ATHENS – The off-again, on-again plans to deploy campus cops outside four troubled Greek universities has run not only into resistance from students and academics but vacillation over their use.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said a priority for his New Democracy government was to end violence and rid campuses of criminals and drug-dealers and that they would be protected by unarmed security.
Some 400 campus police have been trained but a slow roll-out outside the University of Athens (EKPA) and the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA) before students return to class ran into protests.
There is worry that when the students come back that there will be more demonstrative responses and even violence as anarchists in the Exarchia neighborhood near the schools have also tangled with riot police.
The government passed legislation for the campus cops in February, 2021 but more than a year-and-half later it’s still not operational, with schools blamed for not moving faster to help and the university staff blaming the government, said Kathimerini.
“The constant postponements of its implementation has been seen as sending a message of political ambivalence,” the paper said, with the Education Ministry distancing itself from the Citizens’ Protection Ministry.
The government said schools haven’t installed all the turnstiles needed to sort people entering, with identification, and the New Democracy administration, in a concession, said the security won’t be allowed inside now.
The indecision and waffling has given rival parties and critics a field day to slam the government’s indecisiveness about what to do, even now, with students due to return in a few weeks and elections coming in 2023.
The paper said that the Citizens’ Protection Ministry, which is responsible for the establishment of the University Protection Groups, is hoping there won’t be trouble but the lack of consensus in the government was worrying.
“This is the basic condition for the success of any difficult reforms that aim to break down decades-old rigidities and mindsets. The refusal – albeit with different arguments – of the opposition parties to back the plan was evident when the government announced its intention to establish the institution of a campus police force,” an unnamed professor at Athens Law School told the paper.