Category Archives: Interviews

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.

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.

George Nikitiadis: “Our Primary Goal is Alternative Tourism”

INT_4GB
Interview of Deputy Minister of Culture and Tourism, George Nikitiadis. 

Tourism and Greece are intertwined concepts. How dynamically can alternative forms of tourism get in the tourism’s map?

The alternative forms of tourism are the spear heading in the Government’s new strategy to enlarge the tourist season to 12 months per year. Sea tourism, agro tourism, conference tourism, culture tourism, religious tourism, gastronomical tourism, sports tourism are some of the fields where we have concentrated our interest and in cooperation with all the parties involved we are working all of their proposals and suggestions in order to submit to the Parliament the draft legislation. The combination of climatic conditions in our country throughout the year with alternative forms of tourism can increase the number of tourists visiting our country.

In Greece, considering the economic crisis, are there margins or to be more specific, economic feasibility to offer suitable conditions for this kind of tourism?

Tourism, as you well know, annually contributes 18% of G.N.P. (Gross National Product), and offers work to more than 750,000 people. This moment, it consists one of the basic pillars of the economy and according to the estimates of economic analysts it has to give much more to our country in the coming years. We noticed that last year when we succeeded to endure despite the adverse existing condition. We are now going on by improving the quality of the provided services by promoting the ‘tourism’ product via the internet and the new technologies that ensure efficiency with less money compared to the traditional ways of promotion. In this effort we do need the help of all our fellow citizens and we call them to chooseGreeceas the place of their holidays, participating in this way in the effort we make to reset Greek economy.

What about the legislation for the development of alternative forms of tourism and the cooperation of the “Tour Operators” as well?

After a series of contacts and consultations with our European partners in the tourism industry, in the coming period we will be ready to introduce into the Greek Parliament the bill on tourist residences (tourist homes), agro tourism and the other alternative forms of tourism.  This bill aims to facilitate the development of infrastructure and activities related to agro tourism. The emergence of alternative tourism, both in infrastructure levels and promotional actions, is the tactic maneuvers of our country for increasing tourism income and extending tourism season.

What else, do you believe, has to be done for the development of tourism industry in our country?

With our policy,Greecehas restored its credibility in the major traditional tourism markets ofEuropethat is particularly important in this period. In parallel we take actions in new emerging markets such asChina,Japan,IndiaandIsraelwhere a strong preference for our country has been recorded. We expand the cooperation networks with low-cost airlines in most regional airports in 12 months’ time. We subsidize thousands of new jobs instead of giving unemployment benefits. We utilize new forms of communications like internet and social networks to promote our country. We create targeted communications campaigns depending on the country to which we refer. We build strong foundation for the future structure of Greek tourism industry.

Can ecotourism help to extend the tourism season?

The ecotourism has a lot of development fields, however It is always interwoven with activities that give people opportunities to enjoy both the environment and the countryside. In the alternatives camps operating throughout the country young children come into direct contact with nature by participating in relevant activities as reaping, fermenting their own bread, caring a farms animals and much more. Due to the particularly climatic conditions prevailing in our country most of the year it is clear that ecotourism can drastically contribute to extend tourism season.

People, who had as main occupation agriculture until now, how have they accepted agro tourism? Are there any difficulties in this new horizon? What is the role of “Kallikrates Project”?

Every change has its own difficulties. Agro tourism necessarily needs the farmers’ presence. Tourism life needs the visitors’ participation. We have to see all these under a new and fresher look. Especially, when it comes to change attitudes and practices which have consolidated over the years. The agro tourism’s goal is the natural environment and the human contact. This activity is not meant to substitute farming activities but to support them by offering to farmers an extra income. Our goal is to connect each region’s agriculture to culture, history and tourism. That means intergraded production networks, local self-sufficiency policies, agro tourism, cultural identity and organizations of services in cooperation with institutions, which lead to this direction.

What is the role of “green” energy in our country’s tourism industry? Do people, who are involved in tourism, have any benefits by using it?

Green development should be the focus of our actions and initiatives. Aegean islands have the highest wind energy potential which combined with photovoltaic power plants can be the spearhead for investments in Greece. Our goal is the changes we make, to lead in worthwhile investments. In parallel we edit projects already submitted by interested investors for building hotels that will make use of green energy.

In your everyday life, have you adopted methods of protecting the environment?

