Dimitris Mytaras, one of the most famous Greek painters of the 20th century, who passed away last year, is the subject of this summer’s temporary exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art of the Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation, on the Cycladic island of Andros. The exhibition, titled “Dimitris Mytaras, From the contemporary to the timeless”, is a tribute to the multifaceted, unique talent of the painter, whose work has met with wide acclaim, and will run until September 30, 2018.
Mytaras was born in 1934 in Chalkida, on the island of Evia. He studied painting at the Athens School of Fine Arts (ASFA) from 1953 to1957, under Yiannis Moralis and Spyros Papaloukas, and continued his studies in Paris (stage design and interior decoration at the École Nationale des Arts Decoratifs and the École des Arts et Métiers). His early paintings belong to critical realism, featuring the use of photographic documents and a political narrative. He later shifted towards abstraction, using expressionistic elements and vivid colours, leading to his most famous, largely anthropocentric creative period. He taught interior design at the Athens Technological Institute (1964-72) and in 1969 he began to teach painting at the ASFA, where he became professor in 1977 and dean from 1982 to 1985.
The main trait in Dimitris Mytaras’ works is the coexistence of contradictory elements, skillfully intertwined to create the paradox which characterised his artistic course. Poetry is expressed alongside violence, lyricism together with brutality, pleasure with coarseness. His creations are complex and original, genuine and ever evolving throughout his career; he served his art with absolute dedication, exploring and exposing with subjectivity and singularity the way he perceived the world around him.
The presentation also tries to highlight Mytaras’ other talents; apart from a distinguished and widely recognised painter, he was also a poet, an essayist, an illustrator , a graphic and interior designer, an acclaimed set and costume designer who worked on famous theatrical productions, and a charismatic teacher. The exhibition is based on research through the artist’s extensive archive, bringing to light unknown details of his life and career; it is complimented by the publication of a 284-page, bilingual catalogue.
The structure of the exhibition follows the course of Mytaras’ career, beginning with his early period, which is already marked by impressive maturity. It then focuses on two themes which were prevalent in his works from the beginning of the 1960s until his death: mirrors and portraits. The next section is dedicated to the impact that the imposition of the military junta in Greece had on work. The depiction of violence remains frequent in his paintings, while female figures gradually became more dominant, ultimately becoming his most recognisable theme and establishing his repute. The visitor also has the opportunity to discover Mytaras’ works for theatrical productions, a career spanning over 40 years.
Read also via Greek News Agenda: Athens School of Fine Arts celebrates 180 years; Arts in Greece | Denys Zacharopoulos: A museum should function as an open window between the private and the public life of people; Panos Charalambous on the 180 year history of Athens School of Fine Arts
Τhe Hellenic Foundation for Research and Innovation (HFRI) report on research funding indicates that the flight of Greek human capital abroad, i.e. 'brain drain', is showing signs of containment. According to the reported data, in less than two years, HFRI funding for scientific research amounted to 112.5 million euros, of which 34 million euros were destined for post-doctoral research projects -as part of an action carried out with the contribution of the General Secretariat of Research and Technology, in which 192 research proposals of high quality and originality received funding and are proceeding to the implementation phase. A total of 1,671 proposals were submitted by Greek post-doc researchers in a variety of scientific fields, with Life Sciences and Engineering and Technology Sciences combining the largest number of proposals.
An innovative feature of this research funding action is that the post-doctoral researchers that receive funding will themselves be scientifically responsible for implementing their project, and what is more, at a University or Reaserch Center of their choosing. This element proved to be particularly attractive and effective in containing the brain drain phenomenon: of the 192 research proposals included in the action, 37 came from Greek post-doctoral students that were studying abroad, accounting for 20% of the total. These students are are now able to return and to produce their research results in Greek Universities and Research Centers. This seemingly small number is actually very important, given that it involves highly qualified scientists who are ready to return to the country and, in addition, engage their research teams and other young scientists at various levels in Greek institutions. It must be noted that among the post-doc researchers that chose to return to Greece, many came from internationally renowned universities such as MIT (USA), Oxford University (UK), Copenhagen University (Denmark), Cambridge (UK) and University Paris 6 (France).
