All posts by greenissue

The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center


The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center is a multifunctional and environmentally sustainable education, arts, and recreation complex/destination comprised of the Stavros Niarchos Park, 85% of the 170,000m2(42acre) and new, state-of-the-art facilities for the National Library of Greece (NLG) and the Greek National Opera (GNO)15% .


The design of the SNFCC project has been appointed to an internationally acclaimed architect, Renzo Piano (, after a closed international architectural competition, by an unanimous decision of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation’s Board of Directors (February 2008).The name of the Italian architect has become synonymous with high architecture for the last 40 years and is related to projects of similar scope and visibility in all over the world.


The total SNFCC project will cost approximately €566/$803 million to plan, construct and deliver to the Greek State. In 2009, the Foundation signed a contract with the Greek State, which was ratified by the Greek Parliament agreeing to assume the total cost of building the SNFCC. The grant is one of the largest donations in Greece’s history.


The SNFCC site is located 4.5 km south of central Athens on the edge of Faliro Bay. Following discussions with the Ministries involved and the mayor of Kallithea, consensus emerged that this site was the most appropriate and available piece of land for the construction of a project of such magnitude. The site is owned by the Greek State.


SNFCC’s uniqueness lies in offering all programs and activities under one “roof” and therefore combining all the benefits of an opera, a library and a park. The participation in Arts and culture activities and programmes comes to reality.


SNFCC will serve as a beacon of environmental sustainability in Greece and be the standard against which all other major infrastructure projects are measured. It will be the first public building in Greece to obtain the internationally recognized green building LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification.
Its construction will be green-friendly, using recycled materials and implementing an erosion, sedimentation and dust suppression plan.
At least 50 percent of construction waste will be recycled, and at least 5 percent of building materials will be reused.
SNFCC will double the green surface per capita in the surrounding municipalities of Kalithea, Moschato, Nea Smirni and Palaio Faliro.
It will save approximately 2,750 tons of CO2 emissions annually.
It will improve air quality.


The construction and operation of the SNFCC is expected to have positive impacts in the form of increased capital investments, consumption spending, job creation, attraction of complementary business and other enrichments to the local communities.
It will yield a €340 million direct output in Greece, while the overall contribution (direct, indirect and induced effects) of SNFCC construction to the total output of the Greek economy will be approximately €1 billion.
It will furnish a much-needed stimulus to the industrial and construction sectors, where approximately 80% percent of the impact will be concentrated.
1,500 to 2,400 people will be employed each year to support SNFCC construction and all backward-linked economic industries.
Approximately €40 million in fiscal revenues will be produced throughout the construction phase. The combined effects of operations and visitor spending associated with SNFCC activities will generate approximately €160 million of economic activity throughout the local community, Athens, and Greece in the first full year of operations. SNFCC could attract around 1.5 million visitors annually.

* We are grateful to “Stavros Niarchos Foundation” and especially to Ms. Lenia Vlavianou for their valuable help.  We also thank Niarchos Family for their donation that will change the cultural reality in Athens.

Dimitrios Pantermalis: The “green” Acropolis Museum

Dimitrios Pantermalis served as Professor of Archaeology at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. He was elected as a Member of Greek Parliament in 1996.

He is best known as head of the excavations carried out by the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki at ancient Dion and as director of the Organization for the Construction of the New Acropolis Museum and thereafter as President of the Museum.

He was born in 1940 in Thessaloniki. He studied at the Department of History and Archaeology of the Aristotle University, and then at the Department of Philosophy, German Language and Literature Section. He continued his Graduate studies at the University of Freiburg in Germany and got his PhD in 1968. Since the early ’70s he has been responsible on behalf of AUTH of the excavations at ancient Dion, religious center of ancient Macedonians in the Macedonian Olympus (Pieria). Large parts of the ancient settlement and temples outside the city walls were excavated and Dion became well known as one of the most important archaeological sites in Greece, with many movable antiquities exhibited in the local museum. Notable exhibits are the sculptures that now adorn the Museum and a rare archaeological find the special hydraulis, an ancient musical instrument.

Now he is the President of the New Acropolis Museum, which is an archaeological museum that focuses on the findings of the archaeological site of the Acropolis of Athens. The Museum was built to house every object that has been found on the sacred rock of the Acropolis and its foothills encompassing a broad time period from the Mycenaean period to the Roman and early Christian Athens while it also lies on the archaeological site Makrygiannis and the ruins of a part of Roman and early Byzantine Athens.