I try to apply simple everyday rules such us proper management of electrical appliances, avoidance of water waste, waste of a precious commodity, recycling paper, plastic etc. If everyone becomes conscious to these simple things, we will protect our environment and the planet where we live in.


Spyros Vougias: “Alternative means of trasportation is my vision”

Interview of Deputy Minister of Infrastructure, Transport and Networks, Spyros Vougias.

In times of crisis is there a place for the “luxury” of green transport?

The “green” transport is more economical in terms of energy consumption, cleaner and environmentally friendly and more efficient in transportation because we can have much more movements with the same construction costs. Rail transport, for example, around and within cities (suburban, underground, tram, etc.) requires significant new investments, creates thousands of jobs during the construction time and the operation as well, and is significantly effective as it enables the transfer of millions of passengers or tonnes of merchandise. We have invested enough in roads. It’s train time and time for alternative means of massive and personal transportation in the cities.

What kind of initiatives have you taken in this direction during your term as Deputy Minister?

I came in the Ministry of Transport Infrastructure and Networks as Deputy Minister about 6 months ago. It took a little time updating and adjusting to join in the pace and the agenda of major institutional reforms (liberalization of road freight consolidation, restructuring and reorgani-zation of the railways, new law on public transport in Athens) promoted within these months of political courage and deter-mination. In between of intense parliamentary activity I was strongly involved in road safety, as Chairman of the newly established National Council for focusing on protecting the most vulnerable road users (cyclists, pedestrians, disabled). Moreover, I have decided to allow, the prohibited up to now entry of bicycles on metro and have “revived” the two completely ecological projects in Thessaloniki, which I have personally identified with and had been forgotten in recent years: modern tram in the city centre and urban water transportation.

What would you like to be your “Fingerprint” left in this Ministry? What is your vision?

I feel somehow strange, as Ι have gone back in time. I “served” in the same position of Deputy Minister of Transport (even in the same office) nine years ago, in October 2001. A few months later, I resigned to seek election as Mayor of Thessaloniki, so I did not manage to leave anything important. I was still inexperienced in conditions and codes of central politics and in any case, it is required a critical political time to design and implement in practice one discrete project .Now I feel much more experienced and powerful because of what I have experienced in the meantime and of my time in the emotionally intensive term in the Ministry of Citizen Protection. Being there for ten months, I believe, I have left a trace of me in areas that I worked with dedication such as the way of training new police officers and a different way in perception and management of the immigration issue. This time in the Ministry of Transport, I believe, there will be left something of the vision which I studied, I taught my students and I have being working and politically fighting over 30 years, which is alternative means of transportation in human cities.

Beginning 1st of March bicycles are being allowed in the Underground. You have started with 2 bikes in the last wagon. Will you continue towards this direction? What other incentives will you give to cyclists?

The decision of having bicycles in the Underground should have been taken long ago. Cyclists asked insistently, but in vein, to get the permission by the administration of Underground to entry their bicycles on trains. The decision taken was the result of discussions at the National Road Safety Council with representatives of the movements of cyclists and the municipal party of G. Amyras of the Municipality of Athens. They have proposed the restriction of two bicycles per train, which is an international standard in power for security reasons. We have started a three months trial period beginning March 2, based on mutual respect and self-regulation of the cyclists themselves. There are two days per week, every Wednesday afternoon and every Sunday from 12 at noon to the end of the shift, and I am personally very optimistic that all this will go very well and soon during the summer its application will be extended to more days and hours.

Cyclists are not considered “outsiders” in the underground any more; however, this is not the same in their own city. What about bicycle lanes?

The cyclists were not excluded from the other public transportation means as they could use the tram, the electric and the suburban. Now, because of John Boutaris, Mayor of Thessaloniki and of George Kaminis, Mayor of Athens I expect to see thousands of municipal bicycles available at Underground stations and other central locations for the people to get and leave them easily close to their destinations as it is happening in other European cities. To have these bikes safely move there must be the adequate infrastructure. As a professor of transport, I was and always remain fully committed to build safe bicycle lanes’ networks in major cities. We shall have to formulate safe conditions for cyclists, if we want to support this ecological means of transport and encourage urban cycling. Cyclists should not be limited to the use of pedestrian streets and of existed scarce bicycle lanes but we must engage width of the road currently occupied by illegal parking. I can finally announce that we are in the process of consultation and discussions with both the administration of the OASA and the cyclists in order to allow the movement of the bicycles in the exclusive lanes for buses.

