Gregory Vallianatos, who presented his campaign yesterday, is the first liberal politician running for the office of Mayor of Athens. The 58 year-old journalist and human rights activist wants to break the dominance of the two traditional parties New Democracy and PASOK in the local elections in May 2014.
The native Athenian, who heads the list of “Athina Diamantopetra”, is also Greece’s first openly gay politician. In November 2013 he enforced before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) that the legal title of “registered partnership” in Greece must also be open to same-sex couples.
While the second largest Greek city of Thessaloniki is governed by the reform-oriented and highly unconventional Mayor Yannis Boutaris since 2010, such a policy change and change in style is yet to manifest itself in Athens, which is traditionally saturated with political intrigues.
Mr. Vallianatos, what is your motivation to run for the office of the Mayor of Athens?
The omnipresent humanitarian crisis, and especially its magnitude in Athens, alerted me. Our citizens are losing not only their jobs, but also their character! As chair of the small Liberal Alliance, I thought this is the time to jump in and offer Athenians practical and liberal solutions to the city’s grave problems.
According to you, what is the worst problem Athens in particular and Greece in general are facing?
The worst problem Athens and Greece are facing is a European reality which implies a very different production model. Both the country and the city of Athens have to move to the 21th century, work with the private sector and stop being involved in fields which the private sector should be involved in. Public and private businesses should become more technology friendly, much less bureaucratic, innovative, and less dependent on loans. This however should be complemented by a different understanding of individual freedom and human rights.
You not only openly said that you are gay and HIV positive, but also that you are liberal. What does that mean in a country like Greece?
Being gay and liberal is indeed an explosive combination in Greece! Sexual orientation and gender identity, along with tolerance for other religions, cultures and lifestyles is not a priority in the dominant Greek educational approach. Political parties and the media compete in intolerance and stereotypes, and I am happy that during the pre-electoral period all this comes to light thanks to a liberal eye. If I am elected, as a liberal Mayor of Athens I will have to address issues like homelessness, illegal drug use, prostitution, homophobia, migration – and of course the rise of fascism in this city – with sensitivity and realism, because nobody else does it.