Mitsotakis, Gennimata on school sit-ins against Prespa pact: Protest a right, but with classrooms open

3 December 2018
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Main opposition New Democracy (ND) party president Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Friday weighed in over a successive wave of high school occupations and sit-ins by pupils – mostly in northern Greece – aimed to express opposition to a provisional agreement between Athens and Skopje to resolve the long-standing “fYRoM name issue”.

Speaking from the western port city of Patras, Mitsotakis said “every Greek, and every youth has the right to protest” against the Prespa agreement, while quickly adding, however:

“ND was, is and will always be opposed to every form of (school) sit-ins. Others built their political careers on such sit-ins,” he said, an indirect dig at current Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. The latter, more than two and a half decades ago, emerged as a teenage leader in a wave of similar such protests, then opposed to education reforms, and with a decidedly leftist and far left direction.

“Nevertheless, closed schools mean closed minds, and I would not, under any circumstance, want well-meaning patriotism to become the tinder of a barren and extreme nationalism in the hands of certain deft hands,” he emphasized.

Ιn an equally prickly response, unnamed sources from within Tsipras office countered that “others emerged through social struggles (i.e. Tsipras) and others with the help of their father and sister,” a reference to late Greek PM Constantine Mitsotakis and one-time foreign minister and Athens mayor Dora Bakoyannis, the father and sister, respectively, of Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

Top representatives of the current leftist-rightist coalition government, including the government spokesman and the relevant education minister, recently expressed annoyance with the occupation of high schools, with references to “reactionist” elements and to alleged influence exerted on protesting pupils by the ultra-nationalist Chryssi Avgi (Golden Dawn) party. Political parties and much of the media Greece have warned that the highly controversial party has a neo-Nazi background and ideology.

“For us, genuine patriotism was always opposed to hate and nationalism,” PASOK party president Fofi Gennimata said, in a Tweet.

She added that “we’re closing the doors to fanaticism and divisiveness; we’re listening to the concerns and sensitivities of our children, but with schools open”.

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