Artists and arts students across Greece continue mobilizations against the controversial Presidential Decree 85/2022, which intends to downgrade arts education degrees in the country. Abiding by the call given by various artists’ associations, including the Greek Federation of Artists, Panhellenic Federation of Spectacle-Audience (POTHA), and Panhellenic Music Association, among others, arts students’ groups and student and youth organizations held a massive rally at the Ministry of Education in Athens on Tuesday, January 10, protesting the decree which was endorsed by the conservative New Democracy (ND)-led government.
In the call for the protest mobilization, the Panhellenic Music Association stated that “it is hopeful that hundreds of young students will take to the streets asking for the upgrading of their studies and professional rights. Although our country has a rich and remarkable artistic potential in all forms of Art, the state and all governments are steadily promoting the devaluation of Culture and especially of Artistic Education.”
Major protests were also held in the cities of Thessaloniki, Patras, Larissa, and others, calling on the government to withdraw the decree which downgrades arts degrees to the level of a high school diploma. The Communist Party of Greece (KKE), Communist Youth of Greece (KNE), All Workers Militant Front (PAME), and Students’ Struggle Front (MAS) also expressed support and solidarity with the protests.
Presidential Decree 85/2022, dated December 17, 2022, equates graduates of drama schools, conservatories, film schools, and dance schools with high school graduates. The decree has evoked a massive outcry from arts students and the artist community in the country, who have long been calling for the creation of more public institutions for higher arts education. In the wake of the protests, an inter-ministerial meeting was convened by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on January 9. However, the government decided to go ahead and endorse the decree undersigned by President Katerina Sakelaropoulou, Minister of Education Niki Kerameos, and Minister of Interior Makis Voridis. According to a 902.gr report, the new decree on arts education “will leave thousands of artists and students, who obtained art degrees after years of expensive studies, most of them in private schools, without any compensation and labor rights.”
The Greek Federation of Artists claimed that the decree violates the existing laws on higher artistic education in the county, such as law 1158/81 on the organization and administration of schools of higher artistic education, as well as Presidential Decree 370/83 on the regulation of organization and operation of Higher Schools of Dramatic Art (Government Gazette 130/A/ 83), as per which “artistic education belongs to the highest level of education.”
The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) also slammed the government in a statement saying that it was implementing EU guidelines on restructuring higher education, thereby planning to integrate arts schools as EU level 5 Institutes of Vocational Training (IEKs) “through so-called graduation, which in fact amounts to serious degradation.”
“The essence of all the above lies in the fact that for bourgeois parties, culture is an unnecessary luxury for the working people and not a fundamental factor for the constitution and development of the human personality,” KKE added.
The party also called for the establishment of public and free of charge exclusive higher arts schools in universities, covering actors, dancers, directors, musicians, the immediate withdrawal of Presidential Decree 85/22, and upgrading arts education in schools.