The scientific community in Greece welcomes the founding of an Institute of Astrophysics, after the act establishing it was passed by the Greek Parliament on February 26, 2018. The new institute, the first in the country to focus exclusively on this particular field, is to form part of a wider organisation, the Foundation for Research and Technology-Hellas (FORTH) Research and Technology-Hellas (FORTH). FORTH’s initiative to create the Institute of Astrophysics was supported by the Ministry of Education, Research and Religious Affairs, the Alternate Minister of Research and Innovation, Costas Fotakis,the National Council for Research and Innovation and the Region of Crete.
The Institute of Astrophysics
The Institute of Astrophysics (IA) aims to promote research in the field, in terms of excellence and innovation, and make it possible for Greece to make significant contributions to the international scientific developments in this area. Its establishment will serve as a catalyst, providing ample opportunity for collaboration with the European Space Agency and other related organisations. FORTH has already been very active within the field of astrophysics, having for many years collaborated with the University of Crete (UoC) -especially with its Department of Physics- in various research programmes, and the IA is the natural evolution of these efforts. Together with the University of Crete and the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics (MPE) in Germany, FORTH has established the Skinakas Observatory, a state-of-the-art facility which is already in position to provide the entire infrastructure necessary for the research conducted by the new institute.
The core of the new institute’s scientific personnel will be the Astrophysics Group, which consists of FORTH Researchers and UoC Professors Collaborating with FORTH. The group, based in Crete, studies a broad range of astrophysical phenomena using observational data from ground based and space facilities and by developing new theoretical methods for the interpretation of these observations. Their research interests include the astrophysics of compact objects (stellar and supermassive black holes, neutron stars and white dwarfs), properties and evolution of galaxies, and the behaviour of matter in the extreme conditions in the vicinity of compact objects.
The team has accomplished outstanding academic achievements by international standards, having attracted highly competitive European funding from the European Research Council and the “Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions” research fellowshipprogramme of the European Union. Additional funding has also been obtained from several other national and international sources. The group is also responsible for building instruments for optical astronomy and for the operation of the Skinakas Observatory.
The Skinakas Observatory
The Skinakas Observatory is a joined research facility of the University of Crete, the Foundation for Research and Technology and the Max Planck Institute, founded in 1986. Its prime objective is to conduct fundamental research in Astronomy and to promote Astronomy among students and general public in Greece. Its position on Skinakas, a peak of Mount Ida (Psiloritis) in Crete, at an altitude of 1750m, offers excellent conditions for high quality astronomical observations of the area of the Mediterranean. It currently houses two fully functional telescopes. The research taking place at Observatory covers a wide range of different areas in Astrophysics.
The Foundation for Research and Technology-Hellas (FORTH), established in 1983, is one of the largest research centers in Greece with state-of-the-art facilities, highly qualified personnel and a reputation as a top-level research foundation worldwide. FORTH reports to the General Secretariat for Research and Technology of the Hellenic Ministry of Education, Research and Religious Affairs. It currently consists of six research institutes, located in various cities, while its headquarters, as well as the central administration offices, are located in Heraklion, Crete. FORTH focuses its activities on areas of major scientific, social, and economic interest, such as: Microelectronics, Lasers, Molecular Biology and Genetics, Biotechnology, Computer Sciences, Bioinformatics, Robotics etc. The new establishment is therefore going to be FORTH’s seventh institute.
On the occasion of the Institute of Astrophysics formal establishment, the President of FORTH, Professor Nektarios Tavernarakis stated: "The creation of the new Institute of Astrophysics at FORTH, comes as the long-awaited outcome of the outstanding research efforts and success of the FORTH Astrophysics Group. We expect that the Institute of Astrophysics will give Greece a competitive advantage towards attaining a prominent place in Europe in this highly active area of Research. […] It is also a significant step towards the repatriation of outstanding scientists”. Nikos Kylafis, Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Crete and Collaborating Researcher at FORTH, noted that the new entity "is an important asset for both FORTH and the University of Crete. The exceptional cooperation between the two Institutions has brought the desired result".
Read Greek News Agenda’s interview with Nektarios Tavernarakis on the Foundation for Research and Technology-Hellas and Greece's Research potential
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The Efstathios Finopoulos Collection of travel literature and imagery, one of the most important collections of its kind -not only in Greece, but worldwide- is part of the Benaki Museum Library after the collector’s kind donation in 2013. The exhibition Travels in Greece (15th-19th century), now open at the Benaki Museum (until 29/04/2018) will showcase the Finopoulos Collection along two distinct trajectories: one dedicated to travel imagery and literature and the other to the research activity of the collector himself.
The fascination with the unknown and the allure of Greece in European thought since the early Renaissance, resulted in a constant flow of travellers who produced numerous publications and countless drawings: From the travellers on the Grand Tour in the 17th century and then to the early tourists of the 19th century, who were travelling in groups through travel agencies, the flow of travellers orginated from the West, crossed the Hellenic world and was headed towards the East. The main destination was Jerusalem, for the purpose of pilgrimage, and afterwards Constantinople. From Marseilles and Venice, travellers followed sea routes to the Eastern Mediterranean, with Sicily, Malta, Corfu and Kythera, Syra and Smyrna, as the main ports of call.
