A Socialist Europhile president comes to Athens

Portuguese President Jorge Sampaio arrives in Athens tomorrow afternoon on an official visit along with his wife Maria Jose Ritta. Sampaio, who was born in Lisbon on September 18, 1939, studied music from a very early age and graduated in law from Lisbon University. While studying, he was involved in various activities that marked the start of continued political action against the dictatorship in power at the time. He was elected president of the law students’ union in 1960-61 and secretary-general of the Federation of Students’ Associations in 1961-62. Sampaio took an active part in the student crisis that broke out in the early 1960s, and which led to a widespread revolt that shook the regime, lasting until April 25, 1974. During his legal career, Sampaio became involved in defending political prisoners. In March 1975, he was appointed deputy minister for external cooperation in the IV Provisional Government. In 1979, he was elected to Parliament and became a member of the National Secretariat of the Socialist Party. From 1979 to 1984 he was a member of the European Human Rights Commission of the Council of Europe, where he played an important role in defending fundamental rights. He was re-elected to Parliament in 1980, 1985, 1987 and 1991. In 1986-87 he headed the Socialist Party’s International Department and the following year was chairman of the party’s parliamentary group. He was also co-chairman of the «Africa Committee» of the Socialist International. In 1989 he was elected secretary-general of the Socialist Party, a post he held until 1991. Parliament appointed him a member of the Council of State, a consultative body of the President of the Republic. In 1989 he was elected mayor of Lisbon and re-elected in 1993. As mayor he introduced new concepts and methods of planning, management, integration and urban development. From 1990 to 1995 he was president of the Union of Portuguese-speaking Cities (UCCLA) and in 1990 was elected vice president of the Union of Iberian-American Cities. He was also elected president of the Eurocities Movement (1990) and president of the World Federation of United Cities (1992). Sampaio was elected president of Portugal in 1996 and re-elected in 2001. His history of action shows he is a man who has fought for justice, defended human rights and advanced the quality of life in modern cities, not only in his own country but in Europe and Africa as well. Due to his father’s career – a doctor who specialized in public health – he spent long periods of his childhood in the US and in Britain. Sampaio and his wife have two children. Two Gold Medal awards and a fado concert are included in Sampaio’s schedule in Athens; something of a marathon, which should pose no problem for him, given his fame as a marathon runner. After arriving at Eleftherios Venizelos Airport in Athens, the couple will check in at the Athens Inter-Continental Hotel and then attend a private welcome dinner at the neoclassical home of businessman Dimitris Kontominas, along with Portuguese Ambassador in Athens Duarte Ramhalo Ortigao and his wife and other distinguished guests. Monday’s program includes a private meeting with President Costis Stephanopoulos. Both are in their second term and both have been members of their countries’ parliaments. Stephanopoulos has held several ministerial posts in New Democracy governments and was elected president during the last government of the Socialist Andreas Papandreou. He was re-elected by both PASOK and ND votes. Sampaio will also have a lot to talk about with outgoing Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos, who is to award him with the Gold Medal of the city of Athens. Parliament Speaker Apostolos Kaklamanis will present him with the Gold Medal of the Parliament of the Hellenes. The Portuguese president’s list of appointments includes meetings with Prime Minister Costas Simitis, Athens 2004 President Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, main opposition ND party leader Costas Karamanlis, Communist Party Secretary-General Aleka Papariga, and Left Coalition leader Nikos Constantopoulos. On Tuesday, Sampaio will give a lecture at Athens University titled «Notes on the European Constitutional Debate.» There will be a fado performance at a reception Sampaio and his wife will hold for President Stephanopoulos at the Aigli on Tuesday evening. The Portuguese president will be visiting a Kosta Boda store and a Nova Bank (majority-owned by a Portuguese bank). His wife will visit the Ilias Lalaounis jewelry store and the Museum of Cycladic Art as the guest of its president, Dolly Goulandri. Naturally they will both visit the Acropolis and its museum. Wednesday morning, after the official program is over, Sampaio and his wife leave for Iraklion on the island of Crete, where they will be welcomed by Prefect Ioannis Garefalakis, and visit the city’s sights and archaeological museum, before flying home to Lisbon.

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