The new building of the Museum was founded in 2003 and opened to the public in June 21, 2009. In June 20, 2009 there was the grand opening of the Museum in the presence of the President of the Greek Republic Karolos Papoulias, the President of the European Union and numerous of foreign leaders. The back then Minister of Culture Antonis Samaras, in a symbolic gesture, broadcasted around the world, placed a piece of marble that was returned from the Vatican Museum, in the front of the Parthenon. The move symbolized the Greek request for reunification of the marbles to the New Acropolis Museum.

About 4,000 objects are exposed in a space of 14,000 square meters. There are four different levels and the level of excavation below the building and the Museum was first visited at the end of 2011.

At the highest level of the Museum is the Parthenon gallery, which presents all the surviving sculptures of the monument in Athens. Transparent panes allow direct eye contact with the architectural monument which they come from and in the same time they simulate the initial conditions of lighting of the sculptures. This room gives a panoramic view of a large part of the city of Athens. The visitor initially ascends in the core of the room where teaching materials, signs and videos related to the Parthenon, its construction and history can be presented. The floor in this room is transparent and allows the viewing and lighting of the archaeological excavation of the ground floor.

In November 2010 the New Acropolis Museum was voted as the Best Museum in the World in a contest of the Journalists Association of Tourism Journalists of Great Britain. The international art survey “The Art Newspaper” classified the Acropolis museum in the 25th place among the 100 most visited Art Museums in the world in 2010, with 1,355,720 visitors.

– We thank the President of the Akropolis Museum Professor Demetrios Pantermalis for his kindness to answer the following questions:

Environment and Culture: For many people an interdependent relationship. What is your opinion?

D.P.: Certainly the Environment and Culture are interdependent given that Culture is essential for the management of the Environment.

What is the relationship of the Ancient Greeks to their environment?

D.P.: The ancient Greeks were closely tied up with the Environment and this relationship was direct. Judging by the places they have chosen for their Temples, they thought of the environment as a source of wealth and an aesthetic value as well.

Has the natural environment led to the creation of great civilizations or the intellectual culture led to the desired protection of the natural environment of the ancient people?

D.P.: The great civilizations have developed into favorable natural environments, for example in Mesopotamia and Egypt, where the water of the rivers was crucial to the creation of wealth, prosperity and eventually, culture.

Are the causes of the environmental crisis also cultural?

D.P.: Environmental crises were also happening in antiquity due to destruction of forests or underground disruption for searching of metals whenever extreme consumer needs were created. Accordingly, similar needs create the nowadays environmental crisis.

Do you think that the institutional framework requires some changes to be made and, if so, what kind of changes to have development with respect to the environment and our archaeological heritage? 

D.P.: I believe that least changes are required in the institutional framework on the protection of Environment and Cultural Heritage while the effective implement of the institutional framework is much more necessary.

Has an important project as the New Museum of Acropolis been hampered by hindrances in the process of the environmental licensing?

D.P.: The Museum of Acropolis doesn’t burden the environment. On the contrary, after clearing the yard area from the modern buildings, an extensive planting of trees, shrubs and grass took place so that a pleasant environment around the building that houses our unique cultural treasures   has been created.

Agios Efstratios: Our “Green” Island

Τhe project “GREEN ISLAND – AGIOS EFSTRATIOS” aims to combine energy self-sufficiency and autonomy, environmental protection, research activity and technological development in non-interconnected islands.

The aim of the Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change, in cooperation with the General Secretariat of Research and Technology (GSRT) of the Ministry of Education, Lifelong Learning and Religious Affairs, which is the funding public entity, is to promote a plan of energy self-sufficiency for Agios Efstratios (> 85% in the first stage and finally 100%) through the adoption of technologies that produce and store electricity from Renewable energy Sources (RES), so that the energy demand of the island will be fully and efficiently covered. The Centre for Renewable Energy Sources and Saving (CRES) is the implementing body of the project, which is responsible for the implementation of the project and the supervision of all the necessary procedures for the successful completion of the project.  The project budget amounts to 8.8 million euros and includes the following actions:

  • Introduction of wind turbines and photovoltaics in combination with energy storage devices (batteries and hydrogen technologies) in the power supply system of the island.
  • Green transportation (electric vehicles and hydrogen vehicles and refueling stations). More specifically, an electric vehicle charging station with energy from photovoltaics and a hydrogen refueling station will be installed in the island; the latter will be the first hydrogen refueling station in Greece.
  • Autonomous stationary applications based on fuel cell units that will be used as uninterrupted power systems (UPS) and also to serve electrical loads of external lighting of public buildings.
  • Heating and cooling in public buildings using renewable energy technologies.
  • Energy saving in public buildings.

