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The prison books of Elli Pappa November 24, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Books Life Greek.
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The Hellenic Literary and Historical Archive (ELIA) will present a different kind of book at the Benaki Museum (17 Vasilissis Sofias and 1 Koubari Street, Kolonaki, Athens, tel 210 3671000) on Friday, December 1.

The presentation will unveil a series of books that Elli Pappa wrote, illustrated and bound during the 13 years she spent in prison during the 1950s. The books were intended for her son, who at the time was growing up with his aunt, author Dido Sotiriou. Pappa’s companion, Nikos Beloyiannis, a communist leader, was executed in 1952.

For Pappa, her prison activities became a form of cultural resistance while living in barbaric conditions.

At the Benaki Museum next week, Pappa herself, author Alki Zei and journalist Stelios Kouloglou will talk about Pappa’s gesture of love, expressed through words and colors at a time when the author was deprived of her companion, her son and her freedom. Ten of the prison books have been published with the support of Kaleidoskopio editions.

Four years ago, Pappa entrusted her entire archive to ELIA, adding more than 60 files to the study of postwar Greek history.


Challenging antiquity’s stereotypes November 24, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Hellenic Light Americas.
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How much do we know about the ancient Greek city-states Athens and Sparta, other than the stereotypes of Athens as the founder of democracy and the militarily-governed Sparta?

An exhibition organized by the Onassis Cultural Center (the New York-based affiliate of the Onassis Foundation), which will open in New York on December 6, aims at looking beyond and challenging the preconceived notions about the two cities as well as putting their respective development into its broader historical context.

«Athens-Sparta: From the 8th to the 5th Centuries BC» which will be showing at the Olympic Tower on Fifth Avenue until May 12, 2007, is organized in collaboration with the National Archaeological Museum in Athens. It will feature 289 exhibits, ranging from sculptures to pottery, inscriptions, coins and more, some of which have never traveled outside Greece. The Acropolis Museum, the archaeological museums of Sparta, Rhodes and Olympia and the Kerameikos Museum are only some of the institutes, other than the National, that have volunteered items from their permanent collections for inclusion in the forthcoming exhibition.

«The exhibition compares the development of the two cities, how they began and how they evolved,» said Antonis Papadimitriou, the president of the Onassis Foundation, at yesterday’s press conference. «It was a period of great historical and political significance and many people draw parallels between these two cities and current events.»

«With their different forms of government and artistic expression, both Athens and Sparta played a decisive role from the geometric to the Roman eras,» added the president of the National Archaeological Museum, Nikos Kaltsas. «Greek history would be different if either of the two had not existed; they shaped what we call classical Greek civilization.»

Among other things, the exhibition will demonstrate that, contrary to popular belief, Sparta can boast more than military achievements, especially in the Archaic period, although subsequent events turned Athens into a leading artistic force. «This will be the first time that so many Laconian works will go on display alongside Attic artifacts of the same period,» said Kaltsas. Laconia and Attica are the greater areas in which Sparta and Athens lie respectively. He explained that because the subject is so vast, the display will not follow the evolution of the two cities in detail but will, nonetheless, give a satisfactory account.

The exhibition has three sections. The first one examines the two cities’ formation and follows their cultural development from the Late Geometric to the end of the Archaic period, 8th to the early 5th century BC. The other two sections focus on the artistic evolution during the 5th century and the changing relationship between Athens and Sparta, as it was tainted by the two great events at the time: the Persian Wars, in which the Greek cities joined forces against the Persians and then the Peloponnesian War, 431 to 404 BC, the destructive war between Athens and Sparta and their respective allies, which was the culmination of a gradual process of polarization of the Greek world into two camps.

«The exhibition ends with the end of the Peloponnesian War. Athens, which lost to Sparta, came out exhausted but remained an intellectual center and Sparta still featured prominently in various disputes, but in essence the war signaled the beginning of the dissolution of the city-state and paved the way for King Philip of Macedon,» said Kaltsas.