The cycling tourism is expected to surpass 20 billion euros over the next 20 years in the EU. Do you believe that our country has the appropriate conditions to “be touched”?

Indeed, Greece always follows and adapts with delay the evolution of the rest of Europe. However, a new culture “bikes in our life” is rapidly formed in our country that starts from the young people, is supported by the difficult environmental and social conditions, and a different way of viewing the world, a different attitude. So, the continuously growing cycling tourism might find us better prepared. This might constitute a great opportunity for further development of thematic tourism in our country given the excellent weather conditions.

Which is your opinion regarding the proposal of GAIAOSE S.A to convert the disused railway lines to bicycle lanes?

This is a very interesting and useful option of using abandoned railway lines that are situated near residential areas and it was very common in previous alignments. They can also connect coastal villages with picturesque bicycle routes or be converted to walkways if the lines pass through a village. In any case, GAIAOSE S.A can creatively reclaim its property in cooperation with municipalities, local authorities, cultural associations and/or NGOs. In this way old station buildings or abandoned railway lines will get a contemporary profile.

Let’s go now in your home city, Thessaloniki. The urban water transport-ation (sea busses) and tram are the two big personal bets to have the traffic problem solved. The second largest city of Greece has had enough of promises. What stage are the procedures for their implementation at?

I always used to say that the memory of a city which” remembers” indicates the appropriate transportation means they need and come back with a modern form, of course. Both the tram and the water bus were two proposals that I had made since the 80s. Today, I think, that the conditions for their implementation have been formed both in terms of transportation needs and in terms of economic conditions. The Transportation Infrastructure Strategic Plan presented by the Minister Dimitris Reppas for Thessaloniki includes the exploring of the feasibility of constructing tram that serves the city centre and in conjunction with the underground, traffic will be adequately dealt with and the city will be upgraded environmentally and aesthetically along its route. I believe that this project will soon go ahead and join in funding programs. Regarding the sea bus, being in contact with the 3 Mayors of catchment areas, I am more optimistic than ever because the conditions have now matured. In three months, we shall launch a public call for expressions of interest by private investors under the SASTH coordination. This is a key route linking either Perea or New Epivates with both Kalamaria and the city center and it will require mild, low-cost infrastructure for the building of three stops. I believe that in the spring of 2012, the 100 years birthday since the liberation of the city, Thessaloniki will be able to revive the Thermaikos Gulf and to restore its traditional relationship with the sea.

In your everyday life, have you adopted methods of protecting the environment?

This is not my personal goal, but I do the basics, as I try to reduce “my energy footprint”. At home, we collect and recycle paper and plastics. I barely use my car because I like to walk in the city, to wander around the shops, the people and the sea. I smoke a little and only outdoors. I know it’s not enough but I think my environmental contribution is the opportunity to contribute to the ecological decision making. And this is much more important and useful for the protection of the environment.

George Amyras: By his “little bicycle” 7.5% and he goes on…

Interview of journalist and member of the Municipality Council of Athens of the indepedent party “Epeimenoume Athina” George Amyras.

Do you still “insist” in the battlefield of the City Council?

Indeed we “insist” and also work in the City Council, which sometimes resembles arena and others nursery. We came into this adventure aiming to integrate voices and ideas.

What do you suggest to get the bicycle to our life in the city of Athens?

We suggest practical solutions that cost nothing and can be directly applied. Indicatively I can mention that the Municipal Police has accepted our proposal to use bicycles so men and women of the Municipal Police can move quickly and anticipate violations before they occur. Also, we recommend the bicycle renting system to residents and tourists, the creation of bicycle lanes, the bike festivities for children in squares and schools, and the declaration of days of cycling and wheelchair.

In the center of crime – as it is now called – the center of Athens, how safe can bikes be considered? Some people would reasonably think that they might be in danger by going through these neighborhoods, or even that their bikes might be stolen if left on the road.

Personally, every day I ride my bicycle for 30km around the city centre and through the most dangerous streets of the city as well. It has never occurred anything to me as to many other cyclist friends who do the same thing. The explanation is simple. We cyclists, as stray and street artists as well, are immediately accepted by any entourage we might be. To prevent stealing our bikes, we have proposed to the Mayor bike-locking parking bases in the city’s neighborhoods. We have also proposed and it has been accepted to have the stolen bikes found by the Municipal Police, photographed. The photos have already uploaded in www.cityofathens.gr and any owner of a stolen bicycle, who recognizes it, can get it back through a simple process. Up to now 400 bikes have been photographed and posted on the city’s site and my joy is great as I think the smiles of people who find their lost bikes.

