- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 26, 2005

World-class mayor

The mayor of Athens knows the anguish of terrorism firsthand. Her husband was assassinated by Greek terrorists, and she survived an attempt on her life shortly after she was elected.

Dora Bakoyannis also realizes that fighting terrorism requires a delicate balance between security and liberty.

“People want security,” she told Embassy Row yesterday. “This is our first responsibility, but we have to do it in a way in which we do not give up our values and our liberties.”

Mrs. Bakoyannis made security her first priority, as she planned for the 2004 Olympics in Athens amid much skepticism that Greece could assure the safety of tens of thousands of visitors and athletes.

“Athens was successful in holding a very secure Olympics without making visitors feel under siege,” she said on her first visit to Washington since the games.

Mrs. Bakoyannis, a member of the center-right New Democracy Party, is the first female mayor in the 3,500-year history of the Greek capital, named after Athena, the mythical goddess of wisdom.

She won the 2002 election with 61 percent of the vote, the highest total in any mayoral election in modern Greek history. The mayor retains high popularity ratings in the city and nation and often is mentioned as a candidate for foreign minister. She is one of 65 finalists for the title of World Mayor 2005, an Internet competition organized by mayors from around the globe.

Athens is recognized for its modern infrastructure, including a new subway, a tramway system and urban freeways, she said. Many of the subway stations were built over ancient Greek sites, and artifacts found during the excavation are displayed on the platforms.

“You go through ancient Athens when you go through the Athens subway,” she said.

Mrs. Bakoyannis, 51, is the daughter of former Prime Minister Constantine Mitsotakis, a legendary leader of the Greek Resistance against Nazi occupation and later against the Greek military dictatorship.

Her husband, Pavlos, was killed by members of the November 17 terrorist group in 1989, and she was almost assassinated by a lone gunman as she was riding to her office in December 2002. Her driver was severely wounded.

In her Washington meetings this week, she discussed common urban problems with D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams and U.S.-Greek relations with the third-highest-ranking State Department official, Undersecretary for Political AffairsR. Nicholas Burns.

“Greece is in a position to be a real bulwark of stability in the Balkans,” Mrs. Bakoyannis said. “We can actually take part in helping solve the problems of the region.”

In a speech at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, she called on the United States and Greece to “join forces once more in bringing about one of the most monumental tasks ever: the transformation of the Balkans from the black hole of Europe to a politically stable and developed region that fulfills our shared vision of a Europe that is whole, free and democratic.”

What’s in a name?

One of the touchiest regional problems for Greece is a dispute with neighboring Macedonia, which Greece calls the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). Greece complains that Macedonia appropriated the name that historically belongs to northern Greece.

Mrs. Bakoyannis raised the issue in her talks at the State Department, calling on Washington to help solve the name dispute. The Bush administration has recognized the country as Macedonia instead of the cumbersome FYROM.

As she spoke to Embassy Row, President Bush was meeting with Vlado Buckovski, the prime minister of Macedonia.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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