Irodou Attikou Street, which runs parallel to the National Garden, is a symbol of the Hellenic Republic. It is much like Downing Street in London or Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington. It is home to the president's residence and the prime minister's headquarters and therefore it is reasonable to close it off to traffic at night, even though the likelihood of a terrorist attack is quite small.
Up until a few years ago the street was also free of parked vehicles. No one would even entertain the idea of stopping along it, not even for a few minutes with their hazard lights on. Irodou Attikou was the closest any Athenian street came to those of Western European capitals.
A short while ago, however, just as we saw on main thoroughfares like Panepistimiou, Stadiou and Academias, parked cars began to appear along Irodou Attikou too, just 50 meters below the Presidential Palace, right next to police officers on patrol. One could only wonder how the people who thought that keeping the street open at night was a security risk could not see the danger involved with having cars parked so close by.
The City of Athens decided to step in and, instead of punishing such a blatant breach of the law, decided to legitimize it. It painted blue stripes on the road and put up a sign designating these spaces for permanent residents. So, Irodou Attikou became a parking lot, one that foreign dignitaries visiting the president and prime minister will no doubt admire.
However, the permanent residents of this street are, by and large, the elite, people who can certainly afford to rent a space at a proper parking garage and who ought to be setting a better example to the rest of us. These are the people the City of Athens expected to cough up several million euros for more parks in Athens.
Instead of bringing in much-needed funding, however, Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis ceded several meters of free parking space on a street that now reflects the quality of this democracy.
«Kathimerini» English Edition, 27.3.2009