Κυριακή 5 Ιουνίου 2022

Watch: Greece’s New Tourism Campaign, “You Will Want to Stay Forever!”


A new summer tourism campaign is supported by the Onassis Foundation "warns" tourists to think twice before visiting Greece.

Anyone considering visiting Greece for a holiday needs to think twice as once they’re in Greece, they may want to stay forever.

That’s the central theme in a new campaign for Greek tourism, launched by the Greek National Tourism Organization on Monday.

A video for the “Greece: You will want to say forever” campaign features an Austrian man, Otto, who tells his story of ending up in Greece to a backdrop of beautiful images from the Greek islands.

The new summer tourism campaign is supported by the Onassis Foundation and the promotional video was produced by Ogilvy.

This article was previously published at ekathimerini.com.

Δευτέρα 16 Μαΐου 2022

Mitsotakis-Biden talks: Greek-Turkish relations, the war in Ukraine, wayward Turkey’s new role in NATO


Mitsotakis-Biden talks: Greek-Turkish relations, the war in Ukraine, wayward Turkey’s new role in NATO

The talks come amid heightened Greek-Turkish tensions in the Aegean, with an exponential increase in violations of Greek national airspace, and Ankara's return to the fold.

Mitsotakis-Biden talks: Greek-Turkish relations, the war in Ukraine, wayward Turkey’s new role in NATO | tanea.gr

Had the scheduled talks between Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and President Joe Biden at the White House today occurred before the 24 February Russian invasion of Ukraine, the political context as far as Greece-Turkey relations, which has topped the agenda at meetings between Greek and American leaders for decades, the terrain would have been quite different, or at least less complex.

Ankara’s years of efforts to build exceptionally close ties with Moscow, strongly facilitated by Donald Trump’s relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s extremely close relationship with Putin, had pushed Washington’s relations with Ankara to a nadir.

The Putin-Erdogan relationship was fuelled by the strong elective affinities between the two authoritarian, neo-imperialist, revisionist leaders, and culminated in a close military cooperation with a $2.5bn deal in 2017 for the procurement of Russian S-400 missile systems, stirring intense consternation in Washington and drawing the ire of the departments of defence and state and of Congress, which has long been fuming. Erdogan eventually went as far as to respond to extreme pressures with threats to buy even more.

The unprecedented procurement by a NATO member-state of one of Russia’s most advanced weapons systems resoundingly violated a strong taboo in place since the founding of the Alliance and was treated as a fundamental threat to NATO, but Erdogan steadfastly thumbed his nose at intense US remonstrances and tough sanctions.

Turkey has no real friends in Washington, but it does have bitter opponents, the most prominent of which is the Chairman of the Senate Committee of Foreign Relations, Robert Menendez, who has staunchly supported the strategic Greece-Cyprus-Israel defence cooperation, which will be central to tomorrow’s talks, as will energy cooperation, made even more pressing and urgent by the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian war.

One key indication of the great durability of the Russo-Turkish relationship was that it survived and thrived after a Turkish Air Force F-16 fighter jet shot down a Russian Sukhoi Su-24M at the Turkey-Syria border when it extremely briefly entered Turkish airspace, an event that in previous years would almost certainly have triggered a major diplomatic even military crisis.

In the last three years, Erdogan’s stubborn and persistent refusal to give up the S-400s set in motion a series of tough US sanctions. In a strong slap from Washington, Turkey in April, 2021, was kicked out the fifth generation F-35 warplanes co-production programme (Turkish suppliers produced dozens of parts of the engine), in which it had already invested 1.4bn dollars.

The war that changes (almost) everything

When Prime Minister Mitsotakis steps into the Oval Office tomorrow he will have to navigate and find a common roadmap with the US president regarding the future of the extraordinarily complex nexus of Greece-Turkey-US relations, which has been fundamentally altered by the Biden administration’s strategy in the Russia-Ukraine war.

With little consultation with its allies, Washington has set as its goal the overall weakening of the Russian armed forces, as Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin explicitly stated in Ukraine recently.

Unless the situation bears out strong concerns over the prospect of a WWII, the conflict will remain at the level of a new Cold War, very likely returning Turkey to its crucial role as a buffer that it played in the many decades of the original one.

