Athens, Istanbul mayors send message of peace

Athens, Istanbul mayors send message of peace

The transfer of the presidency of the Balkan Cities Network from Istanbul to Athens on Monday was accompanied by strong political messages by the mayors of both cities, Ekrem Imamoglu and Kostas Bakoyannis, on the need to strengthen democracy, peace and cooperation. 

Speaking in the shadow cast by the recent conviction of Imamoglu in Turkey and the international outcry it has provoked, the two mayors referred to the challenges facing the wider region, the dangers and threats and the power of cooperation in addressing them. Bakoyannis described the Balkan Cities Network as a “child of circumstance” and “of historical necessity.” 

“Centrifugal forces dominate the region. We are distancing ourselves and being tested politically, while our peoples are closer than ever before. To put it bluntly, anachronistic and revisionist methodologies, petty politics and populist narratives do not represent the peoples of the Balkans. Let alone ‘bullying’ and threats,” he stressed, noting that whenever stereotypes, nationalism and patriotism have prevailed in the Balkans, the results for the peoples have been disastrous. 

For his part, Imamoglu welcomed the assumption of the presidency of the network by Athens and made special reference to the strong bridge of cooperation that the two cities have built in recent years. 

“Only if we remain together, in solidarity, can we protect democratic achievements. Because today the struggle for democracy is not national, but international. Because democracy was born in cities like Athens, and it is these same cities where the struggle for democracy is being fought today,” he emphasized: “When I look at the Balkans, I do not see the ‘yesterday’ where kings, caesars and sultans ruled, but the equal, rich, happy and democratic ‘tomorrow’ built by creative people of every ethnicity and religion.”

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