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Holocaust Remembrance Day

» (GREEK NEWS AGENDA) Liberation of Auschwitz Anniversary

“Auschwitz took the lives of many; Greek Jews were dispro­portio­na­tely numerous among them. Greeks of other faiths also paid a heavy price, often in defence of their Jewish brethren.

Many have been declared Righteous among the Nations and their names are engraved at the Holocaust Memorial of Yad Vashem,” Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas said in a statement, issued on January 27, on the 65th anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camp.
This year also marks the tenth anniversary of the Stockholm Declaration which launched a fertile rethinking of the Holocaust in Europe and Greece is proud to be among the original signatories of this epochal document, said Droutsas.

» “Greeks in Auschwitz-Birkenau” 

At a press conference at Greece’s Press and Communication Office in New York, on January 26, the head of the Foreign Ministry’s Diplomatic and Historical Archives, Fotini Tomai presented a series of evidence, documents and testimonies that reveal and highlight the extent of human tragedy as recorded in the book “Greeks in Auschwitz-Birkenau.”
This publication of the Foreign Ministry (in Greek and English) will be presented today at a special event at the Greek Consulate General in New York. 
See also: UN, International Holocaust Remembrance Day;
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum: International Holocaust Remembrance Day;  Greek News Agenda: Special Issue – The Jews of Greece

New impetus for Greek-Turkish relations

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA) A new impetus for Greek-Turkish relations was given yesterday following a letter by Prime Minister George Papandreou addressed to his Turkish counterpart, responding to prior correspondence between the two leaders.

The Greek side proposes the launch of a series of talks on the issue of the continental shelf, within a specific time limit and the option for both sides to resort to the International Court of Justice in The Hague in case of a dead-end.
Papandreou deems the Turkish proposal of establishing a High-level Council of Cooperation important and invites Recep Tayyip Erdogan to pay an official visit to Greece, sometime before summer, in order to set a time framework.
Moreover, the Greek Premier highlights the need for de-escalating tension over the Aegean Sea and stresses that military activity in the area must be avoided since it jeopardizes security and fuels tension. Referring to the pressure exercised on bilateral relations due to immigration flows’ movement, Papandreou reiterates the necessity for Turkey to abide by the Greek-Turkish Readmission Protocol (2001).
The premier concludes by expressing Greece’s support for Turkey’s European perspective, provided that the latter honours its obligations towards the Greek minority in Turkey and the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Greece-Turkey Bilateral Relations & Greek-Turkish Rapprochement
[Photo from Papandreou’s visit to Istanbul, Turkey, October, 2009]

PM`s press conference for the first 100 days of the government

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA) The year 2010 was the time for Greece to make a new start and major changes, Prime Minister George Papandreou stressed on Wednesday during a press conference held to mark the completion of 100 days since PASOK was sworn in as the new government.
“It is time to change everything, to turn the crisis into an opportunity.
We have already shown that we are capable of doing this, that we can be leaders and not laggards,” Papandreou said, emphasising that the government was determined not to fall into the inertia of its predecessors and had already made important changes at every ministry, while several deep reforms were now in the process of being introduced.
Among these he listed the effort to establish a new taxation system, overhauling the social insurance system, and initiating a debate on local administration reform and a new electoral law.Reviewing his government’s course during the first 100 days, he admitted that some mistakes have been made but stressed that the government is prepared to take corrective action when this proves necessary.
“We are determined to do the things for which we were elected by Greek men and women.
It is this that gives us the strength to not back down,” he underlined, and urged everyone to join the “democratic front” in order to democratically restructure the country.

“Greek Foreign Policy: Challenges and Prospects”

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA) Addressing the conference “Greek Foreign Policy: Challenges and Prospects” held yesterday on the premises of the Foreign Affairs Ministry,  Deputy Foreign Minister Spyros Kouvelis referred to Greece’s foreign policy priorities centering on economic diplomacy, relations with Greeks abroad and green development.

Kouvelis stressed that the Balkans, the wider Black Sea region and that of Eastern Mediterranean is of particular interest to Greece.
He therefore took the opportunity to refer to the country’s upcoming Chairmanship in the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC, June 1 to December 31, 2010),  forwarding the message that, in its capacity, Greece is committed to strengthen the organisation’s role with respect to its member-states and the region’s economic development.
Finally, on green development, Kouvelis emphasised Greece’s need to live up to the challenges of the new situation taking shape globally. The conference was organised by the Institute of International Relations, an Athens-based think tank affiliated with Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences.