The exhibition includes rare editions, manuscript maps, loose prints and drawings as well as important documents, archival material and photographs. From the fanciful and arbitrary renderings of early centuries to the accurate depictions of later years, the variegated picture of travelling emerges alongside the multiple identities of travellers in Greek lands between the 15th and 19th centuries.
The wealth of the collection enables the study of many aspects of the intellectual, social, financial, religious and cultural life of the Hellenic world under foreign occupation (Ottoman, Venetian as well as the British protection of the Ionian islands), at certain pivotal moments in the history of Greece (the Greek Revolution, the Crimean War etc.) and the study of emblematic figures such as Lord Byron. What is more, travel writing allows us to examine the foreign gaze of travellers at various historic periods and as well as the evolution of Philhellenism through the years.
The acquisition of the material that comprises the collection, a lifetime endeavor on the part of Efstathios Finoupoulos, started in 1963 with purchases from the burrows of book dealer George Jeffery in Farringdon Road, London. Finopoulos continued to gather a wealth of material from reproductions and transcriptions of travel journals and letters of travelers who journeyed around Greece. The adventure of amassing this impressive collection from its beginnings in the 1960s to the present day is showcased the exhibition through representative works.
Nu Boyana Film Studios is the successor of the former Bulgarian state-owned Boyana Film Studio, established in 1962 as the main feature film and television production facility in the country until the early 1990′s. Owned by one of the longest-running independent film companies in Hollywood, Nu Image and Millennium Films, it has over the years serviced hundreds of feature films, offering a full range of production and post-production services.
Alexandra Tzvetkova, PR Manager at Nu Boyana Film Studios, talked to the Press and Communication Office* of the Embassy of Greece in Bulgaria about the services the studios offers to production companies interested in filming in Bulgaria, as well as current and future prospects for collaboration with Greece.
Audiovisual production appears to be a field that will really grow in the near future. What are the tools to encourage this?
Antonio Banderas on the set of "Automata" (2014)
How have NuBoyana Studios succeeded in becoming one of the most competitive studios in Europe?
It is the concept of the services that we offer and the high production value that clients get. We deliver the whole package: pre-production, production, post-production, VFX, all the way to DCP. Yes, we have New York, London, Middle East and Roman standing, sets as well as 10 soundstages but the idea is not to be a real-estate agency and just rent these out.
We take care of the whole process. Our UPM’s, heads of departments and experienced crews are always there for you. This makes producers and directors feel safe and secure, as well as free and flexible in their creative choices.
At the same time, we try to constantly improve the studios: just recently we set up the most modern water tank in Europe, which is 20 metres wide and 6 metres deep. We have a state of the art video and sound post-production facility with professionals who have worked on big projects, such as Mechanic: Resurrection, Criminal, Letaherface, Boyka: Undisputed and many more.
Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart on the set of "London has fallen" (2016)
NuBoyana is one of the sponsors of the LifeArt Media Festival, which is based in Athens and aims to promote Global Media makers to build the future of Media. How do you asses this initiative and how could it promote co-operation and exchanges between different institutions of the two countries?
The whole idea behind this festival is motivating; and the fact that it is an initiative by the Michael Cacoyannis Foundation makes it even more essential. I think there are lots of opportunities for partnership between LifeArt and festivals in Bulgaria, whilst this festival is a great place to show movies by new Bulgarian filmmakers.
Greece has now a new law, which makes the country film friendly. Do you think synergies between the two countries are possible?
Definitely; networking is the foundation of the film industry. I’m sure that both sides have good expertise and valuable know-how they could share and build on.
* Maria Tyropoli, Evgenia Kambaki, Press and Communication Office of the Embassy of Greece in Bulgaria.
Paraskevi Kefala, Assistant Professor of International Relations in the Middle East at the Department of Mediterranean Studies, University of the Aegean has published an article in newspaper Epohi (25.02) analyzing Turkey’s foreign policy:
It is common knowledge that Turkey's foreign policy has a revisionist character, as well as that the country has regional power aspirations towards all of its neighboring subsystems. These trends - reinforced by Turkey's membership in the group of the World’s 20 Fastest Growing Economies, the retreat of US influence in the wider Middle East and the instability prevailing in the region - gave Ankara the impression that it is now in position to impose its will and to achieve all of its objectives.
However, those ambitious plans can’t be actualized for a number of reasons: the means at the country’s disposal are insufficient; Ankara violates fundamental concepts of international law (such as the illegal occupation of North Cyprus); it ignores basic facts (such as that the neo-Ottoman model it promotes cannot appeal to the Arab world); it mistakenly believes that its geostrategic position gives it a political "carte blanche", and finally, it fails to acknowledge the legitimate interests of other international actors. Because of these erroneous estimates Turkish foreign policy after 2011, is under a lot of pressure. What is more, the discovery of a huge energy patch in the Eastern Mediterranean, the Syria-Iraq crisis and the ongoing instability have created an explosive environment that Ankara cannot fully control.
Using the coup attempt of 2016 as a pretext, President Erdogan is relentlessly persecuting those who are not his fervent followers; this puts his international supporters in a very difficult position, while the climate of fear he perpetuates has a huge negative impact on Turkish economy. With that in mind, President Erdogan attaches foreign to domestic policy, setting multiple goals on the Cyprus issue, the Aegean, the exploitation of underwater energy fields, and the crisis in Syria.
