Changing of the guard at the Presidential Palace

The official visit by South African President Thabo Mbeki, which ends today, marked the final official duty as host of our own outgoing President Costis Stephanopoulos, whose term of office, in which he has served with such dedication, ends this month after two five-year terms, the second with the unanimous approval of all parliamentary parties. On March 12, new President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias is to be sworn in, after himself receiving a majority vote in Parliament. On March 8, at noon, Stephanopoulos will give a farewell reception for the press corps that has covered his trips abroad and events at home, including visits by foreign officials. The fact that the changeover is happening in a climate of consensus and unanimity must be attributed to the wise and exemplary way in which the outgoing president has carried out his mission. There was a time when according to the rumor mill he was «ill» or «ready to resign,» even as he was winging his way to the US, to Canada, to Australia and always on time, giving excellent speeches, helped by his worthy associates. No doubt this is appreciated by his successor, who also comes to the post after a political career as foreign minister in the Andreas Papandreou government. Papoulias comes from the provinces – he was born in Epirus – as does Stephanopoulos, who was born in Patras but with origins in the prefecture of Ileia and from northern Epirus, as he revealed on his recent visit to Albania. Stephanopoulos has already said he has rented office space on Valaoritou Street, in the city center. No doubt there will be many seeking his counsel.

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