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Easter is coming soon! March 15, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Editorial, Greek Culture.
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Our HMN Magazine page has been updated!

It’s time to start planning for Easter Celebrations, Easter is coming in less than 25 days from today, so go on and get to know about our Greek Orthodox Easter traditions, customs and how we, the Greeks all over the world, celebrate this Glorious Day!

Check our page > HMN Magazine and celebrate the Greek way!

UPDATE > 21 March 07

Interested in reading more about Greek Easter traditions and how we, the Greeks, celebrate Easter? Then you have two options:

  • Check our category “Greek Culture” under the Life and Style Section

or

  • Visit our other dedicated Holiday Blog where you will find more additional resources.

Greece, Russia, Bulgaria sign oil pipeline deal March 15, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Energy, Politics.
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The signature of the long-delayed Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline agreement between Greece, Russia and Bulgaria on Thursday was hailed as a “historic” moment by the leaders of the three countries, who attended the official ceremony held in Athens.

“An issue that remained outstanding for 14 years has been resolved in the best way for the benefit of all concerned,” Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said in statements during a joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Bulgarian Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev after the signature of the trilateral agreement.

According to Putin, the pipeline was one of the most important projects in Europe and the entire world, while Stanishev spoke of a “new era in the energy sector”. All three leaders highlighted the close, high-level cooperation that had made the deal possible.

In response to questions, meanwhile, they promised that construction would use the latest 21st-century technology and fully respect the environment, both during extraction and in transporting the oil.

“Environmental organisations will be satisfied and we will meet all their demands. We will even change the pipeline’s route, if necessary,” Putin told reporters, citing his country’s extensive experience, especially in the region around the Caspian Sea.

Stanishev echoed the Russian President’s emphasis on environmental protection, while also noting that tourist traffic to the Black Sea must not be affected.

Karamanlis stressed that the deal for the construction and operation of the pipeline, which will carry Russian oil to the Mediterranean, “confirms in the most official way the political will and support of the three governments and signals new prospects for the future.” It set in motion a project of strategic importance for all three countries involved, as well as the surrounding region, he added.

The Greek Premier highlighted the environment benefits of the deal as well, noting that it would be new transport conduit for the oil transported via the Black Sea, auxiliary to the busy Bosporus Straits.

“With the decongestion of the Straits, environmental security is enhanced and a long-term problem is resolved. At the same time, the project is particularly important for the efficient operation and secure supply of oil to large energy markets,” Karamanlis said.

The Greek Premier pledged that Athens will continue to work on the pipeline at the same intense pace in order to make up for lost ground and complete the work as quickly as possible, giving Greece an upgraded role on the international energy map. He also referred to hundreds of new jobs that construction of the pipeline is expected to create and new opportunities for growth and progress.

According to Putin, the deal signed between the three countries after years of negotiations was an agreement of historic importance for the entire region and confirmed a climate of friendship and constructive relations between the three sides.

Among aspects highlighted by the Russian President was that of energy security, which he said was one of the most important issues of the current age, adding that certain access to energy sources was a guarantee for growth.

“The pipeline is one of the most important projects in both the European Union and the rest of the world. It contributes to the growth of all states in the region but also throughout Europe and boosts dialogue on how best to meet energy demands,” he told reporters. Putin also pointed to the “good geographic position” of Greece and Bulgaria, which created new possibilities for carrying Russian fossil fuels to the surrounding region and the world.

The Bulgarian Premier, like Karamanlis earlier, promised that work on the project would continue at a fast pace so that it could be completed as quickly as possible, while again highlighting the prospects for new jobs and for attracting investments among its multiple benefits.

Also confident of the rapid completion of the pipeline was the Russian President, who said that the construction of the Russian pipeline to the Pacific began six months earlier and had already covered more than 600 kilometres.

The trilateral agreement was signed by the three countries on Thursday at an official ceremony held in the Presidential Palace in Athens. Signing the agreement on behalf of the three countries were Greek Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas, Russia’s Industry and Energy Minister Viktor Khristenko and Bulgarian Regional Development Minister Asen Gagaouzov.