The “GREEN ISLAND – AGIOS EFSTRATIOS” will provide a field for research, testing and development of technologies under real conditions and will be an important tool for country’s policy in Green Economic Development and a national property for further exploitation. Ai Stratis, being the first non-interconnected island in Europe with such a high penetration rate of green energy, will become a model for the “greening”, if not all, a significant number of Greek Islands. Furthermore, it will contribute to the acquisition of know-how and experience in the development of non interconnected integrated island systems with very high penetration of RES, energy saving measures in the building sector and “green” transportation.

The main objective of the project is to make the Ai Stratis an “Open Lab” for tests and development of knowledge in the fields of green energy and ecology with global reference. Research and academic institutions will be able to access, collect, elaborate and exploit all the data that will be collected under real conditions. This fact will give them the ability to optimize issues related to the design, description and modeling of respective systems and processes, significantly increasing their scientific validity. Moreover, young researchers as well as undergraduate and graduate students will have the opportunity to conduct research in the individual subsystems and the integrated power supply system. Furthermore, the Municipality of Agios Efstratios plans to create an Energy Academy that will be hosted in the building of Marasleios School, which will offer the opportunity to young researchers/students to attend Summer Schools in Green Development and specialized seminars in the operation and maintenance of the proposed facilities in all sectors of activity (power, transport, stationary applications, thermal and cooling loads and energy saving).

Finally, companies with cutting edge technologies in the field of Green Energy will have the opportunity to test their products under real conditions and in conjunction with the integrated power system of the island, gaining important know-how and practical experience in the design and implementation of similar systems that will lead to further economic growth and creation of new jobs.

Τhe “Environmental Concerns” of Αncient Greeks

Τhe “environmental degradation” of our planet and its “ecosystems” have woken up people and created “environmental concerns”.

We all might think that these concepts have emerged during the 20th century along with the industrial and technological development in order to protect the environment and make laws and regulations to this direction. In 1935 the British ecologist Arthur Tansley devised the word “ecosystem” for the interactions between the biotic community that is all the living creatures and their biotope, the environment they live in.

However, going back many thousand years ago, in Ancient Greece, we can meet some of the first “ecologically alert” people.


Plato in his “Laws” argues that the operation of cities is controlled with regard to the environmental impact as well as the compliance with the planning regulations. Furthermore, he was among the first who warned that deforestation causes corrosion of the soil, change of climate and damage to cultivations (Critias, 111d).


In his “Politics”, Aristotle relates the allocation of activities in a city not only with economic but also with aesthetic and environmental factors. The city’s limits is based on the transport cost and the expenditure per land unit for its establishment as well as the needs for quality of life and thrift of environment.

In his “Constitution of the Athenians” (in ancient Greek: Αθηναίων Πολιτεία/Athenaion Politeia), Aristotle states that the policemen of that era had to take care of the transfer of waste in long distance outside the city’s walls. Moreover, there was also concern on the reuse of the sewage as soil conditioner to the agricultural land. At the same time, various facilities like tanneries, dairies, cemeteries were required to be outside the city so that the “well-being” of citizens would not be threaten.


Hippodamus of Miletus lived during the 5th century Β.C. and is considered to be the “father” of urban planning. His system, known as “Hippodamian Νemesis” respected the free, open space. His grid plans were consisted of accurately designed city blocks, straight and broad streets and spacious squares. The houses were designed taking into account the orientation depending on the season (sun in winter, cool in summer), and he predicted inclinations of streets for the removal of rainwater.


Theophrastus of Lesbos (373-288 Β.C.) is considered to be the “father” of ecology. He was student of Aristotle who also gave him his name (Theophrastus in ancient Greek means “godlike orator”). Theophrastus thought about the balance of ecosystems and was the first who raised the great subject of these days that is the effect of human activities on climate, as well as the disturbance of ecosystem due to forest destruction, marsh and biotope drainage.


In Rhapsode F of Iliad, Homer studies the effects of war on the nature and he describes in a really shocking way the pollution of Skamandrus River by the blood of the Trojans and the big fire of Hephaestus for the salvation of Achilles.


Pythagoras taught his students to respect the environment and to limit the interventions on the natural processes.


Hippocrates, “father” of Medicine, argued that the health of people is result of microclimate data, nutrition and quality of fresh water.

* In Athens, at “Iera Odos” there have been transplanted since 1976 the roots of the famous olive tree where Plato used to teach his students. Part of the tree trunk, which was destroyed in a car accident 37 years ago, is kept in a special showcase at Agricultural University of Athens.  