In regards to the Eastern Mediterranean, we are faced with Turkey's attempts to escalate tensions with Greece, to extort the Republic of Cyprus to agree to a common exploitation of energy resources and to deter and / or intimidate multinational oil companies -such as Italian Eni- so that they don’t start drilling in Cypriot plots. The goal is clear: nothing can happen without Turkey’s consent; and Turkey, in order to consent, demands the legalization of its illegal actions in Cyprus, but also the appropriation of at least half of the Aegean Sea.
What is more, Ankara has been trying - already since the end of the bipolar word - to associate itself with, or even to exert control over several Balkan countries and regions, such as Macedonia, Albania or Kosovo, in an apparent effort to encircle Greece with neighbors that have irredentist aspirations and could cause smaller or bigger problems. This tactic is becoming more intense as Ankara estimates that today Athens is completely weakened due to the crisis, while Tureky remains strong. However, the truth is that Athens is not so weakened, as it remains a pillar of stability in a highly unstable region and part of the solution of regional problems. On the other hand, Ankara is a part of the problem, whether these problems relate to its relations with the EU and NATO, or to the Syrian crisis.
The Syrian crisis
Indeed, the Syrian crisis has been the lithe stone of Turkish-European and Turkish-American relations, which seem to be at their lowest point ever. The reasons for this deterioration are basically the divergence between the goals of Turkish president and those of Brussels and Washington.
As for the European Union, Ankara's demands, along with its extortionist tactics on the issue of Syrian refugees and the internal political terrorism of the Erdogan regime, are factors that force even the most ardent supporters of the Turkish candidacy in the EU to retreat.
Even worse, however, is the state of Turkey's relations with the US and, of course, NATO. In this regard, the objectives of the two sides are totally divergent, given that Ankara seeks to prevent at all costs the possibility of creating an autonomous or federal Kurdish state in Syria.
In order to avoid a repetition of what happened with the Iraqi Kurds, Ankara did not hesitate to cooperate with the terrorists of the "Islamic State" in order to strike the Syrian Kurds, neither to try to involve NATO in a heated confrontation with Moscow, nor to align with Russia and Iran, the main opponents of the United States. At this point we should stress that the issue of the Syrian Kurds is a major for Washington since they are only ally they have in Syria and their only lever to balance out the strong Russian influence.
Given the importance of the Kurdish question for Ankara and the American political disadvantage in Syria, in late January Ankara took things even further, attacking Afrine, a Kurdish enclave on the Syrian-Turkish border, after the US announced that it would reinforce the Kurdish People's Protection against Islamic State forces that trying to re-invade Syria.
So far, the US has not officially reacted to the attack against the Kurds of Afrin, an attack perpetrated by the Turkish army, with the help of Islamic State fighters -who are making bouncing back, with Ankara's support. In addition, Turkey is launching indirect threats against the US, underlining that anyone who “assists terrorists” - such as the Kurdish People's Protection Units - is "a legitimate aim", as well as direct threats, like the one made by Erdogan’s prominent adviser on 14 February, who said that "the US will encourage Greece to attack Turkey, but it will be like a fly attacking a giant and the consequences will be terrible for Greece."
It is clear that Ankara's policy is totally absurd; however it is very useful to the Turkish President because it sustains a false perception of the country's power in the eyes the Turkish people: the government appears as a staunch defender of Turkey’s national interests and and Kemalists are made to look like traitors. Despite the obvious domestic micro-political gains for President Erdogan and his environment, this policy greatly increases risks in an area already plagued by threats, instability and conflict, and the price to pay could be very high, even for Turkey itself.
Translation: Ioulia Livaditi
(AMNA Photo /Alexandros Beltes)
The President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, was conferred with an Honorary Doctorate Degree by the Department of English Language and Literature of the School of Philosophy at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. President Higgins undertook a three-day visit to Greece, following an invitation by the President of the Hellenic Republic, Prokopios Pavlopoulos, who received him on February 22. On the same day he also met with the Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, the Leader of the Opposition, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, and the Mayor of Athens Yiorgos Kaminis. On February 23, Higgins was awarded the Honorary Degree at a ceremony attended by the Greek President; on this occasion, he gave a lecture on the ancient and enduring relationship between Ireland and Greece and their shared future.
Beginning his speech, President Higgins reflected on the rich history the two nations share, starting at the ancient times, when Greek explorer Pytheas of Massalia recorded the first encounter between the Hellenic and Irish worlds and Ireland’s landscape was first described by a Greek geographer, Claudius Ptolemy, whose maps were likely used later by the greatest Irish navigator, Saint Brendan. As he put, both nations share “the sea, the importance of the interpretation and symbolism of a journey, migration, island life, land, possession and dispossession”, while navigation and exploration have been “at the centre of our experience as migratory peoples”.
Higgins commemorated John Scotus Eriugena, translator of the work of Dionysius the Areopagite, patron saint of Athens, who upheld the Greek tradition of bold philosophical speculation in the 9th Century Carolingian Court, as well as Robert Wood, an Irish scholar who first proposed that Homer’s was an oral rather than a literary voice. As he said, James Joyce, one of Ireland’s most iconic authors, could never have existed without Homer and Aristotle, as evidenced in his opus magnum, Ulysses. He also spoke of a feature of rural Ireland unparalleled elsewhere in Europe: the informal “hedge schools”, where Greek and Latin, and the foundation myths of both were taught, back in the 19th century.