Where do you suggest we should build bicycle lanes? How fast can they be built?

We recommend the creation of bicycle lanes in parks, squares and even streets by reducing the width or totally repealing 1 or 2 parking zones. To begin with, we propose two routes:

a. Connection of the Academy of Plato (via the Monastiriou str. and the pedestrian Salaminos Str.) with the Technopolis in Gazi and Zappeion (via the pedestrian streets, Ermou, St. Paul and D. Areopagitou). 7 km circular route.

b. Connection of the park of the former Gendarmerie in Mesogeion Ave. (opposite to Henry Dunant Hospital) via the Michalako-poulou str. (Rizareiou School Park). 2.5 km circular route.

These two proposed safe routes do not need any construction costs except to make the Monastiriou Str. a walkway, marking and people’s information.

When that can be done? Today! A decision is simply needed. I trust Mr. Kaminis the Mayor of Athens, who has been seriously dealing with the future of the city.

Do you feel so romantic or Don Quixote, among other factions of the City Council? To what extend other parties do agree or disagree, given that your proposals do not have a politically party “identity”?

Just because we have not a politically party “identity”, however we are deeply politicized, we are privileged to have many of our proposals accepted by the other factions of the City Council. This is our strength and our shield as well. Our presence does not threat any other party, because we have suggested actions for the city’s welfare. For example, the Pikioni’s Cafe case. All parties, Mr. Kaminis, Mr.  Kaklamanis, Mr. Sofianos, Mr. Michaloliakos, Mr. Constantinou and Ms. Portaliou have endorsed our proposal to reopen the cafe on a different basis than it used to be. To prefer a cooperation between unemployed young people with long-term unemployed over the age of 50, with low rent and the obligation to sell coffee for 1€ and all the products of a traditional coffee shop below 1€. Even in his wildest dreams could not someone imagine that in the creme de la creme of locations in Athens we can do that, putting aside the big players that being attracted by the cafe of Pikionis. But this issue has not yet been tackled; it’s an ongoing debate….

How do you feel for having Municipal Police officers on bicycles? How does this initiative go on?

We feel very good and so do the Municipal Police officers over 30 years old, who want to use bicycle. This initiative is going wonderfully. Get ready. In a few days men and women of the Municipal Police will be seen in patrols with bikes. Fortunately, the deputy mayor in charge of such Mr. Tassos Avrantinis is a clever person, very effective. He listens to our proposals and acts directly.

What about any other “green” proposals of your municipal party?

I am going to tell you a few of them in brief:

-  To have planting in school yards.

- To put solar panels on the roofs of schools both for energy saving and educational reasons. This has been done in many schools all over Greece, why not in Athens too. We suggest the school complex of Gravas to be the first green school of Athens.

- Green “occupancy” of all the unconstructed land in the central areas, all the fields with debris or vacant buildings without architectural value and large walkways,

- To motivate people to make their roofs green offering plants and seeds from the municipal plant nursery.

Have you adopted in your everyday life any methods of protecting the environment?

Of course! I recycle, I use only my bike and try to persuade more and more people to do the same. I turn off all my electrical appliances when leaving the house and finally, with the help of my friends, I start to turn green my balcony. I promote volunteerism and I propose to you to learn about the actions of the society that protects the sea turtle Caretta – Caretta “ARCHELON” (www.archelon.gr). Also, I protect with the help of the young people of the island the stone paths of Folegandros that are constantly in danger from land owners who wish to transform the paths to highways.


Michalis Giannakis: “Our choice: Sustainability”

Interview of Responsible for Energy and Natural Resources Issues for the New Democracy party.

Considering the country’s unpleasant financial situation, is it really possible to essentially implement green development that is so widely spoken of?

The State must demystify the concept of green development which the current administration has introduced in an attempt to win over votes. If the “green development”, announced by the Prime Minister, is the easy, rapid raising of funds, then such green development will not exist. If green development is a turn towards a proliferation of government officials with investor relations to secure a photovoltaic panel installation and exploitation permit, then there will be no green development.