Green Chemistry

Ιn a world of growing population and limited resources, the idea of sustainable development is the main priority for the future of the 21st century. Only research and innovation will enable the development of economic and social networks and procedures to satisfy the requirements for sustainability. Chemistry, as the science of matter and its transformations, plays a crucial role in the revolution of science to technology and is the bridge between physics and biological sciences. To lead the reactions and chemical processes to maximum efficiency we need awareness, creativity and foresight. The term “Green Chemistry” was coined for the efforts to this direction.

The target

To promote innovative chemical technologies to reduce or eliminate the use or creation of hazardous substances regarding the design, the industrialization and the use of chemicals.

The idea

The idea of Green Chemistry developed during the 1990’s, at the same time with many citizens’ movements to protect the environment and scientists working in research and development of chemical industries and research centers. The term «Green Chemistry» was proposed and established by the Greek origin Paul Anastas, who is considered the father of Green Chemistry an important scientist, Professor at YALE University.

Efforts and  practices for application

Given the enormous amounts of money spent on antiquated methods  and the simultaneous use of time consuming synthetic steps with toxic cleaning solvents, various initiatives have been launched by chemical scientists with long-chemical work in chemical laboratories and industries. Some scientists in their articles had already highlighted these practices and now the awakening of the environmental movement as well as the idea of sustainability have started to prepare the necessary changes.

Institutes of Green Chemistry

During the last decade many Green Chemistry Institutes have been created in different countries (Japan, Italy, China, Australia, Sweden, Germany, Spain, Taiwan, etc.).Some examples are the Canadian Green Chemistry Network, Centre for Green Chemistry (Australia), Green and Sustainable Chemistry Network (Japan).

University Departments

Many Universities and Departments of Chemistry offer in recent years Undergraduate and Graduate courses in Green Chemistry. Here are some of them: Green Chemical Engineering Material Framework, University of Texas, Austin, USA. Green Chemistry for Process Engineering, University of Nottingham, England. Industrial and Applied Green Chemistry, University of York, England. Center for Green Chemistry and Green Engineering, Yale University, USA. Greener Education Materials for Chemists, University of Oregon, USA.

Mountain Parnitha today

In a few days, on June 28, there have been six years since the fire on Mount Parnitha; a fire that destroyed 36.000 acres of forest and within just a few days turned a natural paradise into hell. During these six years many things happened. Being then in better economic conditions, the State, individuals and thousands of volunteers approached Parnitha with love, donated equipment, offered their work, helped the safeguard of the saved areas as well as the re-growth of vegetation in burned areas.

Many Athenians have visited Parnitha and Tatoi for the first time, discovered their beauty and returned. Unfortunately, however, the growing popularity of Mount Parnitha doesn’t seem to be accompanied by a real change in people’s attitude. Even today, people cross the burned grounds in order to set up barbeques within the remaining forest and they leave their garbage next to the overfull trash bins instead of taking it with them…

“After the fire and those early interventions for soil containment, one of our most priorities was the redevelopment of the plant nursery of Agia Triada which had been burnt. Only the first year it has been done planting of Cephalonian fir from Vytina; thereafter, the seeds are collected from Parnitha and the saplings grow  in our nursery within their own physical environment. Today, 300.000 saplings of Cephalonian firs are growing in the nursery, when they reach the age of 3-4 years transplanted in the Mountain’s areas from October to February every year with the help of volunteers”, Mr. Dimopoulos, Chairman of the Management Body of Parnitha National Park, says.

However, the dozens of burnt trees are still standing there. Why haven’t they removed? “It was a political decision. But from the scientific point of view that was a mistake. The burnt trees are sources of contamination for the healthy forest as well as fire hazzards. Now nothing can be done because if machinery enters the forest, the saplings planted during the reforestation will be destroyed”.

As weird as it may sound, the destruction gave the chance to many Athenians to get know Parnitha. “In the last year, due to the economic crisis, the number of visitors has  dramatically increased. We didn’t expect this and now we face the urgent need to manage such a crowd. But despite the destruction, people haven’t learned yet some basics. Do you know how many come in the heart of the forest for barbequing, even with 6-7 Beaufort wind? It is just common sense, we shouldn’t chase them. Also, I regret to say that the number of the people coming and abandoning their dogs on the mountain has been increased. The dogs that manage to survive are gathered in herds and become dangerous”.

The economic crisis has undoubtedly affected all the Management Bodies of protected areas, even of Parnitha, which is of the most “privileged” in terms of staff and equipment. “Lately we have problem with the refueling of vehicles because the gas station attendants ask for cash but the public sector follows other procedures. Our resources are limited. Let’s hope that with the help of the fire brigade and the volunteers everything will be fine”.

