Greece passes controversial university surveillance law

In Greece’s universities, youth political parties play a major role which has not always been productive. [EPA/ORESTIS PANAGIOTOU]

With the support of the right-wing populist Greek Solution party, the ruling conservative New Democracy party (EPP) passed a law on Thursday (11 February) establishing a special police force for the surveillance of universities.

All other opposition parties rejected the bill, describing it as authoritarian subduing to the detriment of public universities paving the way for “even greater repression at the expense of young people”.

Students and educational institutions took to the streets of Athens and Thessaloniki demanding the withdrawal of the bill.

Public universities have been an “open wound” for the Greek society for years. Successive governments have refused to invest to upgrade them while several violent incidents have occurred.

In Greece’s universities, youth political parties play a major role which has not always been productive.

The government accuses the leftist opposition of tolerating or even encouraging violence from leftist youth movements within universities.

On the other hand, the biggest youth conservative party (DAP) in universities is affiliated with New Democracy.

Speaking at the Greek House, leftist Yanis Varoufakis (DIEM-25) lashed out against the conservative youth.

“DAP cooperates on a daily basis with corrupt professors, wasting EU funds with which they pay your party [New Democracy] army, offer copy services to students,” Varoufakis said, adding that Mitsotakis is turning a blind eye to this reality.

‘Creating a police-state’

The opposition accuses the government of investing in policing students amid the pandemic, instead of financially supporting the education system itself in order to upgrade it.

“You are not a centrist politician; you are an extreme politician who has no sympathy for what citizens are experiencing today,” main opposition leader Alexis Tsipras (Syriza-European Left) told Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis at the parliament.

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Syriza lawmaker Giannis Ragkousis went further, saying that such a move resembles Hungary’s Viktor Orbán tactics.

“For the foreign press, it will be the absolute proof that your government is identified with regimes like Trump, Orbán, Kaczyński, that is, with the extreme right,” he said.

The socialist Movement of Change party (KINAL-S&D) said protecting universities makes sense, but not creating a police-state.

“Yes to the upgrade of the public university. No to the police departments inside the university. Not to the police with clubs and handcuffs in the schools. Not in the cameras in the classroom and in the surveillance with drones,” KINAL leader Fofi Gennimata said.

‘We are not re-inventing the wheel’

The Greek PM said with this law his government is not re-inventing the wheel as this is the case in all universities worldwide.

He showed two photos of information control centers located in Cambridge and Oxford universities.

“This is the image of all modern universities […] in all international universities there is a university police and even armed,” he added.

“Tell me in which country of the world one can see the chaos in the Greek universities, which you created and maintained,” Mitsotakis told Tsipras.

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