Poster of the drama schools inviting to a demonstration on March 2, 2023,
in Athens, Thessaloniki, Patras, and Ioannina.
On 17 December, 2022, the imposition of a Presidential Decree, which considers art degrees equivalent to high school diplomas, stands in stark contrast to fundamental rights prescribed by International human rights law, such as the right to life, the right to choose one’s profession, and the obligation of governments to respect these rights. Greece’s present socio-political context, which encompasses an economic crisis, a shift towards right-wing radicalization in politics, challenges stemming from the refugee crisis and the authorities’ questionable handling of it, social unrest arising from austerity measures, and the overall economic distress are some of the reasons and mechanisms that could explain reasons behind the enactment of such a decree.
Presidential Decree 85/2022  establishes the qualifications framework and sector classification in the broader public sector with an aim to match and unify various branches of the public sector. It was signed into effect by Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou. The result, simply put, is that individuals who have obtained degrees from theatre colleges, dance schools, and film schools will be categorized as workers with a secondary education level, ignoring the fact that all these artists have graduated from High Education Art Schools that had already been classified by the Greek State as higher education institutions. For example, the Higher School of Dramatic Art of the State Theatre of Northern Greece has been operating since 1973; it is a state institution and belongs to the higher education level (tertiary education) according to Presidential Decree 336/14/6/89. Enrollment is free of charge, and the program duration is three years.
The signing of the Decree quickly caught the attention and triggered a backlash within the artistic and educational communities. Numerous drama schools were occupied, and the teaching faculty of the State Drama Schools tendered their resignations as a gesture of protest.
Photo from a demonstration. The person holds a sign reading ‘NO to the devaluation of artists.’
The main claim was to withdraw the Decree or essentially amend it so that it becomes clear that ‘’following an Educational Practice in the Performing Arts grants Educational merit in a category higher than that of a high school diploma Degree’’.  At this point, it is worth mentioning that the introduction of the Decree deteriorates the already weakened state of labour rights for artists in Greece. For instance, during the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of artists were essentially excluded from measures of support and the allocations that were provided by the state to other professional sectors. This situation was addressed by a movement that rose in April 2020, and that was called #SupportArtWorkers. 
If artists are equated to secondary education graduates only, this means that in Greece, artists will not be able to apply for a master’s degree education related to their respective disciplines. Moreover, it means that the artists will have access to the lowest level of unemployment benefits, and their salaries will no longer be determined by collective agreements but by ministerial decisions.
Photo from a demonstration
After the Decree was signed into power on 17 December 2022, an aftermath of protests and resistance started in the art world in Greece, as well as at an international level. The fight is still ongoing. Several of the major drama schools of Greece had been squatted for almost three months by their students, including, for example, the National Theater, the National Theater of Northern Greece, and the Municipal Theater of Patras, as a symbol of protest. Students were not allowing the schools to function as normal, but at the same time, multiple cultural and artistic activities were taking place in the squatted schools, showing that art is alive and is extremely related to its students , its teachers, and its people. The subject also got international attention with the ETC (European Theatre Convention) standing with the artists’ demands and publicly denouncing the devaluation of Arts education in Greece.
Some of the demands of the artists included:
-The amendment of Decree 85/2022, with the inclusion of all artists in the tertiary education level.
-The provision of food, accommodation, free textbooks, state scholarships, and financial support to the Student Body of the Schools supervised by the Ministry of Culture and Sports.
-The proper staffing of the Public Schools of Performing Arts with the necessary personnel and equipment for the correct conduct of the studies.
-The immediate establishment of a Public and Free University and new University Departments of Performing Arts throughout Greece. 
On 20 March 2023, the student assemblies of drama schools announced that they would no longer be squatting their Drama schools and that they would keep revendicating the withdrawal of the Decree with the Drama Schools open, up, and running. In their official statement, the student assemblies declared, “we, as the student body, desire to reconnect with the essence of our studies, and we will do so while simultaneously advocating for their improvement. [..] We believe in the power of the struggle and the momentum of the unified and grassroots movement that has been created. Our response to those in power is that you have not succeeded in defeating us, as our lives will not be sacrificed for your sake as you demand. We will be on the streets, in the occupied theatres, among the people fighting against murderous policies of all kinds, against privatization, and against the violent impoverishment of the people”.
It is likely that this decision was related to the February 28, 2023, train crash in Greece and the aftermath of demonstrations and violence that followed it. Amidst the ongoing events, the student artistic movement and associations united against state violence. Occupations and demonstrations faced extreme repression. The student body of public art schools decided to end occupations while still opposing the downgrading caused by Decree 85/22. Negotiations with the Greek authorities had been futile, revealing a lack of political will. The targeted degradation faced at all levels seemed to have left no room for dialogue. To this day, the Presidential Decree stands steadfast, with no modifications or removals enacted.
