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OSCE in Motion / Greek FM’s visit to Russia

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)       Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis is visiting Russia in her capacity as OSCE Chairperson. The visit to Moscow is the minister’s first visit abroad representing the OSCE. Yesterday, the Russian news agency Itar-Tass published an interview with the foreign minister. Bakoyannis took the opportunity to underscore Greece’s steadfast determination to facilitate the negotiation process for a new cooperation agreement between Russia and the European Union.  Referring to Greece’s bilateral relations with Russia, the Minister stressed that “undoubtedly, Greece’s strong ties with Russia which have endured throughout the years, are bearing fruit and recently, they benefit from a new impetus which is mirrored on the number of bilateral official visits and close cooperation in fields such as energy, constructions, high tech industry and tourism.” Chairmanship of Greece at the OSCE: www.osce.org/cio; Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Greece-Russia Bilateral Relations   

Economic and Environmental Forum

As part of the OSCE Conferences, the 17th Economic and Environmental Forum (Part I) was held in Vienna, in January 19-20. The forum addressed the issue of migration and its ties to economic, social and environmental policies. Representing Greece, Secretary General for International Economic Relations and Development Cooperation, Theodoros Skylakakis emphasised interstate cooperation in the migration management sector and the combating of human trafficking networks. Linking climate change to migration, he further reiterated the Greek chairmanship’s aim to highlight OSCE’s environmental prospective, pursuing the idea of a “greener OSCE.”

Greece Assisting Injured Children from Gaza

GREEK NEWS AGENDA)   Injured children from Gaza will be hospitalised in Greece following an initiative by Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis and in coordination with the Ministries of Health and Defence. Both public and private hospitals have offered beds to this end in their special Paediatrics’ Wards. The Ministry of National Defence will be responsible for the children’s transport aboard special planes and the Church of Greece will provide the children’s escorts with accommodation. A delegation of Foreign and Health Ministry officials will depart for Egypt today in order to prepare the mission, which is being implemented as part of a joint EU member states initiative. The mission will be coordinated by the Foreign Ministry and its competent agency, Hellenic Aid, and by the Ministry of Health through the National Health Operations Centre. Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Injured children from Gaza are to be hospitalised in Greece

OSCE Greek Chairmanship Gears Up for Interesting Times

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)    Strengthening the role of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in early warning, prevention and management of conflicts and crises will be a prime pursuit of the OSCE Greek Chairmanship, said Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis in an interview with the organisation’s magazine. Although the events in Georgia in the summer of 2008 had “shattered longstanding perceptions regarding security in the region”, Bakoyannis stresses that the crisis could serve as a springboard for a broader discussion of new and comprehensive security architecture in Europe, with the OSCE providing “a pretty good table” for this discussion. OSCE Magazine, December 2008: Interview with the incoming Chairperson-in-Office, Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis of Greece  Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Greece @ OSCEFM Bakoyannis’ statement in acceptance of the Greek Chairmanship of the OSCE for 2009; Bakoyannis’ opening speech at the Ambassadors’ Forum (13.11.2008): “OSCE – The 2009 Greek Chairmanship-in-Office: Challenges and Priorities”

Southeastern Europe Faces a Real Danger of Desertification

(REEK NEWS AGENDA)   Southeastern Europe faces a real danger of desertification and becoming another Sahara Desert in 100-150 years, underlined Sir Nicholas Stern – the United Kingdom’s Head of the Government Economic Service and Adviser to the Government on the economics of climate change and development, during the presentation of the Greek-language Executive Summary of his Report at the foreign ministry on Thursday27 November 2008. The Stern Review is one of the most important documents to have been published in recent years on how to confront the greenhouse effect.  The review’s basic conclusion is that immediate action, on a global level, to deal with climate change is not only an environmental and social imperative, but is also dictated by economics. Sir Nicholas underlined that to deal with the desertification risk SE Europe can seek to become energy producer for the entire Europe by using solar and wind power. Addressing the event, Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis praised the contribution of the British government in the study of the economic dimension of the greenhouse effect and maintained that there is immediate need for an agreement to deal with climate change.  Stern Review: Final Report; Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Human Security Network Conference on Climate Change  