President Higgins also referred to the two countries’ history of migration: Both have been major source-countries for migrants in the recent past – “to the point where for each of us, our sense of self must draw on the experience of our diaspora”, as he put it – while now they have found themselves in the position of trying to offer protection and relief to the many displaced by conflict. In this regard, he exalted the two countries’ hard efforts, stating that “the hospitality shown by Greece to today’s victims of war, expulsion, dispossession and nationalism is by any measure extraordinary”.
As he also noted, Ireland and Greece have been partners in peacekeeping, have worked together on the UN Human Rights Council and each has served with distinction on the UN Security Council. “Ireland and Greece, because of such multilateral commitments are so well equipped to play a disproportionate role – this time in Europe, but also well-equipped because of so many other factors. One is our journey to independence, each conscious of a distinct cultural identity and a cultural influence disproportionate to our size, yet each dominated into the near historical period by a major power. In short, we each know something of the process involved in achieving sovereignty and attempting to use it in a new way.”
In relation to the future of the European Union, Higgins stressed the need “to make a new moment for political economy [...], to unmask the ideologically-driven suggestion that there are no alternatives to the present model of economic thought and its assumptions that markets, not the State, should define citizen’s welfare, security or life chances. […]Accompanying this economic challenge of a change of theory and the policy it produces, is a political challenge – the need to consider the political underpinning of Europe. The future of Europe cannot be a limited conversation between the strongest”.
Higgins also placed an emphasis on two areas where progress can quickly be made with significant and immediate benefits for the EU: the role that culture can play in both shaping and securing the Europe of the future, through programmes encouraging the greater circulation of academic and artistic work around Europe, and the role of young people, via programmes such as Erasmus. Closing his speech, Higgins expressed his belief that the peoples of Europe need an “appropriate shared language, of ideals and practice”, in order to ensure a viable common future.
Watch the video of President Micael D. Higgins' lecture:
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Ιn his interview to Evi Papadosifaki for Athens News Agency, Christos Staikos stressed that, “the stronger the sense of political and economic stability becomes, along with the promotion of the country’s comparative advantages and the certainty of exit from the financial adjustment programme with a debt reduction, the more positive messages we receive from the international environment.”
I.L.According to Staikos, 2017 has been an excellent year in regards to the extroversion of the Greek economy: a historical record-year in exports and the best performance of the decade in terms of foreign direct investment. The Greek industries that combine both comparative advantages of the country and international investment mobility are, among others: agri-food, new technologies, tourism and real estate, renewable energies, health sciences, environmental technologies, supply chain, intra-group services, creative and cultural industries.
Staikos acknowleges that obsiously entrepreneurs want a clearer framework, "and to this end, in recent years, substantial reforms and actions have been made, or are under way. For example, institutional changes simplifying the licensing process in the manufacturing sector, not limited to easing and speeding up procedures, but with more ambitious aims, such as to completely reform the chaotic framework for industrial parks. Another significant reform is the framework of land use with the configuration of forest maps and cadastre".
Christos Staikos added that Enterprise Greece is also implementing a more efficient programme to enhance the extroversion of Greek enterprises in productive sectors of the economy: "the shaping of foreign trade policy, in both macroeconomic and microeconomic terms requires, among other things, systematic information and documentation for strategic decision-making, as well as for implementing, updating and monitoring an integrated Operational Action Plan to support exports. At present, information is fragmented and heterogenous; we are planning to develop a central tool and reference point that will provide helpdesk services to support Greek enterprises with export market entry."
A phrase one comes across when browsing through the organization's website is "Invest in Greece". Given that there is an increase in both foreign direct investment and exports, what is the feedback you receive from your talks with potential investors? In which areas does Enterprise Greece expect investment interest to focus on this year, and what actions are in the pipeline for 2018?
According to an international survey regarding Nation Brands, Greece is constantly gaining credibility, registering a significant 41% increase over the previous year. After a few difficult years, a number of positive facts and economic indicators confirm that the Greek economy is recovering and entering a new, optimistic and promising period that we must work to transform into stable, sustainable and equitable growth.
When it comes to 2017 especially, it’s been an excellent year as regards the extroversion of the Greek economy: a historical record-year in exports and the best performance of the decade in terms of foreign direct investment. Specifically, we had an increase of 7.1% as compared to 2016, reaching € 19.98 billion, and an increase of 13.2% and € 28.83 billion including petroleum products. At the same time, net foreign direct investment rose to 3.6 billion euros, an increase of 29.4% compared to 2016.
Τhe stronger the sense of political and economic stability becomes, along with the promotion of the country’s comparative advantages and the certainty of exit from the financial adjustment programme with a debt reduction, the more positive messages we receive from the international environment.
The aim of Enterprise Greece is to make the most of this positive momentum and to attract even more dynamically the interest of the international investment community in Greece. As for 2018, we plan to hold several events at home and abroad, in cooperation with the competent ministries and institutions, to attract new investments.
In the context of the new development strategy as well as the systematic study of Greek economic areas and their prospects, the industries that combine both comparative advantages of the country and international investment mobility are, among others: agri-food, new technologies, tourism and real estate, renewable energies, health sciences, environmental technologies, supply chain, intra-group services, creative and cultural industries. For example, the export-oriented manufacturing sector is constantly gaining ground, capitalizing on the country's strategic position and quality products, as reflected in a recent foreign investment of 30 million euros in a Greek food company.
