing lawlessness and violence on school grounds ignored by the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA-led coalition.
With surveys showing the Conservatives have leads of 10-17 percent in different polls over time after Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras reneged on anti-austerity promises, Mitsotakis also has seized on the growing troubles at universities to hound the government.
He walked past the Athens University of Economics and Business (AUEB) on Jan. 31 after academics there complained about criminals using the school as a base, including selling counterfeit goods and doing drug deals.
He said he was shocked 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,” reported Kathimerini.
The asylum law was passed by the former PASOK Socialists in 1982 and while it has been altered still prevents police from entering university grounds without permission of a three-member panel, including a student, unless authorities see a felony in the act or someone’s life is at risk.
Mitsotakis vowed his government would change the law to ensure policecan 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.
The Education Ministry, which under SYRIZA is seeking to dumb down educational standards, said Mitsotakis was “fixated” on asylum that the Leftists back. The ministry said unlawful street vendors have been operating in the area of AUEB for a decade, even during a New Democracy-led coalition with the former PASOK.
But Education Minister Costas Gavroglou said he would set up a panel to look at ways of keeping the asylum law with protecting academic freedom, in the wake of assaults on professors, even in the classroom, and with anarchists using school grounds as a base to launch attacks on police and run back and hide.
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, in which case they won’t be able to gather information and evidence they need to make a decision if denied.