Erdogan has exploited with more than a touch of cunning the excruciating dilemma that confronts all of America’s NATO and European partners more broadly, seeking to exact as Turkish diplomacy has always done (with the centuries-old legacy of the Sublime Porte) the greatest possible returns for making what is essentially an ineluctable choice, being weened off of its tight embrace with Russia and balancing relations between two countries with which it has long maintained very close relations – Russia and Ukraine.

In a world that the US president has framed as an arena in which good is in an existential battle with evil - which is to say democracy versus revisionist, expansionist authoritarianism – Turkey’s choice is clear, but it will not come without quid pro quos, and that is what raises increasing concerns in Athens that US concessions may touch upon Greek vital interests, most notably in the Eastern Mediterranean, with its huge hydrocarbons deposits.

Sort it out at the negotiating table

Though Washington certainly does not accept Turkey’s pretence of being the predominant power in the Eastern Mediterranean, and has over the last years duly noted Ankara’s major provocations against Greece and Turkey’s sweeping challenges to Athens’ Exclusive Economic Zone in the region (the two countries came to the brink of a full-fledged military clash in July, 2020, defused with EU and NATO intervention), its basic line is unswerving – that the two neighbours and fellow NATO allies must sit alone at the negotiating table and sort things out, with a delimitation of their EEZs, culminating in a deal that may not align precisely with the UN’s 1982 Law of the Sea Convention, to which Turkey is not a signatory.

Mitsotakis’ strong cards, Turkish provocations

For his part, Mitsotakis is theoretically and in fact in a position of substantial advantage.

The US and Greece have over quite some time often publicly declared that their relations are at an unprecedentedly good level, a conviction predicated upon and completely borne out by the Greek Parliament’s ratification this week of the amended, bilateral Mutual Defence Cooperation Agreement, which greatly expands the US military presence in Greece, including an upgrade of the globally crucial Souda Bay, Crete, naval and air base, and the establishment of a base in the strategic port city of Thrace Alexandroupolis, the capital of the Evros border region, that has drawn the ire of Turkey, not only due to its relative geographical proximity.

For decades, Ankara has successfully worked to increase its strong influence over the Muslim minority of Western Thrace, with efforts to Turkify the ethnically Pomak and Roma elements of the minority, of which the majority is of ethnic Turkish origin. Some analysts fear that an increasingly revisionist world might lead the supremely revisionist Erdogan to push for some type of autonomy for the Muslim minority (as the 1923 Lausanne Treaty recognises it, though Ankara has always called it Turkish).

Heightened Aegean, Mediterranean tensions backdrop of talks

The Biden-Mitsotakis talks come at a time of heightened Greek-Turkish tensions in the Aegean. There has been an exponential, quantitatively and qualitatively, rise in violations of Greek national airspace since the beginning of the year, with a peak in late April – with over 150 violations over two days including flights over large inhabited islands such as Rhodes, Samos, and Kalymnos, among others.

That led Athens to respond by suspending bilateral talks on military confidence-building measures (decided during a cordial meeting between Mitsotakis and Erdogan οn 13 March in Istanbul) a move that came straight on the heels of Greek foreign ministry general secretary Themistoklis Demiris twice summoning the Turkish ambassador to the ministry to hand him two strongly- worded, consecutive demarches underlining that the violations trample over international law, endanger civil aviation, and undermine efforts at rapprochement.

Over the last year, Turkey has constantly and vociferously demanded that Greece demilitarise its Aegean islands, under the terms of the 1923 Lausanne Agreement, while Athens underlines Turkey’s longstanding official threat of war against Greece, its right to defend itself against Ankara’s huge Aegean Army (with NATO’s largest landing force, situated on the coast of Anatolia a stone’s throw away from the islands) and Turkey’s 47-year occupation of the Republic of Cyprus, since 2004 an EU member state.

Turkey’s anger, and the accompanying scathing criticism of Greece in the country’s largely controlled media, was spurred mainly by a 2.3bn euro Greece-France military procurement deal and strategic defence cooperation agreement signed in September, 2021.

The two countries already had signed a deal to for Greece to acquire 18 French Rafale fighter jets (12 used, six of which were delivered in January) and on 24 March finally signed the deal for the procurement of three Belharra frigates, that hugely bolster the Hellenic Navy’s capabilities with the most advanced technology, as its current ones are decades old.

