O R 160832Z JUN 09
C O N F I D E N T I A L ATHENS 000997



E.O. 12958: DECL: 2019/06/16
SUBJECT: Anarchists and Universities in Athens:  XXXXXXXXXXXX Telling


CLASSIFIED BY: Daniel V. Speckhard, Ambassador; REASON: 1.4(B), (D)


1.       (C)  Summary:  University of Athens XXXXXXXXXXXX told PAO
and CAO on June 9 that student discontent with the Greek
educational system, the economy, and lack of jobs, has led to
increased violence even among traditionally mainstream student
groups.  He complained about preferred police  tactics to round up
and contain troublemakers within university grounds in order to
limit damage to Athens city streets and shops, as a cowardly
approach sanctioned by politicians.  XXXXXXXXXXXX has taken it upon
himself to negotiate directly with student protesters in order to
limit damage to the university, something he says suits the police
and GOG authorities just fine.  He lamented the GOG's "lost
opportunity" in 2004 to make substantial changes to the education
system, including abolishing university asylum and allowing for
private universities.  End summary.

2.        (C)  In a no-holds-barred meeting on June 9 where he
criticized equally political parties, the police, and student
troublemakers for increasingly violent protests that have destroyed
university property and sent him the hospital eight times XXXXXXXXXXXX, University o f Athens XXXXXXXXXXXX warned that
student disappointment with the educational system and the economy
is on the rise.   As XXXXXXXXXXXX targeted
during the violent student protests of last December, XXXXXXXXXXXX has
experienced a ratcheting up of student extremism that does not bode
well for the future, he said.   In the past six years alone, the
number of anarchists in the University of Athens student body has
risen from 450 to 5,000, XXXXXXXXXXXX said.  The anarchists have even
founded a political party that participated in the recent EU
Parliamentary elections, which managed to garner 7,000 votes in the
greater Athens area.  Of the 180 first-year medical students (which
traditionally are the crC(me de la crC(me of the student body),
one-third voted for the anarchist party in the recent student
This means, according to XXXXXXXXXXXX, that there are severe
educational and social problems that can only be addressed via a
permanent bipartisan parliamentary committee and a permanent Deputy
Minister of Education who are willing to go beyond party politics
to implement badly-needed reforms.

3.        (C)  According to XXXXXXXXXXXX, Greece has an inordinately high
number of college attendees (approximately 70% of Greek high school
graduates attend university), who cannot be absorbed into the work
force once they complete their degrees.  XXXXXXXXXXXX; he stated that Greece has a total of 65,000 doctors
where only half that number is  needed.  The educational system
needs to be restructured, XXXXXXXXXXXX declared, to provide for more
extensive and high-quality vocational and technical education
opportunities.  Without these changes, Greece will continue to
graduate a growing contingent of unemployable, and increasingly
disenfranchised, young people.

4.       (C)   XXXXXXXXXXXX lamented the GOG's lost opportunity to
implement educational reforms in the summer of 2004, following the
heady success of the Athens Olympics.  He had proposed to
then-Minister of Education, Marietta Giannakou, five amendments to
the basic law on education that would have solved key issues such
as university asylum and the licensing of private universities.
XXXXXXXXXXXX said that Giannakou had taken these proposals on board;
however, at the last minute she decided to open up a wide-ranging
dialogue on reform instead, which XXXXXXXXXXXX declared was the impetus
for students to organize and oppose proposed changes to the
educational system, and also caused the opposition PASOK party to
withdraw its support for the proposed reforms.  This was the birth
for the student protests we are experiencing today, XXXXXXXXXXXX

5.       (C)  Regarding the events in December 2008, XXXXXXXXXXXX said
that the police confined the violent protesters to the main
University of Athens building, leaving  XXXXXXXXXXXX and members of the
academic community to negotiate with them - which eventually
happened. XXXXXXXXXXXX (under
law asylum can be revoked during acts of violence, which would have
given police the right to enter university grounds, stop the
violence and arrest protesters).  XXXXXXXXXXXX.  However, XXXXXXXXXXXX complained, the
police - in agreement with the GOG - continue to prefer to corral
protesters onto university grounds during protests, where damage
can be limited to university property alone instead of Athens city
streets and shops.  Student demonstrations pass through the Athens
in front of the police, which start shooting tear gas at the
demonstrators only when they near campus grounds.  In cases where
police involvement on university grounds is warranted, rectors have
been turned into scapegoats who must approve any and all police
entry, even if it is to investigate petty crimes such as break-ins.

6.       (C)  XXXXXXXXXXXX predicted even more student strife if the
government attempts to abolish university asylum.  He described a
meeting he had with student leaders XXXXXXXXXXXX, in which he
announced that he was going  to lift asylum so that the police
could enter the campus to restore order.  All student groups, with
the exception of the student party affiliated with the governing
New Democracy, stated that they would join the anarchists if he
took this step.  XXXXXXXXXXXX stated that in general his choice was to
negotiate with students or let them burn the buildings down.

7.        (C)  Comment:  XXXXXXXXXXXX was extremely candid in his
criticism of all Greek political parties for their lack of
leadership, with the police for their tactics, and with students
for channeling their unhappiness into negative outbursts of
violence.  He was equally candid during the December riots when he
went on TV to respond to some politicians' accusations that he was
partially to blame for the inability to control student protesters.
XXXXXXXXXXXX seems truly disheartened by what he sees as a negative trend
in Greece on student violence, and appears to be longing for the
days when he can return to his XXXXXXXXXXXX (out of which he has
published three papers in "Nature.")  XXXXXXXXXXXX ruefully said that, if
he were to write a guide XXXXXXXXXXXX, study at the War
School and attendance at Crisis Management classes would be at the
top of his recommended "to-do" list.


SPECKHARD (Αμερικανός πρέσβης στην Ελλάδα)

Πηγή: Wikileaks