The OSCE on a new path

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA) Political Declaration Adopted

Foreign ministers from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) 56 participating states charted the way ahead for the OSCE-anchored debate on the future of European security known as the Corfu Process in a decision and a Ministerial Declaration adopted yesterday after a two-day Ministerial Council held in Athens (December 1-2).
“The Corfu Process will be taken forward by our Permanent Representatives to the OSCE in Vienna, in accordance with the decision we are adopting today.
We remain committed to provide strong political impetus to the Corfu Process, and we are looking forward to reassessing its progress in 2010, in the format and level that we will deem appropriate, taking into consideration the results we achieve,” it is stated in the Declaration, which is the first to be adopted since 2002.
Athens Ministerial Council (dedicated webpage)

» Turning a New Page

Commenting on the Ministerial Council at a press conference, held at the end of the meeting, Greek Prime Minister and Foreign Minister and OSCE Chairman-in-Office George Papandreou referred to a new page in the Organisation’s history.
“We have committed ourselves in a joint document on how to face common challenges,” he said noting that, Kazakhstan’s task -which is assuming the Presidency of the OSCE for the next year-, is difficult.
But as the Greek premier stressed, “we proved today that if we want we can. The process can revive political dialogue and the tangible result was consensus.”

ON THE SIDELINES

» Meeting with Russian FM

The strategic nature of Greek-Russian relations and their excellent level was reaffirmed during a meeting in Athens on Wednesday between Prime Minister George Papandreou and visiting Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, held on the sidelines of the OSCE Council in Athens.Papandreou accepted a formal invitation to visit Moscow in early 2010.

Papandreou and Lavrov discussed bilateral relations in all sectors, ranging from energy to culture and from regional cooperation to relations with the EU and NATO, and signed a 2010-2012 joint action plan to be renewed every two years.

» Meeting with Turkish FM

Prime Minister George Papandreou also met with visiting Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, with both sides citing closer cooperation in all levels.
The potential for the adoption of practical measures to boost cooperation of the foreign ministers of Greece and Turkey in 2010 was also discussed at the meeting. Davutoglu spoke positively of Greece’s target for the EU integration of the western Balkans in 2014, and he confirmed Turkey’s intent for closer bilateral cooperation.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Bilateral Relations Greece- Turkey

OSCE Ministerial Council in Athens

» Papoulias Inaugurates OSCE Meeting

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA) President of the Hellenic Republic Karolos Papoulias inaugurated yesterday the 17th Ministerial Council of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), taking place in Athens (1-2/12).
Papoulias welcomed delegates from the OSCE’ s 56 member states and described the international meeting as “an important political event and an opportunity to strengthen peaceful cooperation and promote the common goals of the member states, in order to reach tangible and substantive conclusions.”

» Papandreou’ s Address

The Corfu Process needs to be taken a step further in order to meet the challenges to European security in the 21st century, OSCE chairman-in-office, Greece’s Prime minister and Foreign minister George Papandreou stressed, addressing the first plenary session of the organisation’s 17th ministerial council.
“We have to agree on important decisions in the next two days to strengthen co-operative security across the OSCE area, to shape the work of our organization, and to create a strong foundation for Kazakhstan to build upon as it assumes the OSCE Chairmanship on January 1,” Papandreou said.
He also expressed his hope that a constructive spirit will prevail during the two-day deliberations of the meeting.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Speech of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office, Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Greece Papandreou, to the 1st Plenary session of the 17th OSCE Ministerial Council
See also Project Syndicate: Renewing Europe’s Security Dialogue by George Papandreou

» Sideline Meetings

On the sidelines of the OSCE ministerial council, Papandreou met with the foreign ministers of Finland, Alexander Stubb and Kazakhstan, Kanat Saudabayev, who together form the current OSCE “troika.”
Alternate foreign minister Dimitris Droutsas had a meeting with FYROM’s FM Antonio Milososki while the premier is scheduled to meet today with the foreign ministers of Russia and Turkey, Sergei Lavrov and Ahmet Davutoglou respectively.
At the end of the first day of meetings, the Greek OSCE chairmanship hosted a formal reception for the visiting diplomatic delegations at the Acropolis Museum.