The HFRI is continuing its work by planning its next action regarding the second call for proposals for research projects to support post-graduate researchers with a budget of 16.580.000 euros, expected before the end of 2018.
Deputy Minister for Education and Research and Costas Fotakis said:
"I am pleased to see that what we envisioned from the first moment of establishing the Hellenic Foundation for Research and Innovation has begun to become a reality. Through the possibilities offered by our Foundation, new dynamic career prospects are opened to young Greek scientists. These exceptional post-doctoral students, who, with their high-quality proposals, applied and succeeded in receiving funding from HFRI will enrich the scientific staff of the Universities and the Research Centers of the country. The resources we have secured, while in a deep crisis in 2015 and overcoming many obstacles and resistance, are bearing fruit and are creating prospects and better conditions so that we can, along with our young scientists, shape the country's development model in the post-memorandum period."
The International Hellenic University (IHU) is Greece's first public university where programmes are exclusively taught in English. It is financed by the European Union and the Greek State, and specialises in postgraduate programmes aimed at international students who are interested in studying in Greece but also at Greek students seeking an international outlook. IHU offers an international environment that facilitates the exchange of ideas and interaction among people of different cultural backgrounds and, as a public University, all degrees awarded are accredited by the Hellenic Government and are recognised in the European Union and internationally.
The university is divided into three graduate schools, Economics, Business Administration and Legal Studies, Humanities and Science & Technology, offering 19 different postgraduate degrees. Programmes have a one-year duration for full-time students, or two-year duration for part-time students, with a number of programmes are in Executive mode (lessons from Friday midday – Sunday). It also has strong links with the business community, giving students the opportunity to find vacancies and internships, create a networking community and build the foundations for a successful career. In addition to the above, IHU offers a variety of Lifelong Learning Programmes.
IHU is situated in Thessaloniki, the country’s second largest city, and offers stat-of-the-art facilities in its premises, including a well-equiped library, modern classrooms and a large campus. It operates on a rolling admissions basis, meaning that candidates can apply for and be admitted to the programmes all year round. IHU already attracts a strong international academic faculty and outstanding students from countries as diverse as Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cameroon, FYROM, Georgia, Greece, Lithuania, Mexico, Moldova, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Sudan, Turkey, Ukraine and the USA. Students with exceptional prospective have the opportunity to receive full scholarships, and are also eligible of a number of other external funding programmes.
On the occasion of the International Hellenic University’s 10-year anniversary, its President, Professor Costas Th. Grammenos CBE, DSc, writes: “Our central target from the first instant has been academic excellence. How to achieve this was and is the major task and challenge as it involves the human element. How to recruit those with the greatest potential; to motivate them; to inspire them. Not only the academics but the administrators and professionals, who should work with dedication and harmony towards excellence, each in his or her own capacity. I believe we have achieved a lot in this respect.”
“Those elements, however, are only part of the equation. Another lively part of the equation are the students, our partners in the knowledge process. We have been privileged to recruit very promising students from thirty-eight countries, who have become very able graduates of the university. We are now in a good position to expand the numbers of international students coming from outside Greece and this is one of our immediate goals.”
Read more about IHU via Greek news Agenda: International Hellenic University offers 20 Postgraduate Programmes in English; Master´s in Orthodox Ecumenical Theology; Executive MBA @ International Hellenic University; Study Archaeology in Greece: English-taught Undergraduate and Postgraduate Courses
Read more about studies in Greece via Greek news Agenda: International Master's Programmes taught in English; University of Athens Online Courses on Nanotechnology and Nanomedicine; University of the Aegean Summer Schools: A sunny learning experience!