Our “Green” Patriarch


His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I ,the Archbishop of Constantinople and New Rome has been the 270th successor of the throne of Christian Church founded by St. Andrew ,”first among equals” (primus inter pares) in the Eastern Orthodox Communion, since 22 October 1991. He was born in the village of Agioi Theodoroi in the island Imvros. His birth name was Dimitrios Arhondonis.

As Ecumenical Patriarch, he has been particularly active internationally. One of his first focuses has been on rebuilding the once-persecuted Eastern Orthodox Churches. For this reason invited Primates in Fanar, where they all sent a message of unity in the world. These Assemblies where resumed in 1995 in Patmos, in January 2000 in Jerusalem and in December in the same year in Instabul and in Nice of Bithinia.

He has also continued the reconciliation dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church started by his predecessors. As part of this effort, he invited Pope Benedict XVI to Instabul, who accepted the invitation and made an official visit to the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinopole (the Lantern) in November 2006 where he attended anniversary Celebration of the Enthroned Patriarchate and signed a Joint Declaration.

Bartholomew I, initiated dialogue with other faiths, including other Christian sects, Muslims, and Jews, to promote religious freedomand human rights, peace in the world and environmental issues.


Aware that the environmental destruction is  a very important  problem that threatens God’s Creation, he has put the environmental protection high in his Patriarchate’s agenda and has been behind various international environmental causes. This has earned him the nickname of “The Green Patriarch”. He has also named the 1st of September as the Day of Prayer for the Environmental Protection.


  • In 1997, His All Holiness received the Congressional Gold Medal  the highest civilian award given by the United States.
  • In 2002, His All Holiness received the Sophie Prize for his work on the environment.
  • In April 2008, he was included on the Time 100 most influential people in the world list.
  • In 1999 he was awarded the Grand Cross of the Order of the Star of Romania.
  • In 2004 the Great Golden Medal with Ribbon for Services to the Republic of Austria by Federal President Thomas Klestil.
  • He has also been awarded Ηonorary Doctorates by a number of Universities and Educational Institutions around the world.


  • Elementary school in his native Imvros.
  • Zographeion Lyceum in Istanbul.
  • Patriarchal Theological school of Halki. He graduated with highest honours in 1961.
  • August 1961 he was ordained Deacon, receiving the name Bartholomew.
  • 1961-1963 fulfilled his military service in the Turkish army as a non regular officer.
  • 1963-1968 Graduate studies, received  his Ph.D  on the Canon Law. The same year he became a lecturer in the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.
  • 1968 return to Istanbul.
  • October 1969 he was ordained a Priest.
  • October 22, 1991 he was elected Ecumenical Patriarch.
  • He speaks Greek, Turkish, Italian, German, French and English; he is also fluent in classical Greek and Latin.

* We met our Ecumenical Patriarch at his office at the Lantern (Fanari). Catalytic presence, calm in the eyes and dynamic voice, the Head of our Church, welcomed us, shared with us his concerns about the difficult economic situation in our country, for young people, with and without job, for His environmental sensitivities. The following interview is an honour and a blessing as well. We thank Him.

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I: “Energy sources are gifts from God”

Interview of His All Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I.

What was the reason for Your All Holiness to be so actively involved with the environmental issues?

First of all, I was born and grown up in a quiet island, Imbros, with wonderful natural surroundings. Ι studied in the Holy Theological School of Chalki, one terrestrial, one could say, paradise. All these have highly spoken in my soul since the very early years of age. My theological studies have opened new horizons and through the study of the Divine Scriptures and the Patristic Writings, especially of Basil the Great and St. John of Damascus, I have seen the truth of things concerning the surrounding world, its beauty, its destination and its sanctity. There was an innate sensitivity as well, so it was not strange that since my early youth the issue of nature ‘s protection has been a priority in my thoughts and representations.

Has the modern church developed its structures so as to implement a system of environmental protection and in what ways or has everything being left to individual initiatives as yours?

If you consult at the “Orthodox Prayer -Book”, the foremost book of Church’s prayers, you will be surprised seeing prayers and services related to the environment That shows that the older were sufficiently sensitive to this issue But unfortunately, for reasons other than the present ones, a comprehensive, institutional effort is not possible .In 1989 the Ecumenical Patriarchate ordained the 1st of September as Prayer Day for the Protection of Nature. Since then as Ecumenical Patriarchate we have been doing our best, rallying other Churches and major international organizations. It is definitely in the “Agenda” the effort of a systematic activation of other Churches as soon as possible.