Chinese President visited the island of Crete

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)   Concluding his visit to Greece, Chinese President Hu Jintao yesterday visited the island of Crete where he paid visits to the archaeological site of Knossos (see picture) and the Museum of Heraklion, capital city of the region. Accompanied by Foreign Affairs Minister Dora Bakoyannis and Tourism Minister Aris Spiliotopoulos, the Chinese President joined the olive harvesting process and stated that “Cretan olive oil has already started entering the Chinese market.”  Kathimerini daily: Cretan olive oil heading east to China; Greek News Agenda: Greece and China Shake Hands  Secretariat General of Information: About Brand Greece- Export Goods: a new-found emphasis on quality & Agricultural Produce, Greek food, Olive oil

International Conference on “Combating Forced Labour and Human Trafficking” in Athens

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)  Europe must adopt a public policy geared towards the relief of people hit by the global financial crisis, said President Karolos Papoulias on Friday, November 21, opening a three-day international conference on “Combating Forced Labour and Human Trafficking” in Athens organised by the General Confederation of Greek Workers (GSEE) to mark the 90th anniversary since its founding. The president emphasised that slavery and slave-trade is one of darkest pages in human history, underlining the importance of safeguarding human rights. The event was jointly organised by the International Trade Union Confederation, and the Confederation of European Trade Unions. Also speaking at the conference, Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis said that according to international figures, a total of 12.3 million people worldwide are victims of forced labour, while an increase of 20 million of unemployed has been forecasted. “Neither the free economy nor open societies are to be blamed for the situation,” she said, explaining that the problem stems from the lack of rules, regulatory framework and control mechanisms. The minister suggested stricter penalties for culprits, increased protection for victims and higher public awareness. Addressing the conference on Sunday, main opposition PASOK party leader and President of the Socialist International George Papandreou stressed that combating forced labour and human trafficking is first and foremost a political issue and warned that of the millions of people worldwide held under conditions of forced labour, 5.7 million are children. He also said that figures show that roughly 1.8 million children also fall victim to sexual exploitation. Athens News Agency: Papandreou at conference on combating trafficking

Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister on official visit to Greece

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)    Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis met on Tuesday with her Saudi Arabian counterpart Prince Saud Al-Faisal, who is currently on an official visit to Greece. Earlier, the Saudi Arabian minister was received by Greek President Karolos Papoulias and Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis.  Bakoyannis referred to Greece’s standing interest in the Middle East peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. She stated that she had the “opportunity to be briefed first hand on developments” within the framework of a Saudi Arabian initiative, “which Greece has supported from the very outset.”  The two ministers also discussed the international economic crisis. Bakoyannis praised the Saudi foreign minister as distinguished figure internationally, who has worked consistently to strengthen the friendship shared by the two countries, while noting that Saudi Arabia is one of the “key pillars of the global economy.” Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Visit of Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal & Bilateral Relations Greece – Saudi Arabia;

Greek Foreign Ministry: “An Afghan Odysseus”

The awarded documentary “Qadir: An Afghan Odysseus” officially premiered on October 29, and a message from Minister Dora Bakoyannis was read out during a press conference to mark the occasion. The film tracks the nine-year journey of a young Afghan immigrant as he tries to make his life in Greece. In her message, Bakoyannis hailed the final effort as “a programme of developmental cooperation that seeks to sensitize western societies to the problems of the developing world, to show understanding for difference and the importance of encouraging return through developmental activities.”  Co-financed by Hellenic Aid and the Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation (ERT), the film was screened at the ministry, in the presence of Afghan Deputy Culture Minister Omar Sultan. The filming of the documentary – that received 1st Prize at the International Roma Fiction Festival (Factual Section)- took place in Greece and Afghanistan. In an overview of Greek developmental diplomacy over the last five years, Secretary General for International Economic Relations and Development Cooperation Theodoros Skylakakis pointed out that Greece had given more than €60 million to Afghanistan’s reconstruction in that time, financing initiatives including emergency aid, health, education, preserving peace and culture.  Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Qadir – An Afghan Odysseus 