The European Innovation Scoreboard provides a comparative analysis of innovation performance in EU countries, other European countries, and regional neighbours. It assesses relative strengths and weaknesses of national innovation systems and helps countries identify areas they need to address. Greece’s results in the report are cause for optimism, especially with regard to small and medium-sized businesses.
The 2018 edition of the European Innovation Scoreboard, released on June 22, 2018, highlights that the EU's innovation performance continues to improve, that progress is accelerating, and that the outlook is positive. Since 2010, the EU's average innovation performance has increased by 5.8 percentage points, and it is expected to improve by an additional 6 percentage points over the next 2 years. The EU continues to improve its position relative to the United States, Japan, and Canada. However, China is catching up at three times the EU's innovation performance growth rate.
Within the EU, innovation performance increased in 18 countries and decreased in 10 countries since 2010. Sweden remains the EU innovation leader, followed by Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, the UK, and Luxembourg. Lithuania, the Netherlands, Malta, the UK, Latvia, and France are the fastest growing innovators.
Greece's Innovation performance
According to the data, Greece is a moderate innovator, which means that, over time, performance has remained the same relative to that of EU in 2010, in spite of the extensive financial challenges faced by both the country’s public and private sectors. Innovators, Linkages and Attractive research systems are the country’s strongest innovation dimensions: This applies predominantly to Greek small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with product or process innovations, SMEs with marketing or organizational innovations, SMEs innovating in-house and innovative SMEs collaborating with others; on these key indicators, Greece vastly outperforms the EU average. Greece also outperforms the EU average regarding the percentage of population with tertiary education.
Provisional Customs Information System 2016 data shows improved performance for all six indicators
Iannis Xenakis was a Greek-French architect, mathematician and one of the 20th century’s most influential European composers. He applied his studies and research in mathematics, statistics, physics, architecture and philosophy into his compositional works, originating stochastic music. The Greek National Opera’s Alternative Stage pays tribute to this seminal figure of experimental music, presenting the Greek premiere of his work The Bacchae in the form of a theatric play.
Xenakis was born in 1922 in Brăila, Romania, to wealthy Greek parents. After losing his mother at a young age, he grew up under the care of governesses and, at ten, was sent to a boarding school on the island of Spetses, Greece, where he also received a musical education. One day, in the assembly room, he heard Beethoven's Fifth Symphony playing on the radio and, in his own words, it “which struck [him] like an apocalypse”, marking the beginning of his passion with music. After graduation, he moved to Athens and entered the National Technical University of Athens, to study architecture and engineering. His studies were repeatedly disrupted by the Greco-Italian War of 1940 and the ensuing dramatic events; he managed however to obtain a degree in civil engineering in 1947.
Xenakis joined the National Liberation Front early during the war, and became part of the armed resistance during the Nazi occupation. As a member of the student battalion of the Greek People's Liberation Army (ELAS), he took part in the extensive conflicts that broke up after the British forces and the Greek government ordered the unilateral disarmament of ELAS (Dekemvriana); a shrapnelwound from a tank blast left him disfigured and blind in the left eye. In 1946, the Greek Civil War broke out; in 1947, communists were largely persecuted and sent to prison islands. Fearing for his fate, Xenakis fled to Italy and then France.
Once in Paris, Xenakis was able to get a job at the studio the iconic modernist architect Le Corbusier; an engineering assistant at first, he eventually collaborated with him personally on important commissions. In tandem, he studied harmony and counterpoint and he composed, seeking guidance from a number of established musicians, only to be rejected or disappointed, until his meeting with major avant-garde composer Olivier Messiaen, who saw in him outstanding intelligence, and encouraged him to use his Greek heritage and his knowledge of mathematics and architecture in his music.