The key demand of entrepreneurs is to reduce disincentives and bureaucracy. What are prospective investors asking from you? How many requests is the organization currently handling? Which sectors of the economy and what size investments do these requests involve?
It is obvious that we all want a clearer framework, and to this end, in recent years, sand to this end, in recent years, substantial reforms and actions have been made, or are under way. For example, institutional changes simplifying the licensing process in the manufacturing sector not limited to easing and speeding up procedures, but with more ambitious aims, such as to completely reform of the chaotic framework for industrial parks. Another significant reform is the framework of land use with the configuration of forest maps and cadastre. Steps have been made, with more on the way, relating to the reform of the strategic investments framework (simplification of procedures, expansion of productive activities, etc.).
As part of the aforementioned actions and in combination with financial instruments such as the NSRF (National Strategic Reference Framework) and the developmental law, which are but a sample of what is taking place for the improvement of the investment environment in Greece, we are striving to strengthen our work in two ways: a) through information on key issues such as location, authorization procedures, available investment incentives and financing tools, and b) through offering support when delays, difficulties, obstacles or other problems are faced by investors, mainly in licensing issues. In this context, we expect to upgrade the "Investor's Ombudsman" Agency, which operates under certain conditions and deals with investment projects worth over 2 million euros. By 2017, the organization handled some 50 such cases relating to tourism, energy, food and beverages, shipping, chemicals, technology and industry, the majority of which were successfully resolved.
What do the 2017 data show? Has the number of companies that took part in promotional and advancement activities for Greek products and services increased, and which industry programmes will continue in 2018?
With the improvement of the operation and infrastructure of the organization constantly in mind, we are implementing a more efficient and representative programme to enhance the extroversion of Greek enterprises in productive sectors of the economy, hoping to increase their participation in our actions, which was actually the case in 2017, as about 1,000 companies took part.
In 2018, we are planning to participate in 54 exhibitions (up 20% over 2017), boosting pre and post marketing activities in 10 industries (food and beverages, agricultural products, technology and IT, agricultural equipment and supplies, cosmetics and beauty products, building materials, industrial and marine equipment, hotel and restaurant equipment, interior decoration, clothing) in 23 countries in Europe, Middle East, Africa, Asia and USA.
At the same time, we are expanding our affiliations abroad with industry partnerships, buyer and importer invitations, targeted B2B meetings, in-store promotions and we are amplifying the exporter information programme. Additionally, we are continuing the promotion of Greek wine in target markets (Japan, South Korea, China, USA, Canada) and we are implementing a comprehensive programme to strengthen the brand of our agri-food sector.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is in the process of creating an extroversion portal, combined with an upgraded help desk. What will these tools offer to the Greek entrepreneur, especially small-medium enterprises that have not yet ventured to seek their share in international markets, as well as to foreign investors?
The shaping of foreign trade policy, in both macroeconomic and microeconomic terms requires, among other things, systematic information and documentation for strategic decision-making, as well as for implementing, updating and monitoring an integrated Operational Action Plan to support exports. At present, information is fragmented and heterogenous; it is thus necessary, as in other countries, to develop a central tool and reference point that will provide helpdesk services to support Greek enterprises with exports.
This project can contribute to the Operational Action Plan for enhancing the competitiveness and extroversion of Greek companies through targeted support for businesses that have the characteristics required for export market entry.
It is obvious that this Plan will facilitate Greek companies, especially small and medium-sized businesses, which need information and training. In this context, Enterprise Greece, in cooperation with the chambers of commerce of the country and other organizations, organized in 2017 some 30 training seminars around Greece on the subject of "Creation of exportable products and export procedures". with the aim is to activate businesses by presenting them with the perspectives and tools for exporting. The seminares were attended by 1,148 executives of mainly small and medium-sized businesses.
I.L. & Μ.Η.
Delphi Economic Forum III was successfully completed on Sunday, March 4, 2018, after four days of sessions. The forum, organized under the auspices of the President of the Hellenic Republic Prokopios Pavlopoulos and with the partnership of many Greek and international businesses, took place on March 1-4 at the European Cultural Centre of Delphi and brought together more than 400 speakers and over 1000 delegates from the field of business, economics, politics and science, from across the globe , who discussed a great number of topics concerning the economic future of Greece and the EU, in 55 different sessions.
Delphi Economic Forum is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization founded by a group of Greek businessmen, law experts and researchers and working in close cooperation with civil society, public organizations, businesses and individuals. It engages business, political, academic, and other top experts in an effort to address emerging challenges, influence the national and regional agendas and promote sustainable and socially responsible growth policies for Greece, Europe and the wider Eastern Mediterranean region.
This year, the event’s focus was on “New Globalization and Growth Challenges”, with an emphasis on the macroeconomic prospects of EU’s economic policy, the future of the Monetary Union from the perspective of financial stability but also the banking system and the issue of non-performing loans. Speakers included Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, Bulgaria's Prime Minister and President-in-Office of the EU, Boyko Borissov, NATO Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller, European Commissioners Dimitris Avramopoulos and Christos Stylianidis, European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas, Deputy Prime Minister and Economy and Development Minister Yannis Dragasakis, President of the European Investment Bank Werner Hoyer, European Stability Mechanism chief Klaus Regling and many more EU officials, ministers, academics and analysts.