New Democracy has chosen a different option. Not an option based on circumstances. Not something that is “in fashion” now. We adopt the logic of sustainability, which is the official choice of Europe. The so-called sustainable development. And it is sustainable because it is based on three pillars: Competitiveness, Balance with the Natural Environment and Balance with the Social Environment. Environmental policy without Competitiveness is an extreme obsession and a return to the State. But also Competitiveness without respect to the Environment is a plunder of natural resources.

The concept of Sustainability is a modern, socially liberal approach that “marries” competitiveness and respect to the environment. On the other hand, we ought to stress that the Environment for us is not an “obstacle” to Development. It is a Development Resource, it is social Wealth, which we must respect and make the most of. From this point of view, it is obvious that given the environmental and financial crises, the implementation of sustainability is not just a way out. It is an imperative need.

What in your opinion, right now, is preventing the implementation of green development in our country?

Promotion of a distorted awareness about sustainability. As I said earlier, the State has created an image of sustainable development in society which is a bet for fund raising. Even the current administration uses green development as a means of publicity, without tackling the essential problems.

For instance, no matter how many incentives we offer for power generation using RES, if we do not invest in networks we will not be able to increase their participation in our energy mix.

On the other hand, the decisions of a counterproductive state constitute barriers for energy saving. I would like to remind you that for over a year these decisions about “Saving at home” just lie there.

At this critical stage, both for the economy and the environment, the State cannot just stand like a wall before the demands of society.
It oughts to assist and not to underestimate the good things of previews goverments.

Is the Greek institutional framework on energy and environmental issues in need of great changes or is it moving towards the right direction?

The environmental issues and the challenges, we are facing, are not issues that each country can face alone. In this, there is the need for collective action from all developed countries. And this is where the subsidiarity principle of the European Union comes into play and can fill the gap created by national institutional frameworks. And fortunately, all international initiatives on energy and the environment are transposed into Greek law within the framework of the European Union.

What the Greek State lacks is political will for the uninterrupted enforcement of the law. An example of this is the Directive 2004/35/EC on Environmental Liability issues. However, the State impedes its full enforcement. Presidential Decree 148/2009 is still essentially inactive as the mix of Ministerial Decisions required are still not ready, two whole years after the deadline for the full transposition of the Directive into Greek law.

You realize that the adoption of European actions is not an institutional framework issue it is rather an issue of essential and honest political will.

What changes would you implement right now in the RES institutional framework?

Law 3851/2010 on the acceleration of RES penetration into our energy balance has just been passed. I am not sure that the law suffices to attain the ambitious goals set by the Ministry of the Environment. I believe that besides the financial aid to producers, there is also the need for significant investments in network modernization and extension. Otherwise, no matter how many laws we pass, we will still fall behind in an area where due to the wind and solar wealth of our country, we could be leaders.

On the other hand, on a national level we must avoid the various impediments that discourage small and large investors. I would like to remind you of the delays in the adoption of the draft law, the numerous corrections in the distribution of the various RES technologies, the imminent requirement of interested investors to submit a bond, etc. These are not strong points for an administration that is really interested in creating a stable investment environment for Renewable Energy Sources.

What is the most appropriate approach to the country’s environmental issues? Should these issues be managed by managers or environmentalists?

I’m not try to evade the question by what I am about to say. I will say it the way I feel it. We cannot have an environment without the economy, just like we cannot have an economy without the environment. We need to make this combination in order to find a balance.

But we should not be mistaken. Social environmental awareness is the only safe way towards a solution to the problems. And this awareness is conveyed through education, innovation and research. In these areas, the current administration has taken no steps.

How would you comment on the Copenhagen Climate Council Summit?

It is clear that the outcomes of the Summit have been poor. And this was no surprise to anyone given the position of the Eastern world.
This, however, should neither disappoint nor discourage us from following in the new efforts initiated mainly by the European Union.

Have you taken, in your day-to-day life, steps towards the protection of the environment?

I will answer a little differently. I am not happy with the extent to which I have taken steps towards protecting the environment. I would have wanted to have done more.

As I would have also wanted to contribute even more in the small community I come from, Schimatari, which suffers from the greatest environmental crime in the country, the pollution of the Asopos River.

I will be able to tell you that I am satisfied only when I see the studies for the full control of the liquid waste from all industries in the area and a complete depollution plan being implemented.

