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PlayStation 3 to cost EUR 659 in Greece February 22, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Games & Gadgets.
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You might feel that the PlayStation 3 is over-priced in your country but think yourselves lucky; Greece retailers will be selling the PS3 at 659 Euros, about 442 GBP.

Online stores are listing the 60GB package of Sony’s new entertainment system at the high price, and this is €60 more than the deal set to launch in the rest of Europe. For some critics it’s already over-priced, but retailers in Greece have raised the RRP of the PlayStation 3 to EUR 659 (GBP 442 or US $863).

Sony has previously stated that the PS3 will retail in the majority of European countries for EUR 599. Online stores in Greece, including the official Sony Centre, are listing the 60GB console package at EUR 659. Sony has already confirmed that the PlayStation 3 will retail at a higher price of EUR 629 in Ireland, due to the region being “traditionally more expensive than other territories.”

The PlayStation 3 goes on sale in Europe on March 23, with around 30 titles due in the launch window.

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There is only one Cyprus halloumi cheese February 22, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Food Cyprus.
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Ever heard of ersatz halloumi? Now you have. Goat and sheep farmers are up in arms over reports that halloumi cheese made entirely from cow’s milk is being made available on store shelves, in contravention of an industrial standard dating back to 1984.

The 1984 model states that halloumi is made from fresh sheep and/or goat milk or a mixture of the above plus cow milk. In other words, the cheese can’t be made from 99 per cent cow’s milk, there must be a substantial amount of goat and or sheep milk. However, there is no specification on how much milk from each animal has to be used.

The Health Services have already despatched inspectors, who have reportedly traced the ‘fake’ halloumi to a factory in Larnaca. Instructions have been given to withdraw the offending cheese from the market as soon as possible. But the episode has brought a simmering controversy to the surface.

In the 1990s a government committee approved an application from the cheese makers, essentially based on the 1984 formula, and sent it to the EU for approval. A decision was finally taken and Cyprus was able to apply to the EU for protection of the local product. If approved, Cyprus will be able to prevent the production of cheap imitations of halloumi both abroad and at home.

To register halloumi as a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), Cypriot producers had to decide first what it was made from.

But the government has yet to examine and publish the two halloumi applications that have been for years in its possession: one from the Cyprus Cheese Makers Association and the other from the Association of Sheep and Goat Farmers.

The dispute has dragged on due to the fact that cow farmers wanted to register halloumi without specifying how much of which milk was needed to make it, while goat and sheep farmers insisted on setting strict percentages on the quantities of each milk.

Halloumi is presently registered as a protected Cypriot product within the US but not the EU. In many ways, the 1984 decision was a compromise designed to juggle competing interests in the dairy business.

Sheep and goat farmers argue that if the government proceeds to register halloumi within the EU based on the 1984 model, that would be a recipe for disaster: the industrial standard, they say, is extremely vague and paves the way for different interpretations of what halloumi is.

“There is only one halloumi,” said Loizos Michael, a consultant to sheep and goat farmers.
“If cheese makers insist on making halloumi with cow’s milk, they should call it something else.”

They therefore plan to file an objection to the registration of halloumi as a PDO. But some feel that be tantamount to shooting the industry in the foot, as it would endanger Cyprus’ exclusive rights to producing the cheese in Europe.

So what is halloumi? Even history books have been dusted in the quest to establish just what constitutes the rubbery cheese. Dairy farmers claim that cow’s milk was used in halloumi centuries ago, citing a letter written by a merchant in the 1660s. The letter quotes the merchant as saying that Cyprus cheese was made from three types of milk: sheep, goat and cow.

But the sheep and goat farmers counter that until the founding of the Republic in 1960, the halloumi produced contained no cow’s milk, only sheep and goat milk, and that even during the next two decades cow’s milk was only used for cheese making if in surplus. It wasn’t until the mid 1980s that cow milk was used for halloumi in large quantities.