In 1953, he married French novelist Françoise Xenakis (née Gargouïl), and in 1956 they had a daughter. Studying under Messiaen, and also familiarising himself with the techniques of serialism and musique concrète, Xenakis gradually developed his own, very personal style. He continued his work with Le Corbusier, with his musical creations inspiring as well as being inspired by his architectural projects. Such was the case of the Philips Pavilion, a structure (designed almost entirely by Xenakis for Expo '58) formed as a cluster of hyperbolic paraboloids in which music was spatialised by sound projectionists. The basis for its design was also used as the preliminary sketch for Metastaseis, considered his first major musical work.
By the late 50’s, Xenakis had started gaining widespread recognition, receiving awards and official musical commissions. In 1959, he left the architectural studio to concentrate on music, quickly becoming one of the most important European composers of his time. He became especially known for his musical research in the field of computer-assisted composition, founding the institute “Equipe de Mathématique et Automatique Musicales” in 1966. As a renowned artist, he also became a music professor, teaching and giving lectures in various institutions, as well as publishing a number of articles and essays on music. In 1999, he was awarded the Polar Music Prize in recognition of the entirety of his work. In 2001, Xenakis died after a long battle with chronic illness.
In his musical works, as well as his architectural projects, Xenakis applied mathematical constructs, such as using the theory of sets, symbolic logic, and probabilistic calculus – concepts which he also analysed in his written essays, especially the famous Formalized Music (1963). He was the one to introduce stochastic music, a technique for composing music with stochastic mathematical functions. He also devised a computer system called UPIC, which could translate graphical images into musical results. Xenakis’ unique approach to composition makes him an exceptional case, not easily accessible to vast audiences, yet deeply influencing those who appreciate his work’s power and unconventional beauty.
The Greek National Opera’s Alternative Stage, as part of its “Music Theatre Days” series, honours Iannis Xenakis, presenting the Greek premiere of his work The Bacchae (1993) in the form of a theatre play, under musical direction of Nicolas Vassiliou and the stage direction of Giannos Perlegas, with the participation of the Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation (ERT) Choir. The work, based on Euripides’ Bacchae, was commissioned by the Opera Factory in London, performed only once in 1993 and never recorded, probably due to the composer’s deteriorating health. Its performance is considered exceptionally demanding for both musicians and vocalists, making its staging a very challenging endeavour.
The official page on Iannis Xenakis life and work, constantly updated: http://www.iannis-xenakis.org/
Read also via Greek News Agenda: Composer Minas Borboudakis on his work in 21st-century classical music; Conductor Markellos Chryssicos on Baroque music and its dialogue with the Greek tradition; Nikos Skalkottas: an overlooked musical genius
N.M. (Photo: Ulf Andersen)
Founded in 2013, the Syros International Film Festival (SIFF) showcases a wide spectrum of cinema in traditional and re-purposed island sites. Taking place in the middle of the Aegean summer and removed from the usual demands and hierarchies of the film industry, the SIFF embeds events, styles and programs—experimental and narrative, recent and retrospective, Greek and international, workshops and expanded cinema performance—into its unique setting. The festival aims to welcome an array of cinematic experiences into this immersive dreamscape, allowing us to re-think the question of “What is cinema”.
The Syros International Film Festival returns for its sixth edition on Syros between the 17th and 22nd of July, embedding a series of immersive film events in six locations across the island.
This year’s theme “Is It Real?” invites the audience to an exploration of the construction of reality that runs the range of cinematic genres and forms.
SIFF screens across genre, time period and media: expanded film performances, live-scores, new experiments alongside silent classics, workshops with extraordinary filmmakers, special guests, and much more, all taking place in a unique cinematic environment.
The Manuscript, dir. Eva Stefani (2017)
The Syros International Film Festival, in collaboration with the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre (SNFCC) will organise a pre-festival event with a double feature of Eva Stefani’s short film Manuscript (2017) and William Greaves’ Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One (1968) on Sunday, July 8th, on the Great Lawn of the Stavros Niarchos Park.
The Festival schedule is structured in six daily units which explore the construction of reality, this year’s Festival theme. The first section, titled “The Unethical Narrator” includes “F for Fake” by Orson Welles (1973), a documentary about fraud and fakery.