Ioannis Glynos: “Efforts for effective RES utilisation”

Interview of Ioannis Glinos Mayor of Korthi in Andros.

Mr. Glinos, what is the stance of the Municipality of Korthi regarding the Renewable Energy Sources (RES)?

One of the major goals of the Municipality of Korthio has been and still is the use of “green” electric energy generated from renewable energy sources (RES) without the emission of carbon dioxide. In this way, the Municipality of Korthio will try, from its side, to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases aiming to contribute to the worldwide effort of attaining the goals of international binding conventions such as the Kyoto Protocol, the environmental policies of the European Union, and also the Covenant of Mayors to which the Municipality of Korthio is a party, and which envisages results beyond the EU goal in energy, 20% CO2 emission reduction by 2020. Furthermore, similar ecological obligations stems from the 2008 Sustainability Award which has been awarded to our Municipality by the Network of Sustainable Islands “DAFNI”, based on evaluation by special scientists of the National Technical University of Athens. Simultaneously, the deployment of RES will greatly benefit the Municipality both in terms of new employment positions and financial oportunities, as these kind of investments can play a decisive role for its financial autonomy. Of course, it is a prerequisite the localization of the wind generators and photovoltaics to be subjecting in to strict environmental criteria and also any environmental concerns to be major factors taken into consideration in the decision making process.

Which do you think is the best solution for the energy problem of Greece andof Andros as well from the point of view of the Local and Regional Government? 

It is certain that there are neither magical solutions nor wizards that can solve the serious problems of the country, and this of course applies equally to energy. Any solution must be based on a detailed analysis of the current situation, the use of all available resources, human and non-human, exhaustive consultation to secure the greatest possible consent of the society, and of course it requires hard work and persistence. Specifically with regard to the energy problem we have to act at different levels at the same time. Firstly and most importantly, we have to adopt an energy saving attitude by means of both rationalizing our needs and taking advantage using the state-of-the-art technology. As regards energy generation, maximum efforts must be made to make use of available resources such as the wind, the sun, precipitation, as well as modern methods such as those that exploit the energy of waves or sea currents. All these, however, will be the result of reliable studies focusing on the social benefit and respect for the environment.

In the upcoming elections you are a candidate for the whole region of Andros. How will you manage the development of wind parks, given that there are also some projects that do not respect the environment and the local communities? 

The development of wind parks in Andros, besides everything else, can generate a financial resource of vital importance for the new Municipality, which can contribute to an unprecedented financial robustness. It is true, of course, that of all proposed projects (and it must be pointed out that for the time being they are still proposals), there are some which may not meet the minimum environmental requirements, a fact which remains to be shown by the anticipated strategic environmental assessments. It must be clarified that any energy investment on the island will be based on certain inviolable principles: protection of the environment, respect for the historical and cultural heritage of the island, social consent, and benefit assurance. Regarding their localization, it should be noted that the Municipality of Korthio respecting the environment of the area under its responsibility has promptly suggested zones where RES technologies would not be installed, and such zones have been accepted by the Council of State and are included in the localization design. At island level, this will be performed by means of the implementation of the General Urban Plan which is among our top priorities.

The Municipality of Korthi is one of the few municipalities in Greece that have entered into the Covenant of Mayors of the European Union about environmental issues. How did this praiseworthy event occur?

The participation of the Municipality of Korthio in the Covenant of Mayors is the natural consequence of the Municipality’s environment friendly policy until this moment. Since September 2006, the Municipality of Korthio has been a member of the Network of Sustainable Islands of Aegean, “DAFNI”. The goal of “DAFNI” is to promote sustainability actions on its member islands and certify after their implementation. “DAFNI” also promotes international cooperation on the above issues. The Municipality of Korthio received in 2008 the “Sustainability Mark” for the sustainability actions implemented as a member. The foundation in 2008 of the “Ios Aegean Energy Office” and the participation of the Municipality of Korthio in the Covenant of Mayors is part and a result of this participation.

How will the Municipality benefit from the Covenant of Mayors and what are its objectives?