The exhibition will be enriched by a variety of parallel activities, namely an international conference, a program of lectures in New York and a series of dramatic readings of Thucydides’ «History of the Peloponnesian War» and Aeschylus’ tragedy «The Persians». A rich 300-page catalog will also complement the exhibition, with contributions by distinguished scholars, such as professors Donald Kagan and Paul Cartledge, as well as acclaimed Greek historians and archaeologists. «The parallel events are very important. Catalogs from past exhibitions have always been very successful and have been requested by universities and libraries. The readings have also proved a success and various universities have asked us to send them this program in the past,» explained Papadimitriou.

Highlights among the exhibits include the late 5th century marble statue of a Spartan warrior titled «Leonidas» arrowheads and spearheads from the legendary battle of Thermopylae, a 5th century marble statue of an Athenian kore, a young woman, Archaic bronze figurines of warriors from Sparta and much more.

«This will be our 15th exhibition in New York since 2000,» said Papadimitriou. «We are interested in targeting the wider American audiences, the average American, not Greeks of the diaspora. We want our exhibitions to be Greek-related, but do not want to repeat ourselves.»

Last season’s exhibition of post-Byzantine Greek art, titled «From Byzantium to Modern Greece: Greek Art under Difficult Circumstances, 1453-1830» had very good attendance, despite its rather specialized focus, and Papadimitriou said the foundation is hoping for even greater interest this time round.

«Athens-Sparta» will be on display at the Onassis Cultural Center, Olympic Tower, 645 Fifth Ave, New York, to May 12.

Largest national park in the country soon to be a reality November 24, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Nature.
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Three areas in Pindos, Tzoumerka and Grammos ranges
Any tourism development must be low-impact, according to the rules for the new national park

A large swath of the countryside near the Albanian border, covering three mountain ranges and extensive virgin forests that are a refuge for thousands of species of plants and animals, will soon be part of three national parks comprising a unified environmental protection area.

At least it will on paper, for although the decision to form the National Park of Northern Pindos, which will include Mt Tzoumerka, Mt Peristeri and the Arachthos Gorge, was officially declared in 2004, the second step, setting up the organization itself, is to be announced shortly.

The third step, establishing a national park on Mt Grammos, is still pending the clearing of land mines dating from the Second World War. When completed, it will be the first time in Greece that environmental protection has been linked with preserving architectural heritage, as there are plans to institute strict regulations for preserving the traditional character of local villages and settlements.

The drafting of the presidential decree on the park is in the final stages and will soon be approved and submitted to the Council of State, the country’s highest administrative court. According to the terms of the decree, the national park will include the central and western Pindos range (prefectures of Arta, Ioannina and Trikala) and two Natura areas. It will be divided into three sections, according to the degree of protection provided:

* Region of absolute protection > the Arachthos Gorge, the upper reaches of the Kalarrytikos River with its gorges and tributaries, the Pachtouri-Athamania area and the area linking Peristeri and Tzoumerka (Tsouma, Plastari, Koutsoro). The primary goal in these areas is to conserve the existing condition of the natural environment and protect it “with the fewest possible human activities.” Visitors will be permitted under certain conditions and for the purpose of scientific research. Hunting will be forbidden.

* Regions for the preservation of local ecosystems and species > the main range of Tzoumerka, Kakarditsa and Peristeri, where traditional activities will be permitted as long as they do not harm the environment.

* Peripheral zones > the southwestern and southeastern parts of the Tzoumerka range (including parts of the eastern foothills of Mt Xirovouni), part of the Arachthos Gorge and the area west of Mt Peristeri. No industry is permitted in this zone, nor large-scale livestock or poultry farming, large tourism facilities or waste-treatment plants.

Any enlargement of existing settlements within the 10 municipalities and eight settlements inside the park’s boundaries is permitted on a limited scale “on the condition that these will not harm the ecological and cultural characteristics of the region and subject to the approval of the management body.”