Greek Foreign Minister: A Change of Priorities

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)   Foreign Ministry Dora Bakoyannis addressed the Hellenic-American Chamber of Commerce on May 5 on “The impact of the economic crisis on the international stage: The position of Greece.”    At the dawn of this new era, Greece needs to find new development potential firmly founded on its true capabilities and prospects. The triptych “structural changes and development initiatives, financial stability and tangible solidarity with those in greater need” form the basis for the structured plan implemented by the government in order to get the country safely out of the current crisis. In the long run, these are also the main pillars on which our country’s future development course is based. For this course, the minister elaborates on a change of priorities, consisting of three main points: innovation, externalisation, and the need to invest in creative forces.   In related news, at a joint press conference on May 6, representatives of the Hellenic-American, Hellenic-British, Hellenic-French, Hellenic-German and Hellenic-Italian chambers of commerce said they consider the measures undertaken by the government in order to overcome the crisis as being on the right path and called for greater emphasis to be placed on structural changes.   Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Dora Bakoyannis’ speech to the Hellenic-American Chamber of Commerce 

Boosting Greek Tourism

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)    Fourteen specific measures aimed at boosting the tourism sector pledged by the Prime Minister will soon be implemented, new Tourism Development Minister Constantine Markopoulos said during a press conference on Tuesday. Commenting on projected tourism figures for the coming season, Markopoulos said no accurate predictions can be made regarding the number of tourist arrivals, considering that pre-bookings have been put off for two months to March and April as a result of the global economic crisis.  Speaking to the press, the minister said the draft law will include the 14 measures, such as cutting municipal taxes and transforming the Hellenic Chamber of Hotels into a Tourism Chamber. Markopoulos said the ministry also plans to table another draft law in Parliament, by September, envisaging stricter supervision of casino operations and the upgrading of the Greek National Tourism Organisation‘s offices abroad, with the ministry planning to open new offices in South Africa, Poland, Ukraine and India.

Geothermal Energy in Greece

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)  The Ministry of Development supports large scale investments in green power to cover the energy needs of specific islands whose environment favours the implementation of renewables. A current scheme soon to be implemented capitalises on geothermal energy, using the heat in the earth’s interior. The islands included in the project are Milos, Nisyros, Lesbos, Chios, Samothraki and Santorini. Especially in the case of Milos and Nisyros, the steam or geothermal liquid springing from the surface can reach 350 degrees Celsius. Centre for Renewable Energy sources: Geothermal Energy; Ministry of Development: Renewable Sources of Energy (in Greek)

Archaeological Findings Repatriated to Greece

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)   The repatriation of 100 archaeological finds currently stored at Ghent University’s Archeological School in Belgium was decided following a meeting of Greece’s Minister of Culture with the Belgian ambassador and the director of the Belgian Archaeological School in Athens. The Belgian delegation informed Minister Antonis Samaras that the finds come from the School’s excavations at the archaeological site of Thoricos at Lavrio (see picture), southeast Attica. The School’s project of Thoricos was first launched in 1963, and four major areas have been investigated to date: the acropolis, the necropolis, the theatre and the industrial area. The acropolis has yielded the most important finds, while the theatre, probably the earliest in Greece, is of unique archaeological interest. The modern-day name of Thoricos, Lavrio, derives from the word “lavra” which means narrow passage and it is mostly known for its ancient and modern mining galleries. Mine extraction at Thorikos dates back to around 3000 B.C. Silver mining, once one of the chief source of revenue of the Athenian state, reached its peak during the years of Pericles. After a long pause, activities were resumed during the 19th century, contributing to the newly established Greek state’s technological progress for more than a century’s time. Nowadays, the area boasts the Lavrion Technological and Cultural Park, where the rich local legacy comes to the fore. Ministry of Culture: www.culture.gr; Hellenic Culture Organisation: Odysseus portal 

Greek E-conomic Diplomacy

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)     In an effort to meet the challenges of the digital era, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs  presented yesterday January 13, its two internet portals for both the business community and civil society. Addressing the event, the Minister stressed that promoting economic diplomacy and capitalizing on international funds constitutes a fundamental policy on behalf of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, especially at a time when the dire economic situation calls for intensification of the assistance provided to the Greek business community. Accommodating the needs of the Greek business community to access information concerning potential business opportunities with partners abroad, the Ministry inaugurated the “Agora” internet portal, (www.agora.mfa.gr) providing information such as business directories, information on public tenders and procurements, as well as information on business missions and fairs. Moreover, 500 market researches and studies can be accessed through the website in addition to a full business guide to foreign bureaucracy and investment incentives law. Together with the enhancement of economic diplomacy, the Ministry set clear-cut goals to promote international development cooperation. The launch of the international funding portal (www.aidfunding.mfa.gr) aims at increasing NGO’s and Greek businesses’ share in funding by international financial institutions such as the World Bank, Europeaid and the UN network. Browsing through the interactive pages of the portal, one can gain access to integrated support services such as a database for tenders, on-line applications, information on training seminars and practical guides to transacting with international institutions. 