Author: Anthi Polatidou
Anthi is working as a Project Assistant with Avant-Garde Lawyers. As a Political Scientist, she is passionate about monitoring the political and artistic news of the world. She has a strong interest in the post-Soviet space, and she is particularly interested in examining the interactions between politics and art within the region. She is always trying to put into words her observations about anything and everything. She loves contemporary electronic music and literature.
The title is in Greek and it translates as “to you, that hear us”. This phrase became an identifying part of the artists’ demands and their fight against the Presidential Decree 85/2022. It is also the title of a play by the famous Greek writer Loula Anagnostaki.
 The Presidential Decree can be found here:https://www.e-nomothesia.gr/kat-demosia-dioikese/pd-85-2022.html (in Greek)
 Extract taken from the official announcement of the National Theatre of Greece on 09.02.2023:
P.D. 85/2022 – PHEK A 232/17. 12. 2022.
https: //www. kodiko. gr/nomothesia/document/847123/p. d. -85-2022. Accessed 01/03/2023.
‘Dramatikés Skholés: Stamatoún i katalípsis – «Palévoume me tis Skholés mas anikhtés»’. neolaia. gr, 20 March 2023, https: //www. neolaia. gr/2023/03/20/dramatikes-sxoles-stamatoun-i-katalhpsis-paleuoume-me-tis/. Accessed 01/03/2023.
Anóteres Idiotikés Dramatikés Skholés: Sti dikaiosíni yia to PD pou exisóni ta ptikhía tous me apolitíria Likíou. 17 January 2023, https: //www. news247. gr/politismos/anoteres-idiotikes-dramatikes-scholes-sti-dikaiosyni-yia-to-pd-poy-exisoni-ta-ptychia-toys-me-apolytiria-lykioy. 9907398. html. Accessed 01/03/2023.
Papadomanolákis, Panayiótis. ‘Vínteo kallitekhnón enántia stin ipováthmisi tou politismoú apó tin kivérnisi’. The Press Project – Idísis, 19 January 2023, https: //thepressproject. gr/vinteo-kallitechnon-enantia-stin-ypovathmisi-tou-politismou-apo-tin-kyvernisi/. Accessed 01/03/2023.
‘Artists across Greece Slam Presidential Decree Degrading Arts Education’. Peoples Dispatch, 13 January 2023, https://peoplesdispatch.org/2023/01/13/artists-across-greece-slam-presidential-decree-degrading-arts-education/ Accessed 01/03/2023.
Perrier, Fabien. ‘En Grèce, les étudiants en art se mobilisent contre la rétrogradation de leurs diplômes’. Libération, https://www.liberation.fr/international/europe/en-grece-des-milliers-detudiants-en-art-se-mobilisent-contre-la-retrogradation-de-leurs-diplomes-20230119_57BDTP5CRBBENAVNMZN3LBT3QA/. Accessed 01/03/2023.
‘LOULA ANAGNOSTAKI | S’ ESAS POU MAS AKOUTE’. Kápa Ekdotikí – Online shop, https: //www. kapaekdotiki. gr/product/loula_anagnostaki_se_esas_pou_me_akoute/. Accessed 23/03/2023.
ETC Denounces the Devaluation of Theatre Education in Greece. https://www.europeantheatre.eu/news/etc-denounces-the-devaluation-of-theatre-education-in-greece. Accessed 23/03/2023
Smith, Helena. ‘Greek Train Crash: Effort to Find Bodies Expected to End as Anger Grows’. The Guardian, 3 March 2023. The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/mar/03/greek-train-crash-effort-to-find-bodies-expected-to-end-as-anger-grows. Accessed 23/03/2023
‘FERA Open Letter to Greek Authorities Regarding Presidential Decree 85/2022 and Its Impact on Artists and Filmmakers’.FERA, 15 February 2023, https://screendirectors.eu/fera-open-letter-to-greek-authorities-regarding-presidential-decree-85-2022-and-its-impact-on-artists-and-filmmakers/. Accessed 23/03/2023
No to P.D. 85/2022! | ACAR. 14 February 2023, https://artistsrights.iti-germany.de/greece-no-to-%cf%80%ce%b4-85-2022/. Accessed 23/03/2023
Official Statement of the National Theatre of Greece – National Theatre of Greece. https://www.n-t.gr/en/news/announcements/?nid=34823. Accessed 23/03/2023
ETCS awaiting signaling system of rail network
Megaliódis poría sto kéntro tis Athínas – Ta sinthímata yia ta Témpi
Ethnikó Théatro: I anakínosi ton kathiyitón me aikhmés metá tin paraítisi – Ti léne yia tis simvásis
Stamatoún i katalípsis stis Dramatikés Skholés