In pushing their own application to the EU, cheesemakers are using another mediaeval document: a manual known as Excerpta Cypria, authored by Claude Cobham. The work, often used as a source by historians, contains a letter written by a certain Elias to his brother in Italy. In the letter, Elias describes life in Cyprus at the time. Among other things, he reports that it never snows on the island, and that women are only allowed outdoors at night under proper supervision. On halloumi, the author states: “The local cheese is a mixture of sheep’s, goat’s and cow’s milk. It cannot be preserved due to its high fat content.”

This, the cheesemakers say, is definitive proof that halloumi has traditionally contained cow’ s milk. But sheep and goat farmers are unconvinced. They cite another passage from the same letter, where the author describes Cypriots as “liars, cheats and conmen.”

So either we accept that our ancestors were dishonest fellows and that also they used cow’s milk in making halloumi, or we reject both. Anyone want to tackle that?

Leptos Cyprus looks to Africa, Europe for new projects February 22, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Architecture Cyprus.
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950 million euros Neapolis city to create 8,000 jobs

The Leptos Group, the family-controlled property and leisure group that includes two public companies listed on the Cyprus Stock Exchange, is embarking on a three-pronged offensive at home and abroad to realise some life-long ambitions of becoming the leading property developer in the region.

Although the flagship company, Leptos Estates, is primarily active in the Paphos district, the property developer will now get involved in holiday and residential homes, as well as commercial properties and mixed-use projects all over the island.

The group’s overseas subsidiaries that have only dealt with minor projects in Athens and some holiday properties in Greece, will embark on new ventures in North Africa from Egypt to Morocco, as well as target the potentially lucrative property market in East Europe.

Finally, after some opponents made unnecessary noise and objected to the project, delaying its start by at least a year, the CYP 550 mln (EUR 948 mln) Neapolis is expected to get underway some time in 2008 as the University permit has been secured and investors are being lined up to advise or co-develop the hospital.

Talks are in progress with Israel’s Hadassa Hospital, The Mayo Clinic, London Open University and Siemens, while the University will be English-speaking in order to attract international students and will start with schools of applied sciences, business and management, the arts and literature. However, Leptos company officials say that local legislation must be reformed to allow more foreign academics to practice in Cyprus and not be limited to short-stay visas. Parallel to all this, the Neapolis complex will also house a research centre for innovation.

The group includes two public companies that will also be utilised in the expansion plans, Leptos Calypso Hotels, owner and operator of the 5-star Coral Beach Resort and the nearby Thalassa Boutique Hotel in Coral Bay, the Panorama Hotel in Crete, Greece and other smaller hotels, and Pandora Investments, the owner of large tracts of land for development, Neapolis, golf courses, etc.

Michalakis Leptos, the Group’s founder who started with ambitious projects in Kyrenia which he lost in the Turkish invasion, recently decided to diversify from the corporate philosophy of developing holiday home villages and resorts in the Paphos and Polis areas, and is now ready to take on new challenges in new markets.

Already, the Leptos Group is looking to develop new business in Greece with major developments in Athens, Crete, Santorini and Paros. It is developing individual traditional-style villas on the scenic island of Santorini, the Aphrodite Maleme Villas in Chania, Villas in Paros near the Drios harbour as well as around the Molos fishing village.

The biggest project, however, is the mixed-use Costa Nopia, a luxury resort including hotel and homes, spas, marina, golf course and other facilities at Kissamos Bay with its own beach stretching 1.5 kms.

The Group’s enlargement will include the expansion to the rest of Cyprus, previously reserved to rival property developers, and create new ventures further away from Greece, such as East Europe, North Africa, redeploying the Group’s 40-year experience in building holiday homes and unique tourist ventures.

“Our expansion will come through buying materials, services or even other companies,” Michalakis Leptos said. However, Michalakis Leptos is vocal as always when it comes to criticizing the local administration or ‘amateur developers’ who ruin the market.

“Tourism has a lot of problems and Paphos will continue to suffer if we don’t make changes,” Michalakis Leptos said. “The whole area of Peyia has become an area of uncontrolled and irregular development,” he said. “There are too many 5-star hotels with poor quality. Paphos can no longer sustain ten 5-star hotels. The government must keep its promise and help some owners exit from the business, as we have too much regulation and its is often too strict.”