Orson Welles, F for Fake (1973)
The second section, “Cinema and its double”, includes Harun Farocki’s film “Betrayed/ Betrogen” (1985) and a tribute to the late Nikos Panayiotopoulos with his first feature film “The colours of Iris” (1974), along with the first short film by Angelos Frantzis “Nineteen” (1995). The screening of “The colours of Iris” will be presented by directors Angelos Frantzis and Eva Stefani, who knew Nikos Panagiotopoulos personally.
“Cinemas of Intervention” is the title of the third section and this year’s artist in focus is Portuguese director Miguel Gomes who will present his own film “Our Beloved Month of August” (2008), as well as his chosen film “Rite of Spring” (1964) by Manoel De Oliveira.
The fifth section of the festival, “Mirage”, includes a discussion with artist in focus Miguel Gomes, as well as the De La Grazia Drive-In screening of “Picnic at Hanging Rock” by Peter Weir (1975), offering viewers the experience of an old time Drive-In Cinema.
Picnic at Hangning Rock, Peter Weir (1975)
All films are subtitled in English and workshops are conducted in the same language. Q&As will be in both English and Greek. The Festival’s closure “Collective Realities” section will conclude the rich program of screenings combined with not- to- miss side events and live performances which take place in the unique venues that the island of Syros offers.
Konstantinos Papadimitriou holds a degree in Law and has studies in Administrative Science and Pedagogy. He has worked as a special scientist to the Ombudsman (2000-2015), a Director of the National School of Public Administration (2015 -2017) and is now appointed as the Secretary General of the newly established ministry of Migration Policy. Papadimitriou spoke to Greek News Agenda* on the challenges of creating a ministry of Migration Policy in the midst of a migration-refugee crisis, on the main axes of Greece's immigration policy, on funding and NGOs, the future of migrant and refugee policy in the EU and finally, on the persisting challenge of reforming the Greek public administration.
The Ministry of Immigration Policy was created in 2016. What were the challenges of creating such a ministry in the middle of an unprecedented escalation in the refugee crisis?
The challenges were great and pressing, creating a new "public problem", so the Greek State did what it was supposed to do. It set up a new complex structure to address the multifaceted problem it faced in shaping and implementing appropriate public policy. The new structure established was on a ministry level, because this is the level of administration that affords the necessary autonomy to co-operate on an equal standing with numerous other players / actors in the field (EU, international organizations, foreign embassies, other Greek ministries, local authorities, NGOs, etc.) as well as the quick reflexes required by refugee flow management. The fact that this year's (2018) budget for the Ministry of Immigration Policy amounts to EUR 65 million, while that of the Ministry of the Interior, from which it originated, is under EUR 30 million and that its existing employees number 700 while there are 600 employees at the Interior Ministry, all demonstrate that choice to establised a ministry for immmigation was correct.
Can we talk about a national immigration policy?
Of course we can, and the main axes of the national immigration policy are referred to in broad lines in our ministry’s enactment law. Greece remains a state that, above all, respects and protects human dignity, and, in addition, has all the characteristics of a modern, open, liberal and democratic society. In practice, this means that we welcome all those who arrive to us as persectuted (either because of political persecution or poverty), we recognize them through identification procedures, we examine their applications / needs in an impartial way within the rule of law, and do what our own our institutions and values demand (protection of human dignity and fundamental rights, social-human solidarity, free development of personality, protection of public order and state security) in conjunction with our international obligations (granting asylum to those entitled to international protection, hosting a number of refugees-immigrants, etc.).At the same time, we are developing a special policy for the social integration of people who, in one way or another, have come to live in our country, so that their coexistence with Greek citizens be harmonious and mutually constructive.
In the whirl of managing the refugee issue, migration issues (residence permits, citizenship, social inclusion) have become of secondary importance. Is this now changing?
