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Immigration Policy:Interview of Giorgos Tsarbopoulos

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA) In an interview with a Greek daily (Ta Nea), Giorgos Tsarbopoulos, head of the Greek branch of United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) comments on the government’s decision to overhaul Greece’s migration policy.
Tsarbopoulos admits that the draft law on granting citizenship to immigrants is a positive initiative but needs to be supplemented.
He says that naturalisation should be the first step within a broader social integration policy. Similarly, asylum policy needs to be enhanced by a well organised hospitality and welfare safety net.
What is important about the new asylum policy is that it disassociates itself from the police and that a new independent body is created to address the issue.
UNHCR recognises that within the European Union, the Dublin II Regulation has placed a disproportionate burden on Greece and advises other EU countries not to send back asylum seekers when their reception is deemed precarious. 
Greek News Agenda: UN Refugees High Commissioner in Athens & A Joint Letter on Immigration; UNHCR: 2010 Regional Operations Profile – Greece

United Nations Climate Change Conference begins

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA) Global attention is focused on Copenhagen which is hosting the United Nations Climate Change Conference, beginning today, and continuing through December 18.
Greece fully endorses the decisions of the European Union concerning climate change. Minister of Environment, Energy and Climate Change, Tina Birbili announced that Greece is willing to commit to the target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by the year 2020.
She said that Copenhagen talks must deliver a legally binding document which will incorporate the Bali Road Map and the ‘Kyoto Protocol.
She further noted that by 2010 Greece will have presented a time-framework and announced Prime Minister George Papandreou’s initiative to promote together with the Spanish EU Presidency a post-Copenhagen action plan for the protection of the Mediterranean from climate change. 
Ministry of Environment, Energy & Climate Change: UN Climate Change Conference- Position of Greece; George Papandreou personal website: Position on Climate Change

UN: Reopen Halki Seminary

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)

The United Nations’ Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) has invited Turkey to reopen the Greek Orthodox Theological School on the island of Halki, after the Turkish authorities’ decision to close the Halki seminary in 1971.  The Committee has also called on Turkey to return confiscated properties and promptly to execute all related judgements by the European Court of Human Rights. Furthermore, the Committee noted its concern over the particularly serious situation of the Greek minority and calls urgently upon Turkey to redress such discrimination as well as respect human rights. The Theological School of Halki, established in 1844, was a prestigious centre of culture and civilisation. During its years of operation the school counted many internationally renowned scholars.

Alternative Tourism in Greece

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)       Dancing at the Waterfalls
The city of Edessa has launched an alternative tourist campaign by commissioning the Greek painter Giorgos Stathopoulos to produce a work of art which will be projected at nights at the city’s famous waterfalls. “We do not want to be just another tourist destination; we wish to offer our visitors such an experience that would render Edessa unforgettable and will bring them back to the city” said mayor Yiannis Sontras. His idea was to spend money on acquiring the rights to use the painting as the city’s symbol, instead of producing conventional tourist brochures. National Tourism Organisation of Greece: Greece’s tourist campaign
EDEN Awards
A number of projects aiming to promote alternative tourism opportunities in Greece has been funded by the European Regional Development Fund. Amongst these are projects related to the restoration of medieval castles, the construction of trekking routes and agro-tourism complexes. The region of Grevena – in northern Greece – won one of the 20 “European Destination of Excellence” EDEN awards last year at the European Annual Tourism Forum, launched by the European Commission to promote the development of alternative tourism, while the region of Florina won in 2007 an EDEN award as one of the “Best Emerging European Rural Destinations of Excellence.”
Green Passport
The “Green Passport Campaign” launched by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) aims at raising tourists’ awareness of their potential to contribute to sustainable development by making responsible holiday choices. To assist them, an online guide has been produced offering tourists useful tips on how to minimize the impact of their journeys on the environment. The guide will soon be available in Greek as the Hellenic Society for the Protection of the Environment and Cultural Heritage has undertaken its translation, showing that Greece is following a worldwide trend of growing ‘green tourism’ at rates that treble those of conventional mass tourism.   

Greek Initiatives on Climate Change

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)     Participating in the United Nations’ Climate Change Conference in Poznań, (December 1-12), a meeting which brought together 192 United Nations member states and representatives from international organisations and NGOs, Greece took the opportunity to present its initiatives concerning the adaptation to climate change. First and foremost, Greece has incorporated the dimension of climate change into every bilateral programme and development cooperation project. In addition, acknowledging the gap reported between the developed world and developing countries in terms of adaptation to climate change, Greece is offering funding for less developed countries through agreements signed recently with the African Union and the Caribbean Community CARICOM. Similarly, support will be offered to the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) and it is for this reason that another €20 million have been earmarked for the next four years. Last but not least, the Greek Chairmanship of the Human Security Network (May 2007- 2008) emphasised climate change and its impact on the most vulnerable social groups. The Greek chair hosted a number of international events on this issue in 2008, and funded a relevant research programme carried out mainly by UN agencies, including UNICEF and UN University. Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Greek Chairmanship of the Human Security Network- Policy Paper on Climate Change; Greek News Agenda: UN Climate Change Conference 

Greece at the UN Climate Change Conference in Poznań

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)   Today the United Nations’ Climate Change Conference in Poznań, (December 1-12) concludes with the participation of 192 United Nations member states and representatives from international organisations and NGOs. The purpose of the conference is to lay the foundations for the conclusion of a global climate treaty which will succeed the Kyoto protocol. The final agreement is expected to be signed in Copenhagen in 2009. Member states are called to agree upon specific targets and deadlines to curtail carbon emissions, a matter which is directly linked to the course of their economic activity. The conference has set out the goal of reducing carbon emissions by 60-80% by the year 2050. Addressing the conference, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for global solidarity on climate change and talked about a new “Green Deal,” while the European Commissioner for Environment Stavros Dimas stressed that the European Commission aims at shifting the gear towards concrete negotiations and reducing carbon emissions by 20% by 2020. In regard to Greece, the Commissioner noted that Greece’s economy will benefit immensely should the country choose to comply fully with the European aspirations. European Commission: Commissioner’s speech in Poznan & UN Climate Change Conference 2008; Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Greek chair @ Human Security Network- Policy Papers on Climate Change; Secretariat General for Information: About Greece-Environmental Protection & About Brand Greece-Environmental Strategic Policies

Greek Commander @ Helm of EU Naval Operation

The Council of the European Union adopted a Joint Action on an EU military operation on November 10 to tackle piracy and armed robbery off the Somali coast. Greek Commodore Antonios Papaioannou was appointed as the commander of EU naval forces in the area. The operation (EU NAVFOR, Somalia) under the code name “Atalanta” is the first naval operation launched by the European Union within the framework of the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP). EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), Javier Solana congratulated Papaioannou, adding that he brings “his considerable expertise and the experience of his national navy to his role as Force commander for this operation in a new area for the EU.”  The success of the operation will secure a safe passage for vulnerable vessels, including those of the United Nation’s food aid programme. Following the Governmental Council on Foreign Policy and National Defence’s meeting yesterday (12.11.2008), Defense Minister Evangelos Meimarakis announced that Greece will participate in the Atalanta operation. Ministry of Defense: Hellenic Navy & International Presence