Athens Mayor Awards South African President City Medal of Honour

Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyannis today awarded the President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, with the City of Athens Medal of Honour at a special ceremony at City Hall. "South Africa and Greece are bound with the strongest fraternal ties for the entire 20th century.

A brotherhood in the cause of freedom and of a common struggle during two world wars. One must add to these the relatively large Greek-South African community and, above all, the belief of the vast majority of our peoples in the equality of men, and hence, in the necessity for fighting Apartheid in all its forms," Mayor Bakoyannis said.

"There is a second reason this ceremony takes on for us an importance deeper than usual. It concerns the strong symbolism embodied in your own person. You symbolise, Mr. President, the long and tortuous struggle against Apartheid. You have acquired your formal higher education amidst grave difficulties; you have travelled, worked and built underground structures for your movement in more than one African country as well as in Europe."

Mayor Bakoyannis concluded: "May our strong ties of the 20th century, forged in times of misfortune, war and inequality, culminate this century in the final success of the process of peace, fraternity and prosperity."

President Mbeki said: "The things that you said constitute somewhat of challenge. Because this means we then have to make sure that in future we not dishonour this medal of merit.

That we do not do things that would mean that we didn't deserve this order of merit. And it is a commitment that I would like to make that I will do everything I can to make sure that this vision you projected of a world of peace, of fraternity, of prosperity; that that world does indeed come to be."

President Mbeki congratulated the Mayor on a "great achievement" for being the first woman mayor of Athens, and added that there are too few women mayors around the world.

Mr Mbeki invited Mayor Bakoyannis to assist in building a new South Africa, "as we try to respond to the challenge of a fast-growing, expanding South Africa in towns and cities.

To say what it is we need to do better to address the challenges that face these communities… Surely there are many things that Athens can teach us so that we do not waste time by trying to think afresh or invent things that Athens is already doing.

But we should draw on that experience, good experience in successfully hosting the Olympic Games last year, in particular in the context of what we shall have to do in a few years' time to host the 2010 Soccer World Cup."

Source: City of Athens International Media Department

25 February 2005




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