Your All Holiness has been called “Green Patriarch” because of your environmental sensitivity. Which are your goals related to environment in short and long term?

We have organized, as you know, the major International Scientific and Interfaith Symposia for the environment from the Black Sea and the Aegean Sea to the Arctic, the Danube river, the Mississippi river and the Amazon river. We had also organized the Environmental Seminars of Halki at our unfairly silent Theological School. We are looking forward to reopen it and to carry on therein more systematic initiatives. In Prigipos island (Large Island) we have dreamt of setting off our returned Orphanage to World Center of Environmental Studies, as soon as we manage to restore it. We shall not stop. As long as God wishes!

How has the flock and the rest of the clergy reacted to your environmental initiatives?

Mostly, positively. Very positively. We are constantly receiving reinforcing messages and encouragement. But we are expecting something more: enthusiasm and active engagement. “Bravos” and awards are not sufficient enough. More effective involvement is required. Particularly of young people.

What kind of advices would Your All Holiness give to new unemployed Graduates, the time our country is being discredited internationally?

They should not get discouraged. It is not quite enough for someone to see the darkness and cry about. If even a small candle lights, everyone has already been a winner. They could seek for example to our Holy Fathers. What did they do in similar difficult circumstances? Perseverance, rolling up  the sleeves, effort, positive attitude, faith in God and His loving providence, companionship, mutual assistance, volunteerism. Above all prayer, for not fighting on their own. Obviously, it is generally needed a revaluation of the virtue of frugality and restriction of desires. The so-called “western” lifestyle, that we had generally accepted and get used to, has been proved a chimera. The Saints, in their own way of life, have taught young people and all of us more essential things. However, we would say to young people: Courage! Have faith in Jesus Christ and you will not be disappointed. But, for God’s sake, do not conjure the crisis only with words! Fight with all your strength and this horrible storm and windstorm will be followed by a great tranquility!

In this effort, we can see the Church’s tendency to keep up with the time being. In what other ways are you on young people’s side and the problems of the era?

Church is not trying to keep up with our era. It is always preceded the current period and it would be desirable if this was perceptible! Jesus Christ is “the one of yesterday, of today and forever” and His Church “sticking to itself, breaks new grounds” pushing them through eternal destination. Tendencies of alleged modernization are often hypocritical and hide a lot of secularism. But the world goes by and its scheme is getting “productive”. Running anyone behind the respective schemes of the world breathless and pretending the modern person, is an illusion. We are on people’s side when we tell them the truth, as bitter and painful as it is, when we keep our ears open to their agony, their fears and frustrations and when we extend our hand to comfort their needs. I do believe, more or less, that as all responsible Church leaders know this and a lot of them work very hard in this direction. Especially, with regard to young people, the Great Church has shown its affection in many types and many ways and continues to do so with great pleasure.

Your personal bet on the environment has brought the Patriarchate in the spotlight. But there were some who have been annoyed by the “sudden publicity”. What does Your All Holiness answer to them?

Let them be well and think about their own responsibilities for our common “family home” being the world and the environment.

Do you believe that energy production, by sources given to us by God has a Christian character as well?

Absolutely right! We have been offered so beautiful and genuine gifts by God: the sun, the wind, the river and sea waters that we can use to produce energy without damaging the future of coming generations. At the same time, we can save clean air for everyone’s health along with economic resources as well, which can be used in epic and charity projects. And if this happens for blessing the Creator and Benefactor God then it will be a kind of “Divine Service”.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: “Bureaucracy stifles the development of R.E.S.”

Interview of the Officer of the Department of Civil Liability for Environmental Policy, N.D. Party, Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

What is your opinion regarding the “Helios” Project that has been recently announced?

It is a good idea to export clean energy that is produced in our country even though I have reservations as to the outcome of this venture. This government, at any rate, has shown that even though it is not lacking in initiatives, it has a serious problem with its job performance. This project has many gray areas that need to be clarified, such as how much investment interest has actually been expressed, how it will be financed, how the licensing and location procedures will operate, how the transmission networks will be enhanced, etc. Personally, I am not holding my breath in regards to this program as in our country we still have a long way to go in accomplishing the goal we have put forth regarding tapping solar energy in our domestic energy balance. I don’t know how we will succeed in achieving a viable level of exploitation of this resource and also produce a surplus for export within a reasonable period of time. Let us be realistic. If we had done what we needed to do in the past in the RES sector, we would be in a very favorable position today and we would be discussing investment opportunities for clean energy on a different basis.

Even though many laws and ministerial decisions have been amended, what is the reason that RES projects are taking so long to be implemented?

