In an address to Greek Parliament this morning, ahead of a historic vote that will allow the operation of branches of non-state non-profit universities from abroad in Greece, the Prime Minister of Greece Kyriakos Mitsotakis said that the law will enable Greece to “finally turn the page” and break free from an anachronistic higher education system that has put Greece in the ranks of Cuba, the only other country in the world where the state has a monopoly on tertiary education.

The History of the Bill and Voting Procedures

The PM said that the ambitions of incumbent ruling party New Democracy to modernize higher education in the country date as far back as 1990, 34 years ago, through statements of former Prime Minister of Greece Konstantinos Mitsotakis.

New Democracy tried to amend the constitution of Greece to modernize higher education unsuccessfully, in 2000, 2007, and 2019.

The Prime Minister’s remarks were met by frequent applause and a standing ovation by New Democracy members of Parliament, while members of other political parties remained seated and mostly silent.

The bill, according to the Prime Minister, addresses many of the complaints that were communicated to New Democracy by opposition parties and, therefore, today’s vote will be a lengthy process.

Members of Parliament will be required to vote article by article, forcing them to go on record for their views of a bill that the Prime Minister says is 85% comprised of measures designed to improve Greece’s state-controlled universities.

Criticism of Opposition Parties

In a direct attack on the opposition parties, the PM said that the bill was a lost opportunity to pass a bi-partisan law that will clearly benefit existing state universities and Greek families for generations to come, as it will raise the bar on higher education in Greece, reduce brain-drain, bring back Greek professors that teach abroad, and better connect universities with research and industry.

The PM highlighted the contradictory nature of statements from leftist opposition party Syriza’s leader, Stefanos Kasselakis, who himself was educated at the University of Pennsylvania in the United States on a scholarship, and insinuated that Kasselakis’ considered voting in favor of the bill but instead will toe the party line.

Meanwhile, the PM attacked President of PASOK- Movement for Change Nikos Androulakis on account of the fact that New Democracy has addressed all of his party’s concerns yet they still will vote against it.

PM Mitsotakis on Constitutionality and Competition

PM Mitsotakis noted that former President of PASOK and internationally recognized Constitutional Lawyer Evangelos Venizelos said the bill is not in conflict with the constitution, as is widely criticized, and is needed.

In a scathing assault against nay-sayers, the Prime Minister accused them of being the ones who, deep down, do not believe in public universities. He said that they know the new branches will have new building and resources and will not have the pathologies of public universities such as strikes.

“You are all afraid of the weakness of existing public universities, and you have made your careers from them. That is why you fear the comparison. The students of public universities will demand the same standards as the new ones.”

He exalted that the new law allows Greece to “finally turn the page” and opens new horizons for future generations, free of university occupations, unions, strikes and the attacks by anarchists on universities with Molotov cocktails, especially because New Democracy previously overturned the law on university asylum, which allows the Greek police to enter universities to enforce law and order.