Leptos said that Greece provides a cash subsidy of 40-45% of renovation costs to hotel operators, Egypt enjoys cheaper labour and has low construction costs. “I think the problem is that the government has not understood what the tourism industry is all about and what it contributes to the island’s well-being,” he said.

“Green has been a part of our culture from the first day we started,” said Michalakis Leptos, who recalled the first public tree-planting at Kamares village, near Kissonerga, in 1980, when the then-young Bishop and present day Archbishop Chrysostomos would bless the trees and the unique ceremony. “We are the first real environmentalists. We have practiced green areas and green designs in all our projects, even from our days in Kyrenia,” he said.

Leptos has continued this tradition on-and-off over the years, culminating with the latest expedition ten days ago when more than 1,000 trees and bushes were planted in the ‘caves’ area of the Seven Saint Georges’ locality in Yeroskipou. This will also be the initial entrance to the ambitious Neapolis complex, for which some 200,000 sq.m. have been allocated as ‘green areas’.

In addition, the Leptos Group has sponsored the publication of a book that depicts the rare flowers that avid nature lovers and holiday home owners have photographed or catalogued in the area.

As regards market rumours that the Leptos group or one of its public companies was in talks to take over rival Aristo Developers, Michalakis Leptos was adamant: “We did not make any offer for any public company.”

Large-scale projects are not new to Michalakis Leptos, who is presently aided by his two sons, Pantelis in the sales and marketing services, and George in design and development. Leptos started in the 1960s with the Kyrenia Island Hotel, the Kamares Complex and the Kamares Palace in Kyrenia. After losing almost everything, he rebuilt his present-day empire by developing major projects such as Saudia City in Jeddah that included a town of 4,500 homes and all the necessary infrastructure that goes with it.

All the property and real-estate assets he has accumulated over the years are now “nearly 100% within zones of development,” he said. “The property market is more or less stable and the effect of the introduction of the euro in Cyprus will be minimal.”

As regards the issue of casinos, Michalakis Leptos believes that such projects, as well as the marinas and golf course will not by themselves attract tourism and solve the problems of the industry. “If the government wants to develop casinos, it must give a license to each district and not just one for the whole of Cyprus, otherwise it will only benefit the gamblers.”

Meanwhile, a few days after announcing the company’s ambitious master plan for Neapolis, the Yeroskipou Municipal Council declared its support to the project. This comes a year after members of the previous municipal council and individual property owners stirred up opposition to the Neapolis project a year ago, claiming that their property values would diminish while Leptos would be the big winner.

The town council has in the meantime included the properties of the disgruntled owners in the new zones with a higher development coefficient, thus satisfying all opposing views. Last Thursday, the Yeroskipou council gave its go ahead to the town planning procedures after representatives of the Leptos Group gave a technical briefing. The town believes that the development of a university, a hospital and a research centre will boost the local economy.

In order to avoid the disorganized development of the nearby Universal estate, the Yeroskipou Council wants the Neapolis complex to be developed in stages and with a better planning regulation to combine wide open green areas, a demand that has been foreseen by the Leptos Group.

Related Links > http://www.leptosestates.com/LeptosGroup.aspx

A major revamping project in western Piraeus February 22, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Architecture Greece.
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A major revamping project in western Piraeus takes a step closer to realization

keratsinidrapetsona.jpg  Following the example of Lisbon, the area stretching from Keratsini to Drapetsona on the Piraeus coastline will be revamped for housing development along with the creation of a shipping business center, tourism installations, a sea entertainment park, cultural venues and spaces for a variety of commercial uses. The timetable provides for the full development of this ambitious project to be complete in at least 10 years.

A significant step of progress for the revamping of the seaside area between Drapetsona and Keratsini, in western Piraeus, was the meeting last week between Public Works Minister Giorgos Souflias and Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis, the local Mayors and the owners of properties in the area.

The 640,000-square-meter area is owned by four companies: National Bank of Greece NBG, the Piraeus Port Authority OLP, British Petroleum BP and cement factory AGET Heracles.