You have just raised one of the most serious problems we face today; we have too many laws and too much bureaucracy that ultimately stifles the development of renewable energy sources (RES) in our country. When you keep changing the institutional framework, when you have not yet managed to get passed the planning phase and overcome other obstacles, when investors are constantly being held back by uncertainty, you shouldn’t expect much to happen. It is a true oxymoron that we have set such attractive prices in order to produce clean energy, but our country still cannot exploit the comparative advantages that the RES sector undoubtedly has to offer. This mockery of the much-vaunted rural photovoltaic panels, abandoning household photovoltaic panels as well as non-existent policies regarding small and medium-sized projects are typical examples of RES opportunities that have never got off the ground. Unfortunately, even in this sector, the government has proven that in the past 23 months, it has “succeeded” in turning the concept of green development, which it claims to profess itself, into a green recession.

In this difficult economic juncture, how should the Greek state assist green investments?

First of all, I must say that especially in this difficult economic reality we are experiencing, it is absolutely imperative that we find engines for growth. One of these is the environment and the sub-branches that go along with it that, in my opinion, consist of important productive reserves for the country that must finally be utilized. Waste management, water and sewage management, small-hydro and energy saving are just some of the sub-branches that can contribute to economic growth in our country. The government cannot use the economic recession and the financial problems our nation is going through as a way of covering up its obvious failure to develop dynamic and very promising sub-branches of clean energy and environmental economy. Besides, the environmental economy sector, which is a powerful engine for economic development in other European countries, does not need much financial support from the state because the vast majority of the cost is covered by private investment. What is most needed is a stable and unambiguous institutional framework (taxes, location, authorization, etc) that unfortunately we have not been able to put in place as of now. Consequently, this is where we must concentrate all our efforts.

Lately, there has been a lot of discussion regarding the lifting of the ban on diesel fuel in Athens. What is your opinion?

I’m glad that the government has decided, albeit late, to adopt a proposal that I have submitted for a long time now. Personally, I have been in favor of lifting an obsolete ban that doesn’t really make much sense anymore and I believe that the time has come to do away with it. At the same time, however, heating fuel and fuel for cars must be taxed at the same rate otherwise adulterated fuel will flood the market. But besides diesel fuel, if we want to confront the problem of small pollutants in urban centers, we must take measures regarding old trucks and taxis that are mainly responsible for pollution today. The discussion regarding the liberalization of diesel fuel consumption must be integrated into a general discussion regarding the general automobile policy in major cities. Diesel is not the only technology which, if you like, can improve the economy and the fuel-efficiency of cars. There are many other technologies such as hydrogen and natural gas that are already entering the market at a fast pace that driver are using to “respond” to the economic crisis without any special incentives from the State. Consequently, I believe that, along with the green ring measure, we can begin discussing a transportation economic policy that is more environmentally friendly.

Waste management has become a problem with unknown solution. What is your position?

For me, waste management has become a very volatile problem that does not just have environmental but also economic and social dimensions. Our country has unfortunately failed miserably in this sector and the result has been that whole regions such as Attica and Peloponnesus have now reached their limits. There are no secret solutions so long as we don’t continue handling a real problem with outdated political solutions. We are paying for our inaction these past few years and we are now in danger of paying even higher penalties imposed by the EU if present trends continue. Especially here in Attica, where time is fast running out, there is no other solution than the immediate procurement and construction of all projects included in the peripheral plan for the Attica Basin without further delays. And I am talking about waste incineration areas(landfills) and processing plants. The government has wasted precious time and is now in danger of losing community funds because it has handled this issue with communication tricks and by flip-flopping. It is time for the government to become more serious about how it will confront this crucial problem that some of its members continue to minimize before it becomes uncontrollable so that we don’t have to live in a capital that resembles Naples.

You have recently intervened in the issue of micro-hydroelectricity projects, that caused quite a stir. Why did you select this sector?

This is a typical example of a productive sector of the environmental economy that is in danger of becoming more insignificant because of bureaucratic red tape and institutional ambiguities that I mentioned previously. With approximately 1,500 MW of usable micro-hydroelectricity, our country should be a leader in this sector in Europe. Instead, however, in the already complicated and time-consuming location and environmental authorization process for micro-hydroelectricity, the government recently added special location criteria (diversion length, ecological benefits, etc.) of dubious functionality and scientific documentation. Now there is a danger that these will throw a spanner in 50 mature investment projects and may ultimately result in micro-hydroelectricity grinding to a screeching halt. We no longer have the luxury of leaving productive sectors that can contribute to the development and the local economies to chance simply because some people are too beholden to formalities and not to substance.