It was a necessary focus. However, efforts have already begun to balance the various public policies that constitute the mission of the ministry. Thus, a draft national strategy for the social integration of migrants legally residing in the country has already been drafted and is soon being streamlined for the necessary approvals and then for implementation.In the same vein, an electronic residence permit has already been instituted and implemented, while the further development of the ministry's administrative capacity, which is in progress, will allow us to further computerize / automate the system and expand it. While we currently have limited resources in computer systems (MIS) that are support by a small IT team, we soon expect to receive and install new IT systems for financial and personnel management that we have acquired as well and the recruitment of 10-15 employees with the corresponding skills.
We often see comments in the foreign press from European officials that, although Greece has received so much funding for refugees, the structures are significantly lacking. What would you answer to this?
The EU has indeed paid large sums of money to deal with refugees-migrants. However, these sums, provided mainly by theDirectorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (GD ECHO), have been channeled to the many organziations involved (UN High Commissioner for Migration, International Migration Organization - IOM, various NGOs, which are generally not known for their sound financial management…) and not only to Greek governement bodies. But among the latter, the most important resources have been given to the Ministry of National Defense, which has contributed and continues to make a decisive contribution to the effort, while resources have also been provided to the Ministries of the Interior (Citizens Protection) and Shipping. Already, with the extension of the competence of the Ministry of Immigration Policy and the assumption of an increasing share of responsibility, a more targeted and controlled funding of the relevant activities has been launched and promoted. Further developing the administrative capacity of the Ministry of Immigration Policy, the activities of which are subject to all the rules of sound financial management and economy-efficiency, is the best response to how well the Greek and European resources are being used.
Plenty of NGOs are active in helping refugees. Is there any control over the quality of the services they provide and the management of the money they receive from the state?
We have now overcome the initial stages (summer 2015-summer 2016), when anyone who could contribute arrived and started operating on the field, almost without any control. The newly organized Ministry (since October 2017) has set up and maintains an NGO Registry, which has registered about 50 organizations while several other applications are pending. Those not listed may not enter and operate within the reception / hosting centers. The upgrading of our Registry that is already underway provides the ability to evaluate and expel from it any NGOs that do not meet the specifications and the conditions under which they must act.
The resettlement policy has stalled in the EU, mainly due to reactions from Visegrád Group countries. With the recent election of populists in Italy, how do you see the future of migrant and refugee policy in Europe?
You are right in both your initial observation and apparent concern. Some Eastern European countries show a remarkable lack of solidarity but also a claustrophobic mindset that’s sadly reminiscent of the past. The humanity and ethos exemplified by the people of Greece during the 2015-16 refugee crisis did not seem to sway some governments (Hungary, Czech Republic, Austria), whilst lately Italy has also been showing similar negative trends laterly. What’s worse is that even in a powerful country like Germany, the issue of migrants and refugees appears to be dangerously undermining the stability of the government. In any case, problems of such complexity and sensitivity must be on the one hand tackled with tools of similar complexity and on the other by politicians with a high level of emotional intelligence. And while I am confident for the first, i.e. possessing the required tools both for analysing the problem as well as finding the ways and the resources to deal with it, I am not so certain about the second, which makes me sympathise with the concerns and wariness of many others involved with the issue. I hope, however, that in the end what will prevail in the EU will be values and not numbers, and that it will be fully understood that we are dealing with real people who have real problems at a specific point in time and do not merely constitute "refugee flows".
You have served as Director of the National School of Public Administration (2015-2017) and your doctoral dissertation concerns the organization of the state. How would you evaluate the changes that the adjustment programmes have brought to public administration? What are the most serious problems that remain?
The decades old -since the 1990s- request to rationalize the organization and operation of Public Administration, the so-called "Administrative Reform", after being mishandled for 15 years by previous governments (whether PASOK or ND or their coalitions) , after the loss of significant resources without considerable results, was further denigrated by way of its inclusion in the agenda of adjustment programmes. As such, the completely necessary Administrative Reform, thanks to the governments of the 2010-2015 period, was associated with redundancies, the abolition of departments and the general contraction of the state. As a consequence efforts made after 2015 have had enormous difficulty in being accepted.