The bilateral strategic defence cooperation agreement includes a mutual defence pact requiring each of the parties to intervene if the territorial integrity of the other is threatened by a third country (obviously Turkey), though it is at least highly uncertain that this includes the critical hot spot, Greece’s EEZ in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Greek F-35 deal, F-16s to Ankara, Turkey sole NATO member with no sanctions against Russia

Though the procurement deal with France clearly did not thrill Washington, as evidenced by the fact that at the time of the signing it claimed it was not aware of details, Athens in November, 2021 decided to apply and jump on board the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) jets programme, from which Turkey was removed, a process that is moving forward, as Jane’s reported in February.

“Greece will be part of the F-35 programme. I think that's clearly understood by the government, by the Hellenic Air Force, but also by the US government. You've heard expressions to that effect not just from me but from senior officials of the State Department,” the report in the defence industry bible quoted then US Ambassador to Athens Geoffrey Pyatt as saying.

Ensuring progress on that deal will no doubt be high on the agenda of both sides in Washington as will the reported intention of the US to sell Turkey a large batch of F-16s, a prospect that emerged after the Russian invasion of Ukraine and Ankara’s efforts to project the image of a well-behaved partner returning in earnest to the NATO fold and of a peacemaker, hosting two, alas ultimately fruitless, rounds of Russia-Ukraine talks, one in Istanbul and another in Antalya.

Mitsotakis and main opposition SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras last week clashed in Parliament over reports of the sale F-16s sale, with the PM declaring it to be “a lie”.

Tsipras, who said he will dismiss the reports only if President Biden publicly denies them, has repeatedly underlined that Turkey is the sole member of the Alliance that steadfastly refuses, with no repercussions, to enforce any sanctions against Russia. Its only move was to close the Bosphorus and Dardanelles to all warships on 28 February, four days after Russia invaded Ukraine.

Mitsotakis is certain to make clear his government’s concerns over the US bolstering a long wayward NATO ally that has greatly escalated its concrete military threats against Greece, both in the Aegean and the Mediterranean.

On May 7, Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily News reported that unnamed US lawmakers see a prospect of Turkey making a six billion dollar purchase of 40 Block 70 F-16 fighter jets and approximately 80 modernisation kits to upgrade its existing fleet.

Mitsotakis first Greek PM to address joint session of US Congress

At the invitation of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Kyriakos Mitsotakis will be the first Greek Prime Minister to address a joint session of the US Congress, in which Greece enjoys strong support and Turkey is still viewed with well-grounded suspicions, a singular honour that his government has understandably touted, noting that Erdogan, despite persistent and strenuous efforts, has yet to be received by the US president at the White House.

In his address, the Greek prime minister is certain to underline that US-Greece ties are the closest and best ever, that Greece’s crucial geostrategic position makes it a pillar of stability in a very troubled region, that Athens seeks good neighbourly relations and talks with Turkey but only on the basis of international law and never in the shadow of gunboat diplomacy, that the Greece-Cyprus-Israel strategic military alliance contributed greatly to regional stability, and that Greece has firmly positioned itself on “the right side of history”, as he is wont to say, by offering palpable support to Ukraine, with military and humanitarian aid, as it fends of Russia’s unprovoked and barbaric invasion, which has already produced a long list of war crimes that fall under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court.


Τρίτη 21 Σεπτεμβρίου 2021

Thessaloniki / a city of Monuments / a mosaic of cultures by UNESCO

    Meet the 15 sites in Thessaloniki on UNESCO map.

Surrounded by walls and castles and yet extroverted, Thessaloniki has written its history on the walls, sometimes even on the inscriptions preserved in various parts of the fortifications, witnesses successive repairs and reconstructions in the course of the centuries that followed. From the sea side, the city was protected by a low sea wall.

Northeast of the city walls, the highest and most privileged spot of the Acropolis, Eptapyrgio is also known with its Ottoman name “Yedi Kule”. It consists of a Byzantine fortress composed of ten towers and of the new buildings of the prison, which were transferred in 1989. The charming complex of different construction phases of the Early Christian-Early Byzantine period until the Turkish occupation is open today to visitors and hosts cultural events.