Greece’s Relations with Serbia

Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis met her Serbian counterpart Vuk Jeremic in Athens on Thursday for talks ahead of the 63rd session of the UN General Assembly. As expected, issues topping the ministers’ agenda included the major challenges facing the Balkan region, such as the status of Kosovo and Serbia’s Euro-Atlantic course.  Outlining Greece’s positions with respect to Serbia, Bakoyannis said Athens was “proceeding with exceedingly cautious steps and would continue in this way.”  On Kosovo, in particular, she emphasised the need to improve the quality of daily life in the region, especially for minorities, and regardless of the governing regime. The European Union Rule of Law Mission – EULEX– was an important factor in this direction, she added.  Regarding Serbia’s relations with the European Union, the minister said Greece was playing a key role in speeding up the strengthening of EU-Serbia ties, while she expressed satisfaction with the cooperation between Belgrade and the International War Tribunal, noting that the latest developments opened the way for greater rapprochement with the EU. “The next step will be for Serbia to apply for accession to the EU,” she noted, adding that Belgrade would have Greece’s full support for this step.  Bakoyannis also referred to the very good bilateral relations between Greece and Serbia, especially in the area of developmental cooperation. She said Greece had so far disbursed €235 million from an overall budget of €550 million under the Hellenic Plan for the Economic Reconstruction of the Balkans, with priority given to completing Pan-European (roadway) Corridor X linking Thessaloniki with Belgrade and central Europe. Athens News Agency: Serbian FM in Athens; Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Statements of FM Bakoyannis and her Serbian counterpart, Vuk Jeremic, following their meeting 

Greece: The National Council on Foreign Policy

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)    The National Council on Foreign Policy convened yesterday with the participation of all the parliamentary parties. Recent developments in the Caucasus crisis, issues in the Balkans and mainly the negotiations’ commencement on the Cyprus issue constituted this meeting’s agenda. Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis who briefed the parties’ representatives in the Council said she was pleased with the discussion held and the views exchanged. She added that the special attention was given to the negotiations over the Cyprus issue and that it is important that all parties (with the exception of the communist party) gave their full support to Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias in light of the discussions launched the day before yesterday. Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Statement following the Meeting & Statement of Dora Bakoyannis on the direct talks on the Cyprus issue;  Greek News Agenda: Cyprus Negotiations commencement

Greece: Maria Callas Honored by the Prespes Festival

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)  The 2008 Prespes festival celebrated its 20 years of life on August 29-30. As is the case every year, events were held in the remains of the basilica on the island of Aghios Achilleios in the Mikri Prespa lake. This year’s festival was of special importance, given that guests included President of the Hellenic Republic Karolos Papoulias and Minister of Foreign Affairs Dora Bakoyannis – Bakoyannis sent a message of friendship and collaboration to neighboring Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.  An exhibition of Maria Callas memorabilia opened at the Museum of Contemporary Art in the city of Florina. Showcasing Maria Callas memorabilia (previously on display at the Greek Parliament in Athens), the exhibition was inaugurated in the presence of choreographer Maria Hors and curated by acclaimed set designer Yiannis Metzikoff. During the opening ceremony, President Papoulias honoured filmmaker Theo Angelopoulos, whose work has often been set in the region’s remote landscapes. The programme featured tributes to Greek songwriters Vassilis Tsitsanis and Stelios Kazantzidis among other events, while participants included Dionysis Savvopoulos, Eleni Karaindrou and Goran Bregovic. Kathimerini daily: Art and Politics Come Together at Prespes Festival