In any case, the whole enterprise of Administrative Reform, instituted with Laws 4369/2016 and 4440/2017 has begun bearing fruit since the winter of 2017/2018, with the meritocratic selection of Directors-Generals and the setting on course for the equivalent selection of directors and heads of departments. During that same winter, new, more complete organizational charts were drawn up for the ministries, enhanced with detailed job descriptions that are digitally posted etc. We are also seeing employee mobility implemented for the first time in the public sector. However, the most crucial aspect of reforms in our country, namely the reduction of political influence over public administration and the emergence of competent technocrats at the top of the administrative hierarchy (i.e. the replacement of politically appointed secretaries-general by competent functionaries) has yet to be put in place, Thus we cannot yet talk of having achieved our main goal, which is changing existing mentalities.
Interview: Ioulia Livaditi; Tranlastion: Nicole Stellos, Magda Hatzopoulou
Lexikopoleio has recently released a new promotional video. It is an original, unpretentious and humorous work that reflects the personality of the bookstore and its owners, Odile Bréhier and Yannis Skoufis. With a strong international identity in all its books -in store and on-line- Lexikopoleio offers a wide range of monolingual, bilingual and multilingual dictionaries in Greek, English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Latin and Ancient Greek as well as in more diverse languages such as Basque, Georgian, Hebrew, Japanese and Tibetan on more or less every subject: the rain, statistics, the underworld, theatre, symbols, manga, and even dictionaries about dictionaries!
Lexikopoleio belongs to the kind of small independents (others would be Epi Lexei, Pleiades, Shakespirikon, Booktalks, Lexikopoleion, Mauve Skiouros, Booktique, et. al) that not only have they resisted but even thrived during the austerity years, betting on distinct quality books, literary events and readings and a credible service of orders which come out of personal contact. Lexikopoleio has been voted as one of the 10 best bookstores in Athens and it is indeed a cute bookshop where you can spend hours browsing the shelves. It is located in Pagrati, near the Panathenaic Stadium. During the last few years, the neighborhood has acquired new prestige. Still cosy but "cooler", it has witnessed the opening of new stylish bars and neo-tavernas that are attracting the city’s alternative youth. Not only does Lexikopoleio fit well to this urban environment but it also adds new value to it.
Lexikopoleio holds a special place in our hearts as it has hosted various of our on-line bulletins’ special events. Taking stock of the first years of their endeavor, the owners of the bookshop said in a past interview with Grèce Hebdo: “There are more and more friends who are passing by just to say hello, have a coffee, relax and talk about books or about anything that is dear to their hearts. Our book presentations and literary nights are always an opportunity for friendly gatherings. We share the discovery of new releases, we re-read the classics and we talk with people of different nationalities who are offering new visions of the world”.
Lexikopoleio, Stasinou 13, Pagrati, Athens, Greece, + 30 210 7231201
Miroslav Grchev (1955) is an architect, professor on Faculty of Architecture at St.Cyril and Methodius University in Skopje, cartoonist, graphic designer and writer. He is known for having designed the current flag of FYROM. Fromm 1996-2000 he was mayor of central Skopje municipality "Centar" elected with the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM). He has been one of the most ardent critics of the identity policy of "antiquization" and of the associated urban plan Skopje 2014. In his interview with Greek News Agenda*, Miroslav Grchev speaks in favour of the Prespes Agrement, acuses the former VMRO government's identinty building practices and argues that the exact symmetry of negative reactions witnessed in both sides of the border testifies to the quality of the Agreement.
What is your opinion on the Prespes Agreement?
