OPINION

Simitis’s neighborhood

As a resident of the Kolonaki area in central Athens, Costas Simitis has been rather unobtrusive; even as prime minister he has never caused any serious disruption in the area. Simitis never made a fuss when he passed through Kolonaki, and the number of security vehicles that escort him has always been limited. These, in a sense, were the only likable characteristics of a modernist-minded politician from the ranks of the reformist left which has, in general, tried to reinforce its presence in a crude, often provocative fashion. But this picture has changed radically since a drug addict shot up the front of Simitis’s residence earlier this month. It was suddenly realized that the prime minister could be the target of a terrorist attack. Since that day special security measures have been in place, while traffic has been blocked on a part of Anagnostopoulou Street. Furthermore, a number of comical measures have been proposed, such as redesigning Kolonaki Square in view of the 2004 Olympic Games and also to facilitate emergency security needs. Kolonaki Square is of no particular architectural interest and has long ceased to constitute a meeting place for people who express a particular way of life which has almost vanished for good. Greece, however, is the only country in the world where the urban landscape is subject to change under the pretext of reform. The problem, of course, does not lie with the fact that vehicles have to diverge on a section of Anagnostopoulou Street for security reasons. The essence lies with the argument that Simitis invoked when he claimed that these measures have been taken to protect citizens, as in the event of a terrorist attack his guards would be forced to return fire and thereby put the life of nearby residents in danger. No one can claim, of course, that Simitis is a politician who can fully grasp reality, but one would expect that he would have realized that apart from the vehicles that drive through that specific section of Anagnostopoulou Street, there are also many residential flats, shops, and passers-by during the day who are are not invulnerable to the bullets fired by terrorists and the men of Simitis’s security escort. Security is naturally a fundamental priority, but Prime Minister Costas Simitis is entitled to prime-ministerial residence at the Maximos Mansion and this is where he should move to. Since 1732, all British prime ministers have moved to Downing Street in London as soon as they assumed office. Lord Robert Cecil, also known as the Third Marquess of Salisbury, was the sole exception as, fulfilling the wish of Queen Victoria, he took charge of the country’s governance – what he privately considered to be a rather dull task – but never actually moved to Downing Street. But the Third Marquess of Salisbury was the last truly noble British prime minister. Simitis, who is only a prime minister and not the offspring of the honorable family of Cecils, should follow the example of his ideological kin, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, by not unsettling the peace and, above all, by not jeopardizing the security of his neighbors and those who wander in the Kolonaki area.