Greek Government Support Small and Medium Sized Enterprises

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)   The government is determined to offer financial support to small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) amid the international financial crisis, Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis said on Monday. Speaking to reporters during a visit to the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the premier stressed that the EU is experiencing a recession and noted that the crisis is hitting consumption, production and commerce, while unemployment is on the rise. The Greek economy is still resisting pressures from an international crisis but 2009 would be a difficult year for all, the premier said, adding that the government’s aim is to limit the impact and to safeguard benefits gained in the previous years. He emphasised that the government is transferring funds from the Fourth Community Support Framework to SMEs, while it is introducing new measures to boost entrepreneurship among young people, and women.  Ministry of Economy and Finance: National Strategic Reference Framework 2007-2013; Secretariat General for Information: About Brand Greece- Competitiveness & Entrepreneurship ; Greek News Agenda: Gov’t Reforms Push On & Stimulus for SMEs 

Hellenic Aid to the World

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)    Greece is a UN “Millennium Development Goals” contributor and grants $501million annually in foreign aid to third world countries, which amounts to 0.16% of its GNI (2007) thus ranking 21st  worldwide in Official Development Assistance (ODA), and aiming at the 2010 European Union target of 0.51%.  Within the new strategy launched by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, aiming at achieving the Millennium Development Goals, Hellenic Aid (www.hellenicaid.gr) promotes humanitarian and food aid programmes provided by N.G.O.s and volunteerism, as well as co-operation among national N.G.O.’s taking action in developing countries. Developed countries (according to the 2007/2008 UN Human Development report, Greece ranks 24th out of 177 countries), nowadays, form a rather small minority within the international community. The developing world still constitutes the majority of the globe’s population, living under conditions of extreme poverty. espite the improvement of certain general living conditions as well as the increase of the global wealth and technological potential, this part of the world remains extremely vulnerable to diseases, natural disasters, and state authoritarianism. On November 26, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries have reaffirmed their commitments on aid to developing countries and undertaken to abstain from trade protectionism, as part of a concerted drive to shore up the world economy and combat recession. OCDE: Greece – Aid at a Glance Chart &  Updated [25 November 2008] Donor Aid Charts (2006-2007) & Official Development Assistance by Donor & Debt Relief is down: Other ODA rises slightly  Secretariat General of Information: About Brand Greece – Economic Diplomacy and International Development Aid

Traces of an Ancient Greek Colony

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)    On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of excavations in Emporion, the Cervantes Institute in Athens, the Ministry of Culture of the Government of Catalonia and the Hellenic American Union (HAU) are organising a series of events and panel discussions with the participation of experts from both Spain and Greece. The events, under the auspices of the Greek Ministry of Culture, take place from November 25 to November 28, at the HAU. Emporion (market for Greek), the ancient Phocian colony along the Mediterranean coastline of Catalonia (Empúries), was the westernmost Greek settlement of ancient world and a gateway for Classical culture into the Iberian Peninsula. After centuries of abandonment and pillaging, the official excavations, which revealed amongst others the great statue of Asclepios (see picture), began in 1908. 

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;

Greece Answer to the International Finance Crisis

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)  The Hellenic Parliament yesterday voted in favour of the €28 billion support package to shield the Greek banking sector. The concept behind government’s actions was to enhance the liquidity of the economy in response to the impact of the international financial crisis, using the banking system as a means to this end. Through the new law, funding is provided for economic growth, for boosting employment, small- and medium-sized enterprises and housing loans. Last week the European Union gave its approval, confirming the conformity of the draft with the respective European policy. After the European Commission’s green light, Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis carried out limited corrective changes to the bill, so as not to stir illicit competition between the banks of different countries. These changes are: Public guarantees can only last up to three years instead of five; the same reduction will be applied to public sector bonds. In addition, banks included in the €5 billion capital base support package will not be entitled to distribute dividends to their stockholders for as long as they partake in the plan. Ministry of Economy and Finance: The plan for enhancing liquidity in the Greek economy & The Draft Law & The Greek Economy at a glance ; Hellenic Bank Association: www.hba.gr European Commission: A quick guide to the EU’s response to the financial crisis 