The opening statement for the Forum was given by Danièle Nouy, Chair of the Supervisory Board at the European Central Bank, who commented on the current state of European banking sector and opportunities to improve profitability, while was officially declared with an inaugural address by President of the Hellenic Republic, while the official ceremony that followed later featured keynote speeches by Prokopios Pavlopoulos, Boyko Borissov and Dimitris Avramopoulos. On the same day, Martin Wolf of the Financial Times (UK) interviewed Leader of the Opposition Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who stressed the importance of prioritizing investments.
On the second day, a number of sessions addressed matters such as the fourth Industrial Revolution, European structural reform and the West’s relations with Russia. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras gave a keynote speech, stating that Greece has enhanced its potential to attract investors. The Forum’s third day featured sessions analyzing subjects such as the future of Media in the times of “fake news”, populism, political polarization in Greece, entrepreneurship and innovation, and the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development’s Report for the current economic year. Emphasis was also given on Greek tourism and a national plan for the rehabilitation of the country.
On the last days, the issues of migration policies and sustainable debt strategy were discussed, as well as the remaining challenges for a full restoration of Greece’s position in the Eurozone. In his address, Declan Costello, EU Mission Chief for Greece’s 3rd Economic Adjustment Program, acknowledged the progress made by Greece, and posed the question of a sustainable economic rebound in the middle to long term, while ESM’s Klaus Regling stressed the importance of prioritizing growth and the continuation of reforms.
Minister of Digital Policy, Telecommunications and Information Nikos Pappas spoke with the European Progressive Forum about the TV licensing process in Greece, the Novartis scandal, fake news and Greece's online media registry, the government's goals for the post-memorandum era as well as Europe's need for "progressive alliances against the darkness of the exteme right and the opportunism of the markets". Referring to social and political developments in Greece and Europe, minister Pappas posits the question: "Will social democracy remain an ally of the conservative right or will it contribute to this progressive effort? The left is ready. But what about social democracy?"
After three years of multiple burdens from different factors, TV licensing process in Greece is moving on. How difficult is to put an end to anomy in the media landscape?
Vested interests have fought hard against SYRIZA government from the very fist day in office, in order to block any effort to set specific rules in the media landscape after 30 years of anomy. We have worked against the odds, and now we can be certain that we are in the final process of getting rid of a toxic environment that the previous governments in Greece had let thrive enormously.Setting rules in the media landscape was one of our core policy pillars during our electoral campaign back in early 2015, and we stick to this commitment To that end, and to achieve our goals, we also had the valuable contribution from the National Council for Radio and Television (NCRTV).I have to admit that introducing a binding legal framework in the media landscape was something really demanding, but we also realized that our will and determination were stronger and we finally overcame these barriers. There is no more room for Greece to maintain a system that downsizes the importance of rules and procedures, and this is what we have to address in all aspects of our policy, like for instance in the labor rights.The TV licenses tender, that took place in late 2016, shown the real value of the TV product and turned down all those who believed that these licenses would be easily granted on the starting price. It also proved the limits of the domestic market in terms of the number of licenses: 7 licenses were auctioned, and we received 6 offers. This is important not only because we measured the limits and capacity of our market, but also because we proved that the previous governments did absolutely nothing on that field - and they did nothing on purpose.
Thus, our goal to regulate the market, make media entrepreneurs pay the price, and secure the labor rights of the employees was achieved.It is our government that managed to stop expansive deregulation in the media, against the will of our political opponents, securing also that each TV station will have at least 400 employees in its payroll. Its is also important to note that the tender also serves in the strengthening of media pluralism, abiding by the relevant constitutional provision, while at the same time the NCRTV is fully authorised to proceed to the licensing process. Last but not least, we have dealt with a vast corrupted network and cut illicit relations between media and political parties, i.e. relations that have significantly lowered trust of citizens vis-à-vis the media system.
The Novartis scandal has international dimensions, but in Greece the front opposition party of ND and a part of PASOK consider it a 'government's plot'. What is your opinion on that?
Novartis scandal is indeed a global scandal, and this is something we have observed in other countries as well, like Turkey, the United States, China and India. In Greece, ND pretends to see something different, a well-organized plot, orchestrated by PM Tsipras and FBI. It goes without saying that this huge scandal is real, and its impact on the bankruptcy of our economy is immense, even if the opposition denies to see the truth. Someone could expect that the political forces that have ruled Greece over the last 40 years would have the courage to assume the political responsibility of this scandal. Nonetheless, in a last plenary of the Greek Parliament on that matter, these parties did not even refer to the fact that such scandals in the pharmaceutical and health sector have left 2,5 million people without health insurance, completely deprived from free access to primary health sector.SYRIZA government cannot hide Novartis scandal nor avoid shedding light on the immense responsibilities of the political personnel that was involved on that. We have to do our best, in the context of our power, to increase transparency and empower social justice. We are in the middle of the investigation and we are determined to abide by the judicial procedures, showing our firm support to the inquiry committee of the Parliament that is about to examine the political responsibility of the former Heath Ministers and Prime Ministers involved in the scandal.
The frequency of fake news is rising daily, both in Greece and abroad. Is it feasible to control and criminalize this phenomenon effectively, through a legislative initiative?
As early as 1988, Chomsky and Herman wrote about the construction of consensus and the way in which US media formed and monopolized public opinion. Today anyone can say anything and this can be spread everywhere. There are many recent surveys that prove that people are watching and reading news that better fit their interests, beliefs and feelings.It is no coincidence that the editorial team of the Oxford British Dictionary chose "post-truth" as the word of the year for 2016. A term that concerns the public debate as a whole and serves a specific agenda - i.e. the so-called Pirandello's agenda "it is like that, if this is what you think."Especially in Greece, during the last three years, fake news have been following the same route. They appear in social media, then in the websites, ending up in the TV news.
