Greek protesters throw Molotov cocktails to protest introduction of private universities

Protesters threw petrol bombs and firecrackers at police outside Greece’s parliament on Friday after thousands took part in demonstrations against government plans to introduce private universities.

Police charged at violent demonstrators and fired tear gas to disperse the crowds. Several people were injured and received first aid from volunteer medics who arrived at Parliament on motorbikes.

Friday’s rally came after weeks of demonstrations, including dozens of students occupying university buildings.

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Lawmakers will vote on the measure later Friday and the bill is expected to pass. greece center right government It is thought the reforms will help attract skilled workers back to the country.

“We must say a loud ‘yes’ to this measure… as a guarantee of greater freedom and greater access to knowledge for all Greek students,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told parliament before the vote.

Friday’s rally was mostly peaceful, with students joined by a small group of pro-Palestinian demonstrators and marchers taking part in International Women’s Day events. Among them was philosophy student Anna Adamidi, whose placard read: “international women’s day: We struggle. We go on strike. We fight. “This government wants to privatize everything… but at the same time, the cost of living keeps going up and our wages are still pitiful,” she said. “The private sector has stepped in and broken up the public (education), taking advantage of them Resources at no cost. “

Opposition parties have generally opposed the bill, arguing it violates the constitution and could create a two-tier system for students.

“(The government) is introducing the concept of a meritocracy paid for by tuition fees,” Haris Mamurakis, a lawmaker from the main left-wing opposition party Syriza, said during the three-day debate. “Whoever has money will learn: the power of privilege .” Education reforms in Greece have often had political overtones, and university activism has historically been associated with pro-democracy movements but has also been used as a haven for violent protest groups.

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Although private higher education is already legal in Greece, the new law will make degrees from vetted private institutions equivalent to public universities. Overseas universities can open branch campuses in Greece on a non-profit basis despite charging tuition fees.

More than 650,000 students are currently studying at Greek national universities, with another 40,000 studying abroad, according to education ministry officials who briefed lawmakers ahead of this week’s debate.

Mitsotakis’ government, which is leading in opinion polls early in its second term, has made several major reforms in recent weeks, including Same-sex marriage legalized and the introduction of postal voting for the upcoming European Parliament elections in June.

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By Ali Raza

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