ATHENS - With anarchists in the neighborhood of Exarchia they dominate reportedly guarded abandoned buildings they have taken over, the new New Democracy government is forging ahead fast with plans to end asylum on college campuses and confront the groups.
New Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has vowed to restore law-and-order to the Greek capital, filing a bill to remove asylum from college campuses that had been used by criminal groups and anarchists as a base to launch attacks on a number of targets before retreating to safety.
The asylum bill is part of a bigger package aimed to crack down on lawlessness, expected to go to Parliament on August, 8, its passage a foregone conclusion as New Democracy has 158 of 300 votes in the body.
Mitsotakis has long pledged to abolish the law, which was introduced following the fall of Greece’s junta and was restored by SYRIZA as Tsipras sought to re-establish Leftist credentials after surrendering to the country's creditors to get a third bailout for the country in 2015, this one for 86 billion euros ($95.87 billion.)
Mitsotakis said he wants universities to operate as colleges without fear of intimidation from the anarchists as well as drug dealers and other criminals who have sanctuary on the grounds, the police unable to enter.
That would end under the New Democracy bill that would let college officials and students call police to report criminal behavior, part of Mitsotakis' intent to show that – unlike SYRIZA which he said condoned and implicitly encouraged lawlessness – that his party won't tolerate it.
Part of that plan is to also go into the areas where the anarchists have nearly taken over and boldly attack riot police regularly, throwing Molotov Cocktails and other objects at them, making the neighborhoods zone where authorities are fearful to enter without violent clashes.
While many academics and college officials want asylum they also want their grounds to be protected but haven't offered any ideas or compromises. Critics, including students, have also protested and the notorious anarchist group Rouvikonas warned it would get tougher.
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.
The rector of the University of Crete, Odysseas Zoras, stressed that “asylum no longer protects freedom of speech, but obstructs it,” showing the dilemma of the colleges whose teaching is baed on free speech and critical thought butting into the reality of the anarchists power.
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 but offered no ideas how to keep the grounds safe.
Self-styled anarchists have occupied rooms at colleges and are accused of intimidating professors and students and Mitsotakis has tied together that problem with the groups having a long run of dominance in Exarchia. He said while they enjoyed near impunity under SYRIZA that they won't under New Democracy, setting the stage for battle against them.