Meanwhile, in the European Union, Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, Mariya Gabriel, who visited Athens few months ago and congratulated us on our action, has taken the initiative to fight fake news by setting up a group of experts to deal with them. A public consultation on this issue is underway, and a comprehensive law on the dissemination of fake news is also being discussed. We have already proceeded to set up the online media registry.For the first time, transparent and structured accountability is attempted, as suspicious or blurred ownership status websites are excluded from state advertising. So far, more than thousand sites have been registered to the emedia.media.gov.gr. We are already in talks with Google and Facebook, and our country will be the second on in EU, after Italy, where a full-scaled, public awareness campaign will be launched to address false news.
In addition, a working group with the Justice Minister has been already set up and a bill is being considered to tackle the crime stemming from hate speech and the misappropriation of false news. We are in contact with the European Union and we are in a position and readiness not only to implement a European directive, but also to co-design it on the basis of the material we have collected so far.While pages that control the accuracy of events are emerging across the European Union, it is clear that in Greece we are significantly behind this and the existing pages are not enough. And how they can be adequate when opposition parties reproduce - intentionally or not - fake news?
Indicatively, one of the two vice-presidents of ND party has even invoked news from a humorous website that wanted the then Minister of Education Nikos Filis to abolish the vowels from the Greek language...Fake news are not only reproduced by politicians, but also by media channels. A nationwide channel news bulletin showed a graphic that had been turned over to prove that during SYRIZA governance recession has been increased, while the truth is that there was growth. I showed this upside-down chart at the Global Progress Forum in Canada where I participated in a panel on "Democracy for the Digital Age," along with Arianna Huffington, founder of Huffington Post, Reid Hoffman, co-founder of Linkedin and Steve Huffman, social networking consultant at Reddit, and they really laughed at the "inventiveness" of the TV channel.
The online media registry is therefore a first step towards accountability and transparency. Not because we want to control journalism or its content. We believe that we need a kind of journalism that does not serve vested interests, but it functions as a democratic tool to control powers. Our goal now, after its success, is to encourage, and I stress, to encourage Internet publishers, to control the content themselves and to suggest possible violations. Journalists themselves, in line with the major European initiatives, such as the French CrossCheck Platform, detect fake news and alert citizens and the state.We are also discussing a unified portal beyond the free software we already provide to registrants to cope with the copying of unauthorized content that will help to cross-check the events.In the age of post-truth, journalism becomes valuable. And it is up to us all to support it so that it can fulfill its social role. And we do this in a coordinated and coherent way.
In August 2018 Greece officially exits bailout programs. What are the main goals of the government for the post-memorandum era?
The exhaustive negotiations with the institutions end in August 2018. As they ended - let's not forget - January 2015 the raids of arrogant technocrats at the ministerial offices in Athens. After August there will be more space to implement our own-crafted policy. Our policy goals will be achieved, and we will succeed to win our "battles" - the ones that we have managed to win even within the context of the third program.For the first time, a program is being completed without new measures, interest rates are at historically low levels and the economy is recovering, as shown by specific figures: 2% growth, 6% unemployment reduction, 320,000 new job creation, and more.Regulated budgets, growth dynamics, and the European "umbrella" that we achieved to effectuate on debt relief, create a climate of confidence, cutting interest rates despite the fact that specific group interests want to undermine this smooth course. After August 2018, we will not be automatically transferred to the "Promised Land", but we will be able to walk more freely on our own path and contribute even more to the debate on the future of Europe. Exiting the memoranda will provide more "room" for policy-making. And the benefits of enhancing education, upgrading health and providing access to everyone, I have to tell you that such issues have been already dealt efficiently within the current program.At the same time, we are building a new state, free from clientelistic practices. Even before the program is over, we are proceeding with actions that bear the signature of the Left, something we have been already implementing since 2015.Now we are planning the post-memorandum era.
The regional conferences for the productive reconstruction of the domestic economy that have been held so far and those that follow are not part of a show. The proposals tabled by the local actors, the people who know and identify the needs of each region, are willing to participate to the plan for the next day. The composition of this new project includes the voice of every citizen. And this project concerns every citizen. For us, no one is and should be left aside. And our own plan of successive reforms will be the one that sets a new era for Greece.
How do you see the course and the future of Europe?
It is now imperative to overcome the political, social and institutional deficit in European economies and societies. The same must be done at institutional level as we are in danger of witnessing again the most horrible moments of the continent and the revival of new nationalisms.Politics must be out at the core of the debate to avoid Austria-like phenomena, i.e. a more sophisticated version of neoliberal absolutism without social reflexes.Progressive forces must live up to the ongoing challenges in order to bring about a social Europe. Europe needs to show that has learned from the mistakes of the past. Here lie the responsibilities of social democracy, which has been removed from the left and therefore plunged into the greatest crisis since its birth.In recent decades, social democracy has been attached to a neo-liberal consensus that is reflected in country-specific policies. From the deregulation of labor relations, the shrinking of social state and the over-indebtedness of the public and private sectors, to the rules and conditions of the Stability and Growth Pact - all these developments have led to this giant financial crisis for the EU economies and have nourished stong anti-establishment feelings.The debate about the future of Europe has opened, and there is also a productive critique, not only from the left. The strategic choice of deregulation, to which - unfortunately - social democrats have agreed to cancel their own post-war legacy, is now questioned by a large part of this progressive political spectrum.
