The Mayor of Constantinople (Istanbul), Ekrem Imamoglu, is in Athens on an official two-day visit, upon the invitation of the Mayor of Athens, Kostas Bakogiannis.
The Athens Mayor had been in Constantinople last May and signed a memorandum of understanding and cooperation with Mr. Imamoglu in the sectors of culture and tourism. Both men are ardent proponents of “city diplomacy”, building “bridges” of communication, friendship, and mutual understanding between their citizens, while they have developed a good rapport.
“I believe that together we will be able to carry out the historic responsibility, in order to build the beautiful Athens-Istanbul peace bridge that is full of beautiful feelings,” said Mr. Imamoglu, who is constantly working to build bridges of cooperation with the West, a move that caused tensions with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Hailing from Trabzon – active in football as a player and then a manager – the Mayor of Turkey’s largest city had a similar rise to prominence in the country’s public life to that of current President Erdogan, with many pundits seeing in him the ideal successor of Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the Presidency. But that is where the similarities end, as Imamoglu and Erdogan represent two completely opposing political views in the neighbouring country. A pro-community, pro-European, tolerant of other ethnicities, but also a devout Muslim Imamoglu gives off an air of secularism, a trait that is a red flag for the grass root base of Erdogan’s followers who are, largely of a lower educational level, religiously conservative, and less inclined to new ideas and openness.
Although the rise of Imamoglu due to his popularity greatly unnerves Ankara, for the Greek government his two-day presence in Athens is an independent initiative in the context of the ceremonial relations between elected members of the Local Government.
The visiting Mayor will meet with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis at the Maximos Palace and any matters of bilateral interest or dispute between the nations will not be broached, especially in light of escalating tensions of the coast few days in Crete.
He was first elected Mayor in March 2019 as the joint Nation Alliance candidate of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the İYİ Party but served only from 17 April 2019 until 6 May 2019, when the election was annulled. He was then reelected in a renewed election on 23 June 2019 by an even larger margin.
According to the official schedule of Imamoglu’s visit, the Mayor will visit at 11.15 am. the Athens City Hall, where he will meet with his counterpart Kostas Bakoyannis. Then, at one in the afternoon, the two Mayors will visit the Maximos Palace, where they will have a half-hour meeting with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. In the afternoon, the Mayor of Athens, Kostas Bakogiannis will accompany Mr. Imamoglu on a tour of the archaeological site of the Acropolis, while at 21.00 they will visit the Odeon of Herodes Atticus to watch the performance of Monica Bellucci in the play “Maria Callas: Letters and Memories.”