New Greek president vows she will protect national borders

Greece just swore in their first female president, Katerina Sakellaropoulou, and she quickly realized that she was taking office in the middle of a series of firestorms. Ever since Turkey announced that they were “opening the doors” for a flood of Syrian and Iraqi migrants to head north through Greece and onward into the interior of Europe, the Greeks have been trying to stave off the invasion. This has included multiple incidents of citizen vigilante groups blocking their passage and occasionally attacking them.

So what does President Sakellaropoulou plan to do about it? In a very anti-globalist moment, she announced almost immediately that she would be fighting to “protect the national borders” of Greece and keep the country secure. I don’t know how well that’s going to sit with Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron, but at least for the moment, Madam President is striking a rather nationalist tone, don’t you think? (Yahoo News)

Greece’s first woman president began her term on Friday with a pledge to protect the country’s borders and defend human rights, whilst warning Greeks to follow health rules as the country grapples with over 100 coronavirus cases.

Katerina Sakellaropoulou, a 63-year-old former senior judge, said she would “walk together” with Greeks to create a “prosperous” and “cosmopolitan” future “that includes all of us.”

The new head of the Greek state begins her five-year term in a terse standoff with neighbouring Turkey, which has allowed tens of thousands of refugees to mass at the border.

Sakellaropoulou went on to insist that her people must “repulse the aggression of those who make designs on our national sovereignty,” but she didn’t clarify whether she was talking about Turkey or the refugees trying to breach the border. Possibly both, but the message was definitely muddled.

The new president’s attitude strikes a very different chord than we saw as little as four years ago. At that time, Greece was at the forefront of urging open borders for the EU and finding room for the millions of migrants flooding northward. As we’ve mentioned here previously, the fishermen of the Isle of Lesbos were nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2016 for their work in shuttling migrants across the straits.

But now, however, all of that has changed. And what did it take to bring about this new, protectionist attitude? One large part of it is unquestionably the rise of the coronavirus in Europe. Greece has already seen more than 100 confirmed cases of the virus and they suffered their first death from COVID-19 two days ago. President Sakellaropoulou no doubt became keenly aware of the situation before she was even officially in office. She was sworn in as president in front of an almost entirely empty room. (CBS News)

Greece’s first-ever female president, Katerina Sakellaropoulou, was formally sworn into office for a five-year term Friday. But what should have been a celebratory moment for the country was instead honored quietly due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The swearing-in ceremony for Sakellaropoulou, a former high court judge, took place in a nearly empty parliament as a preventative measure to try to stop the spread of the virus, The Associated Press reports. Only a handful of officials and journalists were present for the occasion.

In addition to almost no one being on hand to celebrate the inauguration of the country’s first female president, handshakes were forbidden at the end of the ceremony. That made for something of an understated affair, considering the historic nature of the occasion.

The new president has plenty on her plate to be sure. Greece’s economy is still teetering on the brink of collapse every few months or so. As noted above, Turkey is growing increasingly belligerent toward the European Union and cozier with Russia and Iran. And now, like everyone else, they have the coronavirus to deal with. One wonders if Sakellaropoulou is possibly having second thoughts about having run for office. Best of luck, Madam President. It sounds like you’re going to need it.