By participating in the Covenant of Mayors, the Municipality of Korthio aims to continue the process towards sustainable development by promoting energy policies alongside with European Union programs aimed to reduce CO2 emissions, energy distribution safety, to reduce dependence on the import of fossil fuel and to increase energy production from renewable energy sources. The main pillars of the energy design of the Municipality are the promotion of renewable energy sources, the improvement of energy efficiency in urban infrastructures and buildings and sustainable urban mobility. Given its obligation under the Covenant to include the entire geographical area of the Municipality in the Action Plan, this will include actions that are not limited to the public but also extend to the private sector. The main goals of the Action Plan of the Municipality of Korthio are summarized next:
- Infiltration of Renewable Energy Sources into the energy balance and mainly, exploitation of the significant wind potential of the island.
- Energy saving in infrastructures and municipal lighting by increasing the energy efficiency of the equipment.
- Energy saving in buildings by promoting energy saving actions in hotels and municipal buildings, as well as by informing the inhabitants, at residential level.

Have you taken any steps in your daily life towards protecting the environment?

It is necessary to take all steps to protect the environment because we have to leave a sustainable environment to our children and grandchildren. Through the actions we take today and not tomorrow we must teach our fellow citizens and our children the correct way to protect the environment.
Some of the actions I take in my everyday life are:
- I have replaced the light bulbs in my house with environment friendly bulbs.
- I try to move around on my bicycle as much as possible.
- I participate in the recycling programs of the Municipality.
- In my amateur agricultural activities I implement organic culture methods, namely I do not use chemicals and I use organic fertilizer (compost), etc.

*Τhis interview was taken before the election of Mr. Glynos as the Mayor of Andros.

Yiannis Maniatis: “3,5 billion euros RES Investments”

Interview of Deputy Minister οf Environment, Energy and Climatic Changes Ministry.

What is your vision for Greece’s energy map?

It is necessary to plan our future, with regards to energy, using explicit parameters; employing social consensus, environmental sensitivity and developmental perspectives. Today, more than ever, a realistic basis for the review of energy data and perspective is necessary. This addresses the country’s secure energy supply, domestic energy production, our relations with supplying countries and compliance with our Inter-national and European commitments for the Energy-Climatic change pair.

Greece, in the framework of the planned broader energy strategy, pursues seven (7) objectives:

-Differentiation between energy sources and energy transmission channels, including the differentiation of fuel types.

-Reinforcement of energy interconnections and infrastructures.

-Deepening of the dialogue between producing and consuming states and close cooperation between European countries and international organizations related to energy issues.

-Transparency in energy market operations.

-Reduction of energy demand and consumption with the adoption of energy performance and savings measures.

-Promotion of Renewable Energy Sources and green energy systems.

-Transfer of technology in the energy domain. 

Our country’s energy deficit increases the pressure to exploit domestic energy sources and to this direction research and production constitute the basic tools for the implementation of a nationally correct energy strategy. Soon, we will be able to submit the Legislative initiative for the creation of an Authority for the Management of State Rights in the domain of hydrocarbons exploitation. We all realize the definitive effect that this will have for Greece, if the indications related to the existence of deposits prove to be real.

The recent announcement concerning the investment from Qatar is of utmost importance. It refers to a combined cycle Power Production Station, a Liquid Natural Gas (LΝG) Regasification Station, a container transshipment Station and Algae Greenhouses for the absorption of emitted carbon dioxide. This is anticipated to create approximately 1.500 new jobs, while the country’s annual current transactions balance will benefit with a minimum of 400-million Euros.

We are looking to exploit the advantages of the country’s geo-political location and establish its position as an energy node and energy transit center, in the broader South-Eastern Europe and Eastern Mediterranean region. This is an explicit strategic choice served diligently and responsibly on our part.

We are promoting the procedures for the materialization of oil and natural gas pipes. We submitted to discuss with the Ministers’ Council, the Government Bill concerning the Burgas – Alexandroupolis oil pipe, taking into consideration the opinion of the local community.

The interconnecting Turkey – Greece – Italy (ITGI) pipe and the Greek – Bulgarian Branch, (IGB), constitute the new energy channel allowing Greece to materialize the advantage offered by its unique geographical location. Through this pipe, it will be possible to transfer gas quantities from Caspian and Middle East countries to Europe, through Turkey.  

We strive, systematically and methodically, to achieve a secure, long-term energy plan ensuring the competitiveness of our national economy and the minimization of environmental effects caused by energy activities, based on social consensus supporting technological evolution and employment. The challenge is hard, but it can be won.

Which steps have been taken regarding Renewable Energy Sources (RES) issues since the beginning of your governance?