I think the Prespes Agreement is a rare example of an elegant and rational solution to a cumbersome, irrational dispute and it seems it will untie a knot that was designed never to be untied. The problem, as it was created, is woven with irrational threads of myths, ethnogeneses, cultural identities, painful memories of historical tragedies and a whole lot of other irrational and emotional yarn. Under such circumstances, the elegant line which is drawn in the Agreement sets apart all points of old disagreements and radiates not only good will but also outstanding diplomatic aesthetics, mastery and wisdom.
Does the agreement provide a space for moderate voices to be heard or does it polarize public opinion?
The Prespes Agreement is an excellent selective matrix that unmistakably distinguishes the people - from both sides of the border - according to the dominant moods and states of mind. I think that breaking up the myth of the insolvability of the name dispute, and the neutralization of the bitter resentment, anger and hopelessness that it has been causing for decades, will release positive energy and amiable feelings both in Greece and in Macedonia. Hopefully, this positive mood will win over the hardcore nationalists, professional haters and bloody-eyed patriots. Finally, there is no better proof of the mathematical perfection of the compromise than the complete symmetry of the reactions of the opponents of the Agreement from both sides of the border. This symmetry – which reaches paroxysm with complete matching of the words, contents and accusations that the hardened nationalists from both sides are throwing at their governments - is the most solid guarantee that it is a perfectly balanced compromise, a true diplomatic masterpiece.
Considering the crisis of the EU project during the last years, is EU integration an exciting enough prospect, able to mobilize public opinion in favor of the Agreement?
Macedonia has been sinking into a crisis for too long - and not just an economic one - but in the past decade, it has become an autoimmune disease of the entire society, so I do not believe that the dark clouds that are looming over the European project can negatively affect the pro-European attitude of our citizens. You know, in the decade of the fascistoid mafiocracy of VMRO-DPMNE, the Euroatlantic integration became the only horizon of hope for the most of Macedonian citizens
A very sensible issue included in the Agreement is the delineation of what is Slavic and what is Hellenic culture. Can an agreement based on highlightening the differences foster rapprochement and cultural dialogue?
In my opinion, it is exactly the emphasis of diversities that is the core of the wisdom of the Agreement. So, the juxtaposition of our cultural, ethnic and state entities is the true foundation for building friendship, cooperation and solidarity. The essence of the “Macedonian problem” has for more than a century rested precisely in the superposition, the overlapping of state and national projections of interest for the same piece of land – the region of Macedonia. These overlapping state interests have caused many historical and human tragedies in the gruesome first half of the 20th century, and the memories of these tragedies haven’t ceased to poison human souls ever since. Looking back in the past with blood-shot eyes, blurred by emotions, has always been an inspiration and fuel for ultranationalist sentiments.The ultranationalist’s state of mind always stems from the victimization of its own people and the creation of mortal danger threathening the nation. This provoked fear is easily instrumentalised into hatred towards the other: at home one is considered a traitor, and abroad – an enemy. For them, every compromise is capitulation, for they are always in holy war against everyone. Therefore, the wise approach of articulating diversity in the Prespes Agreement should leave the faux-patriots without fuel, and should represent a line of warm, friendly contact for the positive-thinking people.
You yourself have played a role in nation branding by designing the country’s flag and coat of arms. On the other hand, you fiercely opposed the Skopje 2014 antiquization project. How easy it is for the citizens to free themselves from symbols (e.g. Alexander the Great) and the corresponding narratives after so many years?
A year has passed since the fall of the soft despotism of VMRO and the new government still cannot get rid of the monuments, buildings and facades that the authoritarian government of Gruevski built in its own glory. The schizophrenic reaching for the images of Alexander the Great, Philip II and other symbols of the classic Hellenistic period, and their conversion into identity symbols of the nation is, for me, the cruelest crime that the previous government has committed against its own citizens. Entire generations of young people have been turned into persons with a divided and completely grotesque false identity, so, in my opinion, the biggest mistake of the new democratic government is the delay in the dismantlement and evacuation of these atrocities from the public spaces. The liberation from the false identity is obviously not easy but it is more than necessary.
*Interview by Lina Syriopoulou