The circumcenter domed building of the 4th century has been for many people the most important monument of the city, which this year has officially opened its doors to visitors.  Rotunda axis was the terminal point of a processional route linking the triumphal arch of Galerius with the palace complex, which has been excavated south of Egnatia Street. Rotunda was initially intended to be the mausoleum of Galerius or the temple of Zeus or of Kaveires. In early During Christian times it was transformed into a Christian church with excellent quality mosaics. The preserved paintings are of the 5th century.

Osios David (Latomou Monastery)
The visitor will find the small church at the Upper Town (Ano Poli) at the end of Aghias Sophias Street. It was built in the late 5th century at the type of a cross inscribed in a square niche in the east. Today, only the eastern half of the original plan survives. The church is especially known for the mosaic with the vision of the Prophet Ezekiel in the niche, one of the major mosaic works of the early Christian period.

Saint Sophia Cathedral
The temple of the God’s Wisdom was built in the 8th century on the place of a large early Christian basilica. Cathedral of the City (1246-1523 / 24), which became a mosque, it offers visitors with an exquisite mosaic decoration inside, while its icons belong to the most important painting sets of the Iconoclasm period (780-788). At the same time Ascension of Jesus on the dome was also created.

Basilica of Agios Dimitrios
North of the ancient market, the church was built on the ruins of the Roman bath where Saint Dimitrios was imprisoned and killed. Prefect of Illyricum Leontius erected there a large basilica, during the 5th century. After it was burned, around 620, a five-aisled basilica was built with rich paintings and marble decorations and mosaics. The church burned down in the fire in 1917 and was restored again.

Beneath the church of Aghios Dimitrios, the visitor shall find the crypt where the latter was imprisoned, martyred and buried. During the late Byzantine years, holy water and myrrh was springing from the fountain of the Saint. During the Ottoman rule, the area was forgotten and abandoned, to be detected due to the fire of 1917. The space hosts a permanent exhibition of early Christian and Byzantine sculptures, coins and ceramics.

Aghios Efthimios Chapel
The church is full of wall paintings inside, painted in 1303 at the expense of protostrator Michael Tarchaneiotes Glavas and his wife Maria. The paintings, an artwork of a gifted artist, convey the high aesthetics and dynamics of Palaiologan regeneration.

Panagia Acheiropoietos Basilica
In the city center, on Aghias Sophias Street, the visitor can find the Great Church of the Virgin Mary. Inside the church stand the wonderful architectural sculptures.

Church of Panagia Chalkeon
South of the ancient market, is the church of Virgin Mary. It is a precisely dated monument, with an inscription on the marble lintel of the west entrance.

Byzantine bath
On the outskirts of the Upper Town, on Theotokopoulou Street is the only public Byzantine bath preserved today in Thessaloniki. It is a small building, which probably dates back to the 13th century and maintains all necessary for a bath spaces: anteroom, warm and hot room and pool.

Church of St. Panteleimon
At the junction of Arrianou and Iasonidou Streets, at a short distance from the Arch of Galerius and the Rotunda, is the Byzantine church of St. Panteleimon. A few examples have been preserved from its original wall paintings.

Church of the Holy Apostles
At the beginning of Olympou street, and very close to the west Walls is the church of the Holy Apostles. Inside, extraordinary mosaic decoration is saved, characteristic of the last period of Palaiologan art.

Aghios Nikolaos Orfanos Church
It is located in the Upper Town, between the streets Herodotus and Aghiou Pavlou, close to the east Walls. Its masterpiece frescoes are one of the most complete sets of paintings preserved in Thessaloniki.

St. Catherine Church
Above Olympiados Street, at the foot of the Upper Town and at the confluence of Oedipus and Tsamadou streets, near the northwest Walls the visitor shall find the church of St. Catherine, a former Byzantine Catholic monastery. The church dates back in the late 13th – early 14th century.

Church of the Savior’s Transfiguration
At the junction of Egnatia and Palaion Patron Germanou, is the temple of the Savior. It was built after 1340 probably as a funerary chapel Byzantine monastery and was originally dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

Vlatadon Monastery
The only monastery of the city serving as today is located just outside the Acropolis walls, on the Acropolis Street.

Prophet Elias Chapel
The temple of Prophet Elias is on Olympiados street, at its junction with Prophet Elias Street, on an outcropping natural rock. The temple is unique in Thessaloniki for its architectural type.