In your daily routine, have you adopted methods that protect the environment?

I always try to include environmentally friendly habits in my daily routine. The difference is that now some of these routines such as, for example, recycling have now become second nature. I recycle at my office and at home. I try to use as little electricity as I can. I buy organic products more often, even if they are more expensive. And for a little while, I was driving a hybrid car. Before I turned in my parliamentary car, I had recommended that Parliament replace the conventional cars that emit many pollutants with hybrid cars for all MPs as an essential and symbolic step in making our citizens more environmentally conscious. However, I believe that we all have plenty of space for improvement in making our daily routine more environmentally friendly.

Biofuels: one more missed opportunity?

of Sotiris Folias, Managing Director of GF Energy SA and Vice President of S.VΙ.V.Ε.

When in 2003 the Member-States of EU decided to introduce biofuels into our lives, they had in mind three things. First, to provide a way out in the European farmers who were suffered by the unpleasant consequences of implementing the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Second, to use the only way to achieve their goals of reducing emissions in the transport sector according to the Kyoto Protocol and in the same time to diminish their dependence on imported oil. This way all members entered a binding target of 5.75% blending of biofuels in fossil fuels for transport by 2010.

Greece, despite the initial delay, adopted this Directive in its National law by the end of 2005 and thus launched the Law on introduction of biofuels in the Greek market. This law paved the way for the creation of investments in this industry while it gave the ultimate way out to the withered Greek agricultural sector to “wake up” and pursue to cultivate products that  predominantly used to be produced in Greece.

Specifically, while in the mid 80’s Greece produced 400,000 tons of sunflower yearly, in 2005 this crop nearly disappeared. Therefore, the biofuel production presented as an opportunity to exploit 1,000,000 acres of uncultivated Greek land and gave an impetus to the Greek farmers to return from the local coffee shops back to the fields.

All the positive predictions for the development of a dynamic biofuel sector and in particular the production of biodiesel didn’t take that long to be verified. Within three years, Greece has developed biodiesel factories of 650,000 tonnes annual capacity . Meanwhile, energy crops were gradually increasing drastically. From almost zero production, in 2011 more than 1,000,000 acres of energy crops were cultivated attributing to the Greek countryside people more than 100.000.000 euros yearly.

One could say that Greece has finally managed to develop an economic sector that from the raw material to the final product everything was purely Greek, it kept all the added value within the country, it helped decentralization, it strengthened the much afflicted Greek farmers, it significantly improved  the  deficit of country’s trade balance  by reducing the imports of diesel with more than 200.000.000 euros, it directly or indirectly maintained more than 50,000 jobs, while in the same time it was assisting in achieving the national target for reducing emissions from transport.

Most of the time, however, the Greek reality can destroy any trace of logic, leading the country in this sector also in the lonely road of paranoia that all these years has chosen to follow. In particular, distortions and the chronic Greek pathologies created the following gloomy picture: of the 72 months of operation of the institutional framework for biofuels for more than 28(!!) months the Greek biodiesel production plants have remained closed because of Elections, restructuring changes of Ministers, Customs strikes, tanker trucks strikes and other problems leading to remain unsold more than 150,000 m3 intact biofuel that were replaced by imported diesel. In parallel, the total amount of biodiesel that should enter into the Greek market annually was launched from 50,000 m3 in 2005 to 182,000 m3 in 2009 coming back to 132,000 m3 this year. To put it in perspective, Portugal, a country like ours, produces and domestically supplies more than 450,000 m3 of biodiesel per se. Therefore, it is no coincidence that Greece was in 18th place in all 27 EU countries in 2009 (Source: with potential to slide down to 25th place in 2015 (according to the National Action Plan for Renewable Energy Sources).

Unfortunately, even in today’s economic situation afflicting our country needing more than ever to maintain the viability of even the minimum domestic production capacity, one more industry where tens of millions of euros have been invested and that can offer countless benefits to the Greek Economy has been intentionally or unintentionally neglected. The disappointment is even greater when even those who we feel degraded EU partners maintain this industry as a high priority, increasing their domestic production and their rural population as well, putting Greece for one more time in the position of the followers.

The stakeholders of the biofuel sector, believing that the situation is reversible  and having presented their proposals many times  to the Ministries involved, hope that the industry will not be another missed opportunity for this hapless country. All of us, who daily live in this industry and see its benefits internationally, fight and strongly believe that our country can effectively develop biofuels with the appropriate movements as it has all the tools to succeed and be placed among the frontrunners within the EU.