Greece: Responding to the Caucasus Crisis

(GREEK  NEWS AGENDA)           From the first moment, the crisis in Caucasus has been of great concern to Greece. A precautionary activation of the Crisis Management Unit was deemed necessary in order to tackle the problems which have arisen from the clashes in South Ossetia and make provision for the citizens of Greek origin residing in the area. Within this framework, Greece dispatched a humanitarian aid shipment to Georgia and contributed to the cause of relieving the turbulent area with 100,000€ through the UNHCR. The OSCE, which has also addressed the matter, decided to send 20 international observers and Greece, -in viewof holding 2009’s chairmanship– is ready to assume full responsibility arising in the light of the current developments.  During the extraordinary meeting of the 26 NATO members which took place on August 19 in Brussels, Foreign Affairs Minister Dora Bakoyannis stated that “the NATO-Russia dialogue is very important” and that “Greece-along with many other countries-has been in favour of the continuation of this dialogue at all levels”.  South Ossetia and Abkhazia’s recent succession movement from Georgia has prompted an expedient reaction of the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Bakoyannis clarified that within both the NATO Council and the Council of the European Union, Greece’s foreign policy abides to the principles of territorial integrity and added that Greece endorses the French presidency’s statement condemning the movement.  Today, Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis and Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis will participate in the European Union’s special summit on the Caucasus crisis. Moscow’s relations with the international community are expected to top the summit’s agenda. Before leaving for Brussels, Bakoyannis reiterated Greece’s interest for “a common European position regarding the framework of EU-Russia relations”, “given that Moscow is an ‘important partner’ for Europe”.

Greek Chairmanship of the OSCE – 2009

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)   Greece will assume the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Chairmanship in 2009, following a decision taken by the Organisation’s Ministerial Session in Madrid (November 2007). Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Greece @ OSCEFM Bakoyannis’ statement in acceptance of the Greek Chairmanship of the OSCE for 2009

From Athens 2004 to Beijing 2008

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)  In 2004, the Olympic Games returned to Greece, the country of their birthplace, and Athens, the city of their revival in modern times. In 2008, Beijing is hosting the Olympic Games for the first time in its pioneering history as a seat of authority and government as well as culture and learning. Greece and China have benefited from a favourable development of friendly cooperation cooperation in political, economic, and cultural affairs. On the political side, top government officials have paid many visits to China, the latest being the one of President Karolos Papoulias last June. Concerning economic prospects, Greece can constitute a potential base of operations, from where China could expand its business in the EU, the Balkans and the Mediterranean. Shipping leaves much room for economic cooperation and the latest Cosco Pacific Ltd’s deal over Piraeus port inaugurates a fruitful synergy in the broader field.   Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Greece’s relations with China; mediainfo2004.gr: From Athens 2004 to Beijing 2008; Press and Communication Office – Beijing: www.grpressbeijing.com  
                                                     Greece @ 2008 Olympics
Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, Culture Minister Michalis Liapis, Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis, and General Secretary of Information Panos Livadas are in Beijing for the Olympic Games. Greece will participate in the XXIX Olympic Games of Beijing with 156 athletes, 84 men and 72 women. 22-year-old gold medal winner in the 2004 Olympic Games judoka Ilias Iliadis will be the flag bearer of the Hellenic delegation during the Opening Ceremony, at the Olympic Stadium. Hellenic Olympic Committe: www.hoc.gr; SportInGreece.com: Olympics 2008

Foreign Minister Bakoyannis sent Condolences over Bronislaw Geremek Death

(ATHENS NEWS AGENCY) Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis on Wednesday sent a message of condolences to her Polish counterpart Radoslaw Sikorski, expressing her deepest condolences over the death of Εurodeputy and former foreign minister Bronislaw Geremek. In a message, Bakoyannis also highlights the “leading role of Bronislaw Geremek in Poland’s political life as well as his contribution to his country’s NATO entry.”   Geremek, 76, a former foreign minister of Poland who helped the Solidarity trade union movement lead the nation’s transformation from communism to democracy, died on Sunday in a car accident near the city of Wielkopolska. (MORE PHOTOS) Continue reading