Among those attending were President of the Hellenic Republic Karolos Papoulias, Putin, Karamanlis, Stanishev, National Defence Minister Evangelos Meimarakis, Macedonia-Thrace Minister George Kalantzis, Deputy Foreign Minister Evripidis Stylianidis and Deputy Development Minister Yiannis Papathanassiou. 

The pipeline will be roughly 280 kilometres long and is expected to transport 35 million tonnes of crude oil per year, with the possibility of increasing output to 50 million tonnes in the future. The 700-million-euro pipeline is set to be completed by about 2011 and will bypass Turkey’s busy Bosporus Straits, carrying oil from the Black Sea port of Burgas in Bulgaria to the Greek port of Alexandroupolis in northeastern Greece.

Stanishev and Putin arrived in Athens Wednesday evening, and immediately met with Karamanlis who held a dinner in their honour at an Athens restaurant.

In greeting the Russian President upon his arrival at the Maximos Mansion on Thursday morning, Karamanlis said Putin’s second visit to Athens in just a few months’ time was an honour and joy for Greece as well as for himself and his government.

“This visit certifies the excellent relations between the two countries, and marks and symbolises the commencement of the construction of an important project, the Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline,” Karamanlis said.

The Greek Premier expressed pleasure that the agreement, and the decision taken at the trilateral meeting in Athens last September to manifest the three countries’ determination for the ambition project to proceed, was being materialised.

“I hope that this, and other common plans we have, will proceed with success,” Karamanlis said.

Putin, in turn, stressed that the signing of the agreement was in the interests of not only the three countries directly involved in the project but also of the global economy, noting that it was an important project in the sector of global energy. The Russian President added that the pipeline “allows diversification in the oil routes, to the benefit of our countries, our peoples and the economy”.

Putin stressed Karamanlis’ personal interest in advancing this issue, adding that his visit here was linked not only with the good relations between the two countries but also with the cooperation that exists in a number of sectors, and chiefly the sector of the economy. Citing Russian statistical data, he noted that the volume of commercial transactions has exceeded three billion dollars.

The Russian President further said that during his private meeting with Karamanlis, discussions would also cover international issues of common interest, with the focus on the Balkans.

Earlier on Thursday, in greeting his Bulgarian counterpart before their meeting, Karamanlis expressed satisfaction over developments for the pipeline project.

Stanishev, in turn, stressed that his associates and the three countries worked with much determination for the realisation of the project, adding that there was still much work to do regarding the establishment of the international construction and supply company for the project so as to enable construction to begin in early 2008. He stressed that the project will be beneficial for all three countries.

Stanishev further said that the project will put Greece and Bulgaria on the international energy map, bring new investments and create new jobs, while at the same time increase security in both countries.

Putin and Stanishev also met with President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias, who returned from an official visit to Croatia late on Wednesday night.

A half-hour meeting between Putin and Papoulias followed statements by the three leaders, after which the Russian President departed the country, immediately after a meeting with Stanishev at Athens airport. A meeting between Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis and her Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov also took place at the Greek Foreign Ministry on Thursday morning.

Russian energy ties in pipeline March 15, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Energy.
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The signing in Athens today of a deal for $1 billion (755 million euro) pipeline to carry Russian oil from the Black Sea to the Aegean may signal the beginning of closer energy ties between Russia and Greece, sources said yesterday.

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis along with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Bulgarian Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev are today set to ink the deal on a 280-kilometer pipeline linking the Bulgarian port of Burgas and the northern Greek port of Alexandroupolis. The signing ceremony will end 14 years of talks on the issue.

Construction of the project is expected to take about 18 months.

Putin is expected to broach with Karamanlis Russian plans to supply a separate pipeline linking Turkey, Italy and Greece with Russian gas rather than Caspian fuel, as planned.