The Antikythera Mechanism Reveals its Secrets

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)      The Ionic Centre is hosting the first exhibition showcasing the renowned Antikythera Mechanism, a display which is jointly organised with the Antikythera Mechanism Research Project and the National Archaeological Museum. The exhibition which is placed under the aegis of the Ministry of Culture, is taking place from October 22 to December 14. The Mechanism of Antikythera – an ancient mechanical object which has begun to be “decoded” scientifically only in the past few years – has attracted world-wide interest and re-writes the history of science and culture, not only for Greece but for the entire world. The history of this extraordinary object begins in the mid 1st century BC, when a ship loaded with artefacts and precious objects, possible heading towards Rome, sinks near Antikythera. About two thousands years later, in the spring of 1900, two fishing boats with sponge divers discover one of the most important treasures of antiquity. Filled with signs and cog wheels, it was characterized early as belonging to the family of astronomy instruments – sometimes as an astrolabe, a planetarium, an instrument used for sailing or a combination of instruments. When the first results of the Mechanism Research Project, comprising of top Greek and foreign specialists, were announced in Athens in the end of 2006, they brought about international interest – an interest which continues today. At the Ionic Centre, visitors will have the opportunity to see the mechanism as scientists see it, using the latest technology, to experiment with the calculation models that were developed and to use the software developed for making the erased engravings on its surface appear.  GoCulture.gr: The Antikythera Mechanism reveals its secrets; Nature science journal (31.7.2008): Streaming video: Antikythera

Greece: A Pioneering experiment in Pylos

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)  Neutrinos are elementary particles that travel close to the speed of light, lack an electric charge, are able to pass through ordinary matter almost undisturbed and are thus extremely difficult to detect. Neutrino detectors are often built underground in order to isolate the detector from cosmic rays and other background radiation. The coast of Pylos, in the south western part of the Peloponnese, an ideal location for pioneer Neutrino experiments, since it’s geographical position is close to the greatest depth of the Mediterranean Sea (5200 m. at the area of the Hellenic Trench). Pylos is also home to the NESTOR Institute for Deep Sea Research, Technology and Neutrino Astroparticle Physics. The Institute is staffed by a scientific team from the Physics Department of the University of Athens, specialising in research and deployment of phenomena in deep water. A large underwater telescope, 10 times higher than the Eiffel Tower, is being constructed, and its purpose is to monitor and track neutrinos from outer space. It is one of four similar projects in the world. The sea water is important because it absorbs most of the light as well as other electromagnetic radiation, allowing only the ever elusive neutrinos to pass through. It is the great depth, combined with the close proximity to the shore that Pylos offers as its comparative advantages in competing with the two other European observatories – Antares, in France, and Nemo, in Italy. The prize will be the selected site for KM3Net, the future European infrastructure for neutrino telescopy. The 24th International Conference on Neutrino Physics and Astrophysics (NEUTRINO 2010) is scheduled to take place in Athens in January 2010. Secretariat General of Information: About Greece – Scientific & Technological Research; Ministry of Development- Secretariat General of Research & Technology: Supervised Bodies; National Observatory of Athens: www.noa.gr; Hellenic Centre for Marine Research: Institute of Oceanography

An Hippodrome Discovered in Olympia after 1600 Years

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)   The site of an ancient hippodrome course in Olympia, where the emperor Nero competed for Olympian laurels, has been discovered. The hippodrome was discovered in Olympia by a research team that included Professor Norbert Müller, Dr Christian Wacker and Dr Reinhard Senff. “This discovery is an archaeological sensation,” commented Norbert Müller of the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz. The research project extended over several weeks before its completion in mid-May 2008. Prior to this, the hippodrome had only been known from written sources. Archaeologists had failed to locate its actual site, which is surprising, as German archaeologists have been continuously excavating the site of where the ancient Olympiad was held since 1875.      Science Daily: Horse Racecourse In Ancient Olympia Discovered After 1600 Years (21.07.2008); Ministry of Culture: Olympia-The Hippodrome