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Tighter checks on illegal building October 23, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece News.
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Supreme Court deputy prosecutor Kyriakos Karoutsos instructed all prosecutors yesterday to keep a close eye on town-planning departments required to demolish illegally built homes in their district, in a bid to better protect the country’s dwindling forest areas.

In a circular distributed yesterday, Karoutsos underlined that a large number of town-planning offices ignore instructions to demolish illegal homes by using false excuses. According to legal sources, homeowners cannot be evicted or have their power cut off if they present a medical certificate showing they have been incapacitated due to health problems.

If a prosecutor ascertains cases of town-planning officials that have failed to perform their duties, the employees can be charged with neglecting their duties, Karoutsos warned. Judicial officials are concerned that allowing those responsible for illegal construction activity to go unpunished simply encourages the practice and results in public distrust of law enforcement.

Greek laws offer adequate protection for the country’s forests but shoddy enforcement by state bodies allows building cooperatives to step in and take over the charred remains. It is the second call from senior judicial officials to prosecutors to step up checks of town-planning authorities, considered to be one of the most corrupt parts of the state machinery in Greece.

Meanwhile, Deputy Agriculture Minister Costas Kiltidis instructed forest rangers to enforce the relevant laws, carry out constant checks in their districts and implement measures that better protect burnt land. Kiltidis, who has been placed in charge of forest rangers, said that “the fragmentation of forest ranger services has created many problems that need to be tackled.”

Laboratory tests confirmed yesterday that fires which burnt large areas of pine- and fir-covered land on Mount Parnitha, north of Athens, this last summer was the work of arsonists.

UN heralds FYROM talks October 23, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Politics.
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First bilateral meeting set for November 1 in NYC despite current deadlock

The United Nations envoy charged with mediating in a dispute between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) over the latter’s official name yesterday heralded the launch of a new round of bilateral talks to solve the 15-year-old spat.

The talks, which will start at the Ambassadorial level but may be continued by Foreign Ministers, are scheduled to begin on November 1 in New York. UN envoy Matthew Nimetz said he looked forward to “more intense discussion that will lead to a mutually satisfactory solution.”

Athens is disheartened by Skopje’s increasingly intransigent stance, as was evident in stern comments made by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis over the weekend. But Foreign Ministry spokesman Giorgos Koumoutsakos was careful yesterday to strike a positive note ahead of fresh talks. “Greece is participating, and will continue to participate, essentially and productively in negotiations on the name issue,” he said.

A comment by Skopje’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Zoran Petrov, published in a FYROM newspaper, has caused irritation. “Next year we are joining NATO and it is likely that an EU accession date will be set… so if some people want to keep complaining about the same thing for the next two millenia, that’s their problem,” Petrov is quoted as saying. Petrov also insisted on the right of Greece’s Slav-Macedonian minority to “pursue the legitimate struggle for their legal rights.”

US Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Fried has called on Skopje to “work fairly and constructively with Greece for a solution before the NATO summit,” due in April 2008. The UN’s envoy, Nimetz, retained a neutral stance, noting, “Both sides have shown a real desire to reach a settlement.”

In a bid to make up for the poor impression he made with his recent disparaging comments regarding the ancient Greek warrior Alexander the Great, Nimetz said he “took back” earlier remarks and “emphasized the permanent influence and deep significance of Alexander the Great on world history.” Nimetz’s original comments had been in reaction to Greece’s objection to Skopje naming its airport after Alexander the Great.

Sorbonne eyes expansion to Greece October 23, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Education.
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Internationally acclaimed Paris-Sorbonne (Paris IV) University on Monday unveiled plans to offer courses that will be taught in Greece rather than at the University’s campus in Paris.

Speaking at a press conference at the French Embassy in Athens, Sorbonne President Jean-Robert Pitte said the historic University had chosen Greece in order to launch its opening in Europe and that he would be meeting the heads of the French Institut and Greek associates that were interested in developing the Sorbonne’s activities in the east Mediterranean nation.

He said the meetings would focus on possible cooperation in offering master’s-level courses during the next academic year, 2008-2009. Proposed course subjects include law, communications, international relations and psychology.

Pitte said that the prospect indicated the desire of French Universities and Greek institutions to internationalise and highlighted the modern character and strength of Greek-French ties, which were already very strong in the sector of higher education.

He added that studies offered by the Sorbonne in Greece would not be free of charge, as they were for students in Paris, but that the fees set would take into account the specific socio-economic conditions in the country and would be adjusted accordingly.

One of the oldest Universities in Europe, the Sorbonne was originally founded in 1257 and gained international recognition over the centuries. It is now the seat of the Paris Academy and is one of the most influential institutions of higher education in Paris and France generally.