Turkey rebuffs Cypriot demands over crossing March 15, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Cyprus Occupied.
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Ankara refuses Nicosia’s calls for withdrawal of Turkish troops

Turkish Cypriots and Turkey yesterday rebuffed Greek-Cypriot demands that Turkish soldiers withdraw from the vicinity before a crossing point is opened in the center of Cyprus’s divided capital.

Last week, the internationally recognized government in the Greek-Cypriot south of the island demolished a wall separating the two sectors of Nicosia. But it demanded Turkish  troops pull out from the immediate area before allowing use of the crossing point in Ledra Street, a pedestrian shopping area in the heart of the capital.

“I will never accept to bargain the demilitarization of the city. Why should I?” Turkish-Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat told the Turkish-Cypriot BRT television channel.

Talat, the leader of the Turkish Cypriots, said demilitarization was an issue to be handled as part of a comprehensive solution to the long-running division of the island. He stressed it was time for the two sides to focus on peace efforts.

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Levent Bilman also rejected the Greek-Cypriot condition, echoing Talat’s position.

“We think no conditions should not be attached to opening this crossing, just as none were attached to opening other gates” between the island’s rival communities, Bilman told a news conference in Ankara.

Talat and Turkey also criticized Greek-Cypriot plans to open a new crossing along the island’s UN-patrolled ceasefire line at Pyrgos-Limnitis, west of Nicosia, before the Ledra crossing issue is resolved.

“There is no such thing on our agenda,” Talat said, describing the planned opening as a “unilateral move.”

Turkey said the priority should be opening Ledra Street. “We agree with the Turkish-Cypriot leaders who said Ledra Street should be opened before evaluating whether there is a need for another opening,” Bilman said.

Cyprus has been divided along ethnic lines since July 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third in response to an Athens-engineered Greek-Cypriot coup aimed at uniting the island with Greece.

A UN plan to reunite the island failed in 2004 when the Greek Cypriots voted against it in a referendum, despite the Turkish-Cypriot community’s overwhelming approval.

If Ledra Street and Limnitis are opened, there would be seven crossing points opened since April 2003 when the Turkish Cypriots lifted entry curbs on Greek Cypriots allowing movement.

In the beginning was Greek opera March 15, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Greek Diaspora.
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In 1990, two Greek-Canadian music students at McGill were invited to play the Phantom of the Opera. Dimitris Ilias starred as the physically deformed genius who terrorizes the Opera Garnier, under which he builds his home and takes the love of his life, a beautiful soprano, Maria Diamantis, under his wing.

The relationship of the romantic duet has continued to grow, cemented by a passion for Hellenic classical music, and Hellenic opera in particular. To them, this musical genre goes beyond opera in Greek.

“There’s an Arabic, Byzantine influence that makes it much more exotic to the ear,” says the tenor. In fact, music sheets dating back to over 2,500 years are a living testament of its importance in the history of one of the world’s greatest civilizations.

For Maria, who grew up in the South Shore and then moved to Saint-Laurent, Hellenic music has provided a road map to her heritage. “I started with modern music. As I grew older, I moved backwards to classical, and then I discovered Ancient Greek music, from even older times.”

The journey of Dimitris, who lived in Greece from age 3 to 17, is different. To him, it was about exposing North Americans to the huge wealth of Greek music beyond the popular Bouzouki and Sirtaki.

For these teachers and entrepreneurs who would like to find the means to devote themselves to their first love, performance, the opera Piangero, performed at Concordia’s Oscar Peterson Hall with a 45-instrument orchestra opened a Pandora’s box of opportunities. Not only did this concert expose them beyond Montreal’s 90,000-strong Greek community, but Greece itself took interest.

As a matter of fact, their latest collaboration, Refraction, was produced by the Greek label Music Mirror. On the album, Maria Diamantis and Dimitris Ilias sing 12 beautiful songs for small symphonic ensembles.

The lyrics come from poems of Vasos Vogiatzoglou and conjure images of love inspired by two ladies he romanced while he served in the Greek Military. This wordsmith also depicts nostalgia and Hellenic landscapes.