Small guest houses (up to 30 beds) and mountain refuges are also permitted. The creation of a green swath of country from the prefecture of Kastoria to Arta was envisioned by Deputy Environment Minister Stavros Kaloyiannis.

“We wanted to provide a new strategy for low-impact development of the area and at the same time establish the framework for existing activities such as livestock and poultry breeding, as well as the framework for infrastructure (such as an abattoir at Pramanta) so that local products can be certified and acquire the label of appellation of origin,” he said. “The next step is low-impact tourism with guest houses and small hotels that will blend in with the environment.”

According to Kaloyiannis, over the next two months, when Mt Grammos has been cleared of all land mines, the third national park will be established, completing the Pindos protected area.

“Then we will be able to implement interstate accords on the environment that were recently signed in Albania, where a national park has been established on its border with Greece. That way we can implement unified policies on the environment of the region.”

The Tzoumerka National Park will acquire a management body to oversee the implementation of the provisions in the presidential decree and the protection of the area in general.

“We have already secured funds for the management body from the Fourth Environment Action Program,” explained Kaloyiannis. “As for the management bodies for the rest of the protected areas, most have already begun, are recruiting staff and are already active. That is our ultimate goal, to protect these important regions in practice, and not just on paper.”

Next stop Lavrion for railway November 24, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Transport Air Sea Land.
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A number of measures to entice the residents of the fast-growing neighborhoods east of Athens onto public transport were unveiled yesterday by Transport Minister Michalis Liapis, who said that the Proastiakos suburban railway will reach the port of Lavrion within the next six years.

Liapis said that prices of tickets for the suburban railway and for people in eastern Attica using the metro will be reduced from the start of next year. The suburban railway’s operating hours will also be extended so trains will run between 5 a.m. and midnight.

The minister said a 33-kilometer extension will be constructed for the Proastiakos by 2012, which will give residents in these rapidly expanding areas quicker access to central Athens while also making the port of Lavrion more accessible to holidaymakers.

Several stations on the metro line to Athens International Airport were recently converted so that trains can stop there as demand increases for access to public transport from those moving out of Athens into the eastern suburbs.

Greece to lift state monopoly on universities November 24, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Education.
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The head of Greece’s main opposition party on Friday backed a proposal by Greece’s conservative government to lift the state monopoly on university education after the n ext election, due in 2008.

The support paves the way for a constitutional revision required to allow independently run universities, despite division on the issue among the Socialists. Socialist party would back the reform but requested final approval in a national referendum before the measure passes.

The Greek Communist Party and small Left Coalition party opposed lifting the state monopoly.

Education reform is the center piece of the proposed revision, the third change of the Greek constitution since 1975.

Emigrants in Greece must pass exams November 24, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece News.
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Emigrants seeking residence permit in Greece must pass exams on Greek language, history and culture, Greek newspaper Ta Nea said.

Besides exams, emigrants who plan to live in Greece must possess some funds. The duration of residence permit is five years. According to Greek Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos, the reform aims “to create a terrain for realization of civil rights ahead of local elections in Greece”.


Government plan to integrate immigrants
A new government program has been designed to facilitate the social integration of hundreds of thousands of immigrants living in Greece, Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos told a conference on migration issues yesterday.

The minister also heralded a new draft law, to be submitted in Parliament next month, “which aims to remove the last few bureaucratic hurdles… faced by immigrants trying to gain official legal status in Greece.”

An influx of immigrants into Greece between 1991 and 2001 caused the population to swell by around 700,000 and at least another 170,000 are believed to have settled since 2001, according to the Hellenic Migration Policy Institute (IMEPO), which staged yesterday’s conference.

“The immigration issue is a problem for which we have no solution,” the president of IMEPO, Alexandros Zavos, told the conference. “But it could also be a blessing. By effectively managing immigration, Greece could acquire a central role in the Balkans,” Zavos added, without elaborating.

The ultimate aim of the government’s policy in this area is to integrate immigrants “so that Greek society can develop while showing social sensitivity and fairness,” Pavlopoulos said.