This revamping plan, following the pattern of Lisbon before Expo 98, may grow into one of the biggest and most ambitious projects in the real estate sector, as its budget could range from 600 million to 1 billion euros while its full development will take at least 10 years.

The whole area under study consists of four properties, along with some public spaces and utility installations covering 140,000 sq.m. Protypos, an NBG subsidiary, owns 296,390 sq.m., BP Hellas has 83,250 sq.m., Heracles owns 123,000 sq.m. and 80,000 sq.m. belongs to the state and are managed by OLP.

The NBG subsidiary completed in mid-2006 the demolition of the building of the old fertilizers factory and the decontamination of all its property. AGET’s estate has the cement-producing installations that do not operate anymore while BP operates a lubricant-packaging unit. This is why BP maintains its reservations about the whole project, as it does not wish to relocate its unit that is close to the port of Piraeus. However, Souflias stated that the operating permits of factories in the area will not be renewed.

The final plans are not ready yet, but it is estimated that the buildings erected will cover 320,000 sq.m. while public spaces will reach 300,000 sq.m. including 88,000 sq.m. by the sea. Nevertheless, Drapetsona Municipality proposes that buildings should be reduced by 130,000 sq.m. The existing timetable provides for the rapid completion of talks between parties concerned for the final study to be tabled and the international tender to start in the next 12-18 months.

A study by Thymios Papayiannis and Associates for NBG notes that “the exceptional location of the area allows for a broad intervention that will render Piraeus an international multifunctional center, upgrading radically its civic and organizational infrastructure.”

The study argues that buildings will eventually total 352,000 sq.m., distributed in the following uses: a shipping business center covering 70,000 sq.m., a mild housing development covering 100,000 sq.m., professional uses of various forms and sizes, tourism installations, a sea entertainment park and cultural spaces.

Ambitious new plans for this year’s Art Athina fair February 22, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Events Greece, Arts Exhibitions Greece.
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Driven team is working on the capital’s 13th annual contemporary art event

artathina.jpg  This year’s Art Athina, the annual contemporary art fair of Athens, which this year is scheduled to take place at the end of May in the Helexpo Exhibition Center, is being touted by its new organizers as a promising and dynamic event that will help put Athens on the international map of contemporary art fairs.

An event of the Panhellenic Association of Art Galleries, it is organized this year for the first time by W-ART. Michalis Argyrou is general director of the fair and Christos Savvides the artistic director. To distinguish the Athens event from the cluster of art fairs sprouting up around the world, its organizers say they are keeping the artistic standards high by including just a small number of select galleries. Among the objectives is to increase the number of visitors and to boost the interest of Greek and international art collectors in Greek art.

The organizers also wish to enhance the cultural, not just the commercial, aspect of the art fair by organizing a great number of parallel events, panel discussions and projects that will bring together specialists in the field. An ambitious, rich program that has just been announced includes an exhibition at the Benaki Museum on contemporary art from Russia and the Baltic countries curated by Viktor Misiano, two projects by the Guerrilla Girls curated by Artemis Potamianou, a multidisciplinary project on contemporary Greek art curated by Nadia Argyropoulou and an exhibition on video art curated by Marina Athanasiadou.

Russia will be Art Athina’s special guest. This is the first time that Russia has been invited by an international contemporary art fair. The exhibition on the Russian contemporary art scene will be held in a separate section. Some of the Russia’s top collectors will attend.

In “Open Plan”, another project included in the Art Athina, curators Sotiris Bachtetzis and Cecilia Canziani will select works from the artists represented by the galleries participating in Art Athina.

One of the most interesting projects that Art Athina’s organizers have designed is the Collector’s Club, curator Thaleia Stefanidou is in charge, an exclusive club aimed at initiating executives and other high-ranking professionals into contemporary art. It is an important step toward increasing sales and rejuvenating the milieu of art collectors in Greece.

International networking is another priority and the collaboration with the London and Paris-based Brunswick Arts office has been used to that effect.

The Ministry of Culture will subsidize the event with 200,000 euros this year and another 200,000 euros next year. This is the largest subsidy from the Greek state to Art Athina so far.