When we took over, the reality we faced was rather intimidating, with hundreds of files awaiting a Ministerial decision. From the very first moment, we proceeded with the acceleration of all Ministerial decisions related to already submit applications. We completed a long lasting consultation concerning the new RES Law passed by the Parliament. We created a new statutory framework placing Greece amongst the leading European Countries with regards to the initiatives and procedures for the importation of renewable energy sources in the energy balance. We try to ensure that the residents of every village or Municipality, in which a Wind park is installed, receive specific financial offsets by means of power supply price reductions.

In the next three-year period, we anticipate RES investments to exceed 3 billion Euros.

What exactly delayed the RES law so much, when its basic feature is claimed to be the acceleration of procedures?

For specific Statutes, it is necessary that all opinions are submitted, to find common grounds and to delimit the acceptable framework in which we must act. Public consultation was a mandatory and necessary condition. Moreover, its results clearly demonstrate how useful and beneficial this has been.

In your point of view, does the new law ensure that all authorities involved (forests authority, town planning authorities and archaeology service) will provide their opinion in due time?

I remind you that, the new Law simplifies the procedure for the issuance of a RES production license. We have reduced the time required by 80% and we have created a one-stop service which will function as per the «one-stop shop» model. Its mission is to provide information and the coordinated completion of investor requests, in order for everything to be managed by a single service. Small Renewable Energy facilities are excluded from the obligation to issue a production license and scattered RES applications related to thousands small-medium investors are being promoted. The Preliminary Environmental Assessment and Evaluation and Environmental Terms Approval procedures are uniformly merged, whilst their duration is limited to 8-10 months (from the current 3 years duration). There is the specification of the procedure related to the granting of a right to use shores, beaches or sea areas for works concerning power production using Renewable Sources.

Therefore, I believe, that those actions that will smoothly initiate the procedures have been provisioned.

A lot has been said regarding the fact that photovoltaic elements are no longer a primary objective. What is your opinion?

That’s not true. The Law that has been passed does not reduce the guaranteed price per kilowatt-hour that the producers are paid for the energy injected into the system. The old price is retained, as it was in effect and it is one of the highest prices applicable in the E.U. The benefit is even greater when one considers the high levels of sunshine of our country have.

At the same time, there is a new initiation regarding the procedure for the acceptance of new applications concerning canopies, buildings for farmers too in order of priority. You should not forget that over the last two years the procedure for the submission of applications concerning P/Vs exceeding 20 KW was postponed.

A fixed objective of the Ministry is the uninterrupted and healthy development of the photovoltaic park facilities in our country. We do not depreciate solar energy, which, along with the other alternative energy sources, wind, geothermic, hydroelectric and biomass, contribute to sustainable green development that our country needs and we envision.

What is the “green islands” priority level in your agenda?

The Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climatic Change has as its priority the materialization of the project “Green island  Ai Stratis”, which, in fact, will constitute a landmark project and its results will be used for the implementation of environment-friendly technologies on other, bigger islands. There is a provision to perform significant interventions so as to satisfy, using green technologies, the needs of the island inhabitants with regards to power, heating, cooling and transportations. Through the National Reference Strategic Plan (NSRF) there has been an assurance of funds amounting to 8 million Euros which shall be availed for:

-the materialization of RES and energy storage projects,

-interventions for energy saving and the coverage of thermal and cooling loads using Geothermic Heat Pumps in public buildings and green transportation projects (electric vehicles and hydrogen fuelled vehicles) including the respective fueling stations.

“Ai Stratis” will become the first non-interconnected island in Europe with such a high green energy integration level.

If you had the chance to change something with regards to energy issues with the touch of a magic wand, which one would you choose?

Our attitude as energy consumers. This is because I believe that we must evolve to a civilization whose principle consumption model is based upon the principles of energy saving and the reduction of the quantity of supplying sources needed for the satisfaction of human needs. I would like this magic wand to be able to change an arrogant, gluttonous, greedy, short-sighted and selfish model of both the collective and individual attitude towards the Planet Earth and the natural resources availed by it, to a new model of viable, responsible life with future perspectives.

I would really like this magic wand to remind the inhabitants of this planet on a daily basis of the wonderful image of last Christmas in Copenhagen. The city’s Christmas tree was illuminated not using lights powered by the grid, but by energy supplied by dynamos charged by the pedal strokes of a bicycle, on which each visitor provided his/her own physical and symbolic contribution.