Although Maria and Dimitris promote each other as a duet, they remain supportive even when they are not performing together. Over the years, the Star Trek enthusiasts who freshly returned from a convention in Toronto have found their happy medium between business and pleasure.

Dimitris sternly affirms that “our love for each other permeates everything, of course.” And Maria adds “It gives us more patience” when it comes to finding a compromise, at home and at work.

“There’s an Arabic, Byzantine influence that makes Greek opera much more exotic to the ear.” Dimitris Ilias says. 

Theater Week in the works March 15, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Stage & Theater.
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New administration of theater center setting up annual celebration of the season’s best productions

The best performances of each season will be selected for Theater Week. 

A new institution is being launched in Greek theater, an institution that is expected to rejuvenate the public’s interest in theater and support those who are in it, as well as play a decisive role in promoting the best of Greek theater abroad by creating an opening to festivals and other such events.

Created by the Greek Center of the International Theater Institute (ITT), headed by stage director Michail Marmarinos, and under the supervision of the Ministry of Culture, the initiative is for an annual theater festival to be held in Athens at the end of each theater season in the spring. The schedule foresees the presentation of some 10 performances that will have been selected by a specially appointed committee from each year’s crop to represent the best productions of the season. The committee is to meet for the first time this month.

Furthermore, organizers will invite acclaimed foreign critics, festival and cultural center directors and people from other fields related to theater so that they may see the cream of the Greek crop and possibly suggest collaborations.

Theater Week will begin this year in experimental form, possibly in May, but will not go into full operation until 2008. Culture Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis recently announced his Ministry’s intention to support Theater Week but is waiting to discuss the specifics with ITT before making any details public.

According to the plan, the best productions from Athens and around Greece, this includes those by regional Municipal theater companies, will be selected and presented from Easter to the beginning of the annual Athens Festival, that is, in May. Early estimates set the cost of the event at around 120,000 euros, though the Ministry has commissioned a production company to draw up a detailed budget.

The committee in charge of the selection process will be composed of seven personalities, not just from the theater but from the arts more generally.

“The plan for this institution is just one of the proposals and goals put forward by the new management of the theater center,” says Marmarinos. “Another interesting proposal, which we must say the Ministry of Culture embraced immediately, was to cede the Embros Theater to new theater ensembles for rehearsals for two or three months a year.”

Museums move into the future March 15, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Museums.
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Museums move into the future with gadget guides and ticket machines > The new system will be phased in over a period of 14 months.

By the beginning of July, visitors to Museums in Greece will be able to use high-tech gadgets to guide them around exhibits and forget about time-wasting queues thanks to automated ticket machines.

After this much-needed modernization, the Ministry of Culture then plans to bring in a slew of other upgrades, including the refurbishment of archaeological sites. Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis is currently preparing a press conference to announce the new measures as well as arrangements to tidy up the Archaeological Fund.

Voulgarakis recently told reporters about the automated ticket machines and the 5,000 hand-held gadgets providing high-resolution video, detailed diagrams of sites and audio programming, among other things. These will be offered at 15 museums and sites around Greece, including the Acropolis and National Archaeological Museum in Athens. The total cost of the gadgets is about 9.5 million euros.

Though some of the devices will be initially available to visitors this summer, the work on the entire project won’t wrap up for another 14 months. The Thessaloniki Archaeological Museum and the Archaeological site of Mycenae will be among the first to get the contraptions.

It will also be 14 months before the complete installation of the automated ticket machines, which will monitor visitors entering the Museums. The machines, which will cost 2.7 million euros, will be initially installed at the Acropolis of Lindos in Rhodes, at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens and at the Delphi Archaeological site.

All the new measures are aimed at improving the experience of touring Greece’s Museums and sites for the 7 million people who visit them annually.

Visitors will now be able to purchase tickets with their credit cards, there will be substantially less crowding as people enter and leave, and there will be special offers for ticket purchases. The automated ticket machines will be equipped with technology to test the authenticity of 5, 10, 20 and 50 euro notes.