The Greek Parliament on Thursday approved a bill to scrap regulations that made universities a no-go zone for police, amid opposition from leftist groups and some students of the country.
The asylum provision was approved by the ruling center-right New Democracy and the nationalist Greek Solution party. The center-left Movement for Change (KINAL) for its part, declared itself "present" while the Communist Party (KKE) voted against it.
The legislation, brought up by the new conservative government, also addresses a series of other issues, including changes to the regional administration of Greece's local and regional councils, the introduction of a maximum monthly amount for all pensions awarded by the Unified Social Security Fund (EFKA) and the delivery of medicines to severely ill patients to their neighborhood pharmacies and to the clinics that treat them.
Before the vote, all MPs of the opposition parties (SYRIZA, KINAL, KKE, Greek Solution and MeRA25) left the plenary, accusing Labour and Social Welfare Minister Giannis Vroutsis of submitting irrelevant amendments, for which they had no information.
The abolition of the academic asylum in Greek universities was one of the first pre-election promises of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
A legacy of the crackdown by the then military junta on students on Nov. 17, 1973, university asylum was regulated in Greece in 1982.
The debate about the controversial issue never ends, and the law has already been repealed and reinstated by different governments in the past.
The newly elected Conservative government says the asylum in higher education institutions provides fertile ground to criminal elements.
"We want Higher Education Institutions to become reflection cells and places of creation. To stay open all day long for every youth, for lessons, discussions and concerts. To be places of freshness and reflection throughout the country, without the fear of episodes, hatred and disaster. A meeting place for new trends and innovation. As it is the case everywhere in the world," Mitsotakis stressed in his address to the plenary session of the parliament.
The new bill, introduced by Minister of Education and Religious Affairs Niki Kerameus, signals the "rebirth" of Greece's universities, Mitsotakis added.
"We do not want police officers in the universities but to kick out the hooded individuals," said the prime minister, underlining that those who wear hoods are serving dark interests.
During his speech to the parliament, main opposition SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras accused New Democracy (ND) government of "ideological obsession" on the issue of the university asylum.
The government's obsession starts from its inherent aversion to the public universities in Greece and to everything they symbolise, at political and ideological level and its bias in favour of the private universities, according to Greek national news agency AMNA.
The prospect of the law being scrapped has brought many Greek students to the streets, defending the asylum.
"I think that all of us here disagree with this law, no one agrees with the abolition of asylum. Criminal actions are not happening within the university. On the contrary, universities promote collective action of the students. Generally this space can signify a lot for any country, but especially for Greece in the time of crisis," Maria, a student at the National Technical University of Athens, told Xinhua.