The social state, the powerful unions, the mass parties and the political freedoms, all those projects had brought social democracy to a hegemonic power.We do not raise our finger to social democracy, but we call for a big alliance with the left, the greens and other progressive movements. An alliance that will fight for the European unemployment benefit, for an increased EU budget or for a joint European Finance Minister and Minister for Social Affairs.An alliance that will strengthen the European Parliament, that will rise its stature and will not leave the member-states alone, to the speculative 'appetites' of vested interests that do not want a European solution on public debt issue.Europe can only survive with progressive alliances against the dark-right-wing politics and the opportunist markets. Societies are moving forward, the question is whether social democracy will remain an ally of the conservative right or contribute to this effort. The left is ready. But what about the social democracy?
Read also via Greek News Agenda: Progressive Europe needs great alliances to block the road to isolationism
More than 2 million displaced people have arrived on Europe's shores since 2015, with many of them entering through Greece. At the same time, most tech executives agree that there's a shortage of talented software engineers and programmers, predicting that the problem will become more pressing over the next few years. Taking these facts into account, some initiatives have risen, aiming to make the best use of the available workforce while at the same time helping people in need to make a new start. This is how groups like Social Hackers Academy and Revive Greece have come into existence.
Social Hackers Academy is a non-profit organisation based in Athens, Greece, with the mission to educate refugees and vulnerable groups, help them find work and become integrated within their new environment. REvive Greece is also an NPO with a mission to help refugees and migrants integrate into the receiving countries by teaching them computer programming and connecting them with young European entrepreneurs.
SHA are financially supported by Greek venture capitalists and have also received money through a crowdfunding campaign. Its activities are held in two locations, in Athens and Crete. The Athens department is hosted at the BIOS Romantso Incubator, a hub offering office spaces for rent and a variety of services, targeted to start-up companies within the creative industry.
Revive Greece also operates within this field, focusing primarily on distance education, via the e-Learning platform Match & Teach Me for Integration. In order for someone to attend the course, apart from basic English knowledge, access to a smartphone is a prerequisite. The organisation converts these devices into “micro-computers”, with the use of some essential equipment provided for free. They use a combination of recorded video courses and real-time interaction with mentors through web chat, and the course lasts for six months. In fact, thanks to this e-Learning platform, REvive Greece was among the 5 winners of the 2017 Civil Society Prize, awarded by the European Economic and Social Committee.
They have also set up Code Camp, a brick-and-mortar coding school which both uses and complements the e-Learning platform. Experienced educators and software engineers volunteer as teachers, and each student is also provided with a laptop to use in class, and are trained under real conditions. Mentors can also offer assistance through web conference when a problem occurs.
Read more via Greek News Agenda: Refugees in Greece: Integration efforts, remaining challenges; Rethinking Greece: Lina Venturas on Greek migration, population movements and integration policies for refugees; Health care and children’s education are Greece's priorities for refugees; Online language classes for asylum seekers on Lesvos
US-based electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla Inc, owned by Elon Musk, who also owns aerospace company Space X, has set up ‘Tesla Greece’, a local research and development subsidiary located in Athens. Tesla’s engineering and design teams are primarily based in the US, but the company has been expanding internationally over the last few years with teams in the UK and Germany, and now in Greece, where they will based in Lefkippos technological park, on the grounds of Demokritos National Center for Scientific Research (N.C.S.R. “Demokritos”).
‘Tesla Greece’ will start as a small research team of ten specialist engineers, who will focus on developing electric motor technology. N.C.S.R. Demokritos issued a statement welcoming Tesla to its installations, expressing their “satisfaction that a global innovation giant like Tesla has chosen Demokritos as a base for one of its top research departments, that of designing electric engines. We are very happy to receive all the talented Greek engineers who will return to work beside us.”
Three of Tesla’s top electric motor designers, Principal Motor Designer Konstantinos Laskaris, Motor Design Engineer Konstantinos Bourchas, and Staff Motor Design Engineer Vasilis Papanikolaou, all came out of the National Technical University of Athens. Tech news site electrek reports that the company is opening an office in the Greek capital in order to tap even more into local engineering talent; a Tesla spokesperson said that “Greece has strong electric motor engineering talent and technical universities, offering tailored programs and specialized skills for electric motor technology.”
Alternate minister for Research and Technology Costas Fotakis stated that the establishment of Tesla Greece is marking the beginning of a new type of investment in the country, falling in with the objective of the Education ministry to attract high-tech R&D companies in Greece. The minister added that this is a tangible sign of confidence in the country's development effort, and -as Tesla executives have themselves pointed out- in the country’s exceptional scientific workforce. “We are talking about engineers and technicians that graduated from Greek public universities”, the minister said.
Fotakis added that the establishment of a Tesla Research & Development Department in Greece is followed by the return of Greek scientists working for Tesla Inc., while also opening up prospects for Greek scientists who live here. Moreover, the minister concluded, Tesla Greece is expected act as a catalyst for other investment initiatives in high technology sectors, even at the production level; it has already prompted other innovative companies to relocate at Lefkippos technological park.
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