Over the past few years, a large proportion of Albanian immigrants living in Greece have been repatriated. Repatriation is one of the central axes of the European Union’s immigration policy but was not addressed in detail at the conference.

Meanwhile, a biministerial decision made public yesterday outlined the procedure for immigrants wanting to acquire a certificate of competence in the Greek language, which is necessary in applications for extended residence permits.

Candidates must have reached the fourth (Delta) stage of the Education Ministry’s adult education program or have a certificate demonstrating the same level of knowledge. Examinations will be held twice a year, every February and October, and will test writing and comprehension skills as well as oral competence and knowledge of Greek history and culture.

Greece listed as “full democracy” in Economist index November 24, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Living, Politics.
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A new Economist Intelligence Unit survey of 167 countries places Greece among the world’s 28 “full democracies” and seven other Southeast European countries in the group of “flawed democracies”. Three other countries in the region are seen as “hybrid regimes”.

Greece is the only Southeast European (SEE) country included in the group of the most democratic nations in the world, according to a new survey released by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) this week.

Ranking 22nd among the surveyed 165 countries and two territories, Greece is classified as a “full democracy,” along with 27 other nations. The rest of the countries fall into one of other three groups listed in the EIU democracy index, “flawed democracies,” “hybrid regimes” and “authoritarian regimes”.

The index is based on the scores the countries are given for 60 indicators across five broad categories: electoral process and pluralism, the functioning of government, political participation, political culture and civil liberties.

For each of these categories, the surveyed nations are given scores from 0 to 10. The overall index of democracy is the simple average of the five category indexes. Almost without exception, the SEE countries’ best scores are for the electoral process and pluralism and civil liberties categories.

With an overall score of 9.88 and marks of 10.00 in four of the five categories, Sweden is the highest-ranked nation in the table.

Greece’s overall score of 8.13 places it behind Belgium and Japan, which share the 20th position and ahead of Britain and France, ranked 23rd and 24th, respectively. Its best marks are for electoral process and pluralism (9.58), and civil liberties (9.41), while its lowest (6.67) is for political participation.

Most of the other countries in the region are categorised in the second grouping, “flawed democracies”. Leading them is Cyprus, which joined the EUin May 2004 along with Poland and eight other Central and East European countries. It shares 36th position with Botswana on the basis of an overall score of 7.60.

Like Greece and most of the other SEE countries, it has been given its highest marks for electoral process and for pluralism and civil liberties, 9.17 and 9.12, respectively. Cyprus’s lowest score of 6.25 is for political culture.

Six other SEE countries, Bulgaria (49th), Romania (50th), Croatia (51st), Serbia (55th), Montenegro (58th) and FYROM (68th), also fall in the “flawed democracies” group.

Bulgaria’s overall score of 7.60 is only 0.04 points better than that of its northern neighbour, Romania. The two countries, which will join the EU on January 1st, are given the same marks of 9.58 and 8.53 for electoral process and for pluralism and civil liberties. Both also got their lowest mark of 5.00 for political culture.

Although scoring slightly better than Bulgaria and Romania in this specific category, Croatia, which has an overall score of 7.04, also got its worst mark (5.63) for political culture.

Serbia and Montenegro are given overall scores of 6.62 and 6.57, respectively. They have the same best mark of 9.17 for electoral process and pluralism and the same worst mark of 5.00 for political participation.

FYROM has an overall score of 6.33. Its lowest mark of 3.75 is for political culture.

Ranked 83rd, 87th and 88th, respectively, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Turkey are in the 30-nation “hybrid regimes” group. Their overall scores range from 5.91 points for Albania to 5.78 for BiH and 5.70 for Turkey. Their highest marks are for electoral process and pluralism. Albania’s worst mark of 4.44 is for political participation, while BiH’s lowest score of 3.29 is for functioning of government. Turkey’s lowest mark of 3.75 is for political culture.