Art Athina 2007 sounds like a driven, ambitious event with clear objectives and a solid structure. Although it has its adversaries, it is most probably going to help create new interest in contemporary Greek art.

Art Athina 2007 International Art Fair, from May 31 to June 3 at Helexpo Exhibition Center on Kifissias Avenue, Athens. Info: www.art-athina.com.

Evangelakou aims at the core February 22, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Movies Life Greek.
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Director Katerina Evangelakou defines the limits and records the moment when they are crossed, step-by-step describing a mounting situation of violence, in her latest film, ‘False Alarm,’ currently playing at Greek theaters.

With her new film, “False Alarm” (or “Ores koinis isychias” in Greek), Katerina Evangelakou presents her most mature film to date, following “The Jaguar” and “Think It Over”. The drama sounds the alarm, both literally and allegorically.

It is set in a typical Athenian apartment block on a hot summer’s night, and presents six different stories and 19 characters of every race and profession: a macho cab driver trying to win back his wife, two student sisters looking for boyfriends, a married doctor using his work as an excuse to visit his mistress, a homosexual couple, and two petty thieves trying to break into an elderly woman’s home with unpredictable results.

Each story, concise, to the point and written with economy of scale and a good tempo, the screenplay is written jointly by Evangelakou and Nikos Panayiotopoulos, is aimed at the core of the characters and avoids becoming long-winded or overly emotive. The director has focused on their faces, but observing them from a distance she does not stand in the way of their emotions, the tension that arises between them or their fits of violence. She seems to understand and put across their weaknesses, interpreting their slip-ups. All the characters have unsettled accounts with the past, open scars, like one particular mother-son relationship depicted, and a tight bond with the “television” reality that surrounds them.

Evangelakou defines the limits and records the moment when they are crossed, step-by-step describing a mounting situation of violence.

A car alarm rings incessantly, provoking violence, momentary insanity, a breakdown of social form. This is a world where the only reaction from the people is to applaud when the taxi driver smashes the car. It is like a reality show that keeps evolving. In the wonderful finale of the film the emotions spill over, but the characters do not dominate. The alarm is not silenced, not even as the credits roll.

“False Alarm” stars Alexia Kaltsiki, Christos Stergioglou, Errikos Litsis and Taxiarchis Hanos.

Airport bus system by 2008 February 22, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Cyprus News, Transport Air Sea Land.
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The Cyprus Government is looking into a transport system to take passengers to and from the island’s airports, with initial forecasts saying the plan could be in effect as early as next year.

The plan is at its final stage, with the European Commission on its way to approving the initiation of research into the viability of the project based on the EU budget for Cyprus for the years 2007 to 2013.

The plan was given a welcome hearing during a meeting last week between the Municipalities Union and the Government Planning Department, especially from the representative of the Commission who has the final say in the approval of the budget.

“This is not the first time we have put forward this proposal, this time we have received a positive reaction from the EU and the Planning Department so we can receive the money from the Union budget to begin the research,” the General Secretary of the Union Municipality Athos Germanos said yesterday. “This is designed to raise the quality of service to both Cypriots going and returning from abroad as well as tourists. We feel that it is a duty of a state to provide such a service to the public. It will be an additional service to the taxis,” he added.

General Manager of the Government Planning Department, Andreas Moleskis, said that this can only be seen as a good thing as an alternative has to be provided to the taxi service currently available.

“It is not possible for someone coming to Cyprus from Greece or other neighbouring countries for £50 and then needing the same amount of money to arrive at his destination which is located elsewhere on the island,” he said. In view of possible opposition to the plan by taxi services at both airports, Moleskis said that nothing would stop the preliminary research taking place given that it was given the final green light. “No reaction to the plan can obstruct us from carrying out this research, we will definitely be doing so once we receive the economic boost,” he added.

Over the possible time scale before this transport service would finally be put into action, Germanos said that he hoped that everything would be in place by 2008.

“An exact date cannot be set at the moment; there are still a lot of things that need to be done. As soon as the subsidy is released for us to use, the research will begin and should be completed by the end of the year. Then based on the results, which are fully expected to point to the creation of such a service, it could even start from the next year,” he said.