The parties are trying to correct the mistakes made in the first polls with each of them setting different goals ahead of the new election contest. The countdown to the June 25 polls has begun, with parties shaping their strategy by posing new dilemmas and trying to woo disgruntled voters as well as those undecided about what to vote for.
The election result of May 21 caused a strong shock to SYRIZA, brought smiles to New Democracy, PASOK and KKE while at least two parties found themselves on the threshold of entering the Parliament.
The parties are trying to correct the mistakes made in the first elections with each of them setting different goals.
New Democracy has set as its primary goal to manage to secure a strong and self-sufficient government, SYRIZA is fighting to overturn the previous bad result, while PASOK has set the bar high by claiming – as top party officials say – to be in its place opposition officer.
The Metron Analysis poll, which was presented last night at MEGA, showed how the dynamics of the parties are shaping up ahead of the new elections.
One of the main conclusions of the poll is that the correlations of the previous elections do not change.
New Democracy continues to lead with a huge margin over SYRIZA, which does not show, at least so far, signs of recovery despite the self-criticism for the mistakes made and the drawing up of the new strategy.
Specifically, in terms of voting intention, New Democracy gets a percentage of 35.8%, while SYRIZA marks a new drop compared to the previous elections, reaching 16.7%.
PASOK, which has set itself the goal of being close to or even surpassing SYRIZA, is at 10.2%. Communist party KKE trusts 6.7%, while the Hellenic Solution, which recedes to 3.8%.
One of the first surprises in the latest poll, is that Pleussi Eleftherias and Niki seem to be entering the Parliament, registering 4.2% and 3.3% respectively in the vote intention.
As for MePA25, it seems that so far it is not developing momentum to enter the Parliament, as it only reaches 2.2%.
With regard to the vote estimate, New Democracy exceeds the percentage it got in the elections and reaches 41%. SYRIZA is at 19.1% from 20.1% and PASOK at 11.7%, marginally increased.
New rise for the KKE which reaches 7.6% from 7.2% in the elections and the Hellenic Solution to 4.4%, with a decrease of only 0.1%.
The Victory party, the surprise of the elections as it narrowly did not enter the Parliament, now reaches 3.8%, while Freedom Sailing “climbs” to 4.8% from 2.9% in the elections.
MeRA 25 αt 2.5% without upward trends in order to cross the “threshold” of 3% and at 5.1% the other parties, therefore those who do not enter the Parliament are at 7.6%.
What a new GPO poll shows
Another GPO poll on Parapolitics confirms that the correlations in view of the new elections do not change, while it also seems to show seven parties entering the Parliament.
More specifically, in terms of voting intention, New Democracy collects 41.1%, SYRIZA 20.7%, PASOK 11.4%, KKE 6.3%, Hellenic Solution 3.6%, Niki seems to be barely passing the entrance threshold of the Parliament 3.1%, Freedom Sailing 4.3%, MeRA25 1.6%, another party 1.5%, White Invalid 1.1% and Undecided 5.3%.
Employment in Greece: Which unemployed people find work – The businesses that hire them
The x-ray of Hellenic Manpower Employment Organization programs: Women, young people and the unemployed over 55 are being hired by small and very small businessesThe footprint of the businesses, but also of the unemployed who participated and joined the programs of the Hellenic Manpower Employment Organization in the last three years is included in a survey of the service, which was deemed necessary in order to plan the next programs.
The official figures show that very small and small businesses, mainly active in trade, wholesale and retail, joined the programs.
Participating businesses hire women, long-term unemployed, young people and people over 55, mainly in Attica and Central Macedonia.
In detail, the number of companies that participated in these programs amounts to 47,816. Of these, the largest percentage, namely 69% or 32,940, participated with a single beneficiary, the maximum number being 42 beneficiaries in one enterprise, with 93% of enterprises participating with 1 to 3 beneficiaries.
The distribution of the beneficiaries based on the size of the companies that participated in the new programs of the last 3.5 years clearly shows that mainly very small companies employing between one and nine people are the ones that apply to participate in the programs. The recruitment rate in these amounts to 90%. Next come small businesses (10 to 49 employees) with a much lower percentage of 7%.
The activities carried out by the companies that joined are: Wholesale and Retail Trade 33% followed by Professional, Scientific and Technical Activities with 15%.
56% of the beneficiaries of the programs live outside the regions of Attica (23%) and Central Macedonia (21%).
Women and the 30-54 age group
The largest percentage of beneficiaries (59%) concerns women, while in terms of age groups, the 30 to 54 age group ranks first with a percentage of 44% of the total. They are followed by the age group of young people up to 29 years old (40%) and the group of people aged 55 and over with a percentage of 16%.
The largest percentage of beneficiaries concern Secondary Education graduates (40%) followed by Tertiary Education graduates at a rate of 33%.
Of particular interest is the fact that 48% of beneficiaries were out of the labor market for up to six months, 21% for more than 24 months, 20% for 12 to 23 months and 11% for 7 to 12 months. 59% were non-long-term unemployed.
The average duration of unemployment of the beneficiaries is 16 full months.
The Taiwanese Ministry of National Defense (MND) has announced that it will receive indigenously-developed Sky Sword II mobile missile launchers beginning next week.
The move is part of the country’s 23.65 billion New Taiwan dollar ($771.6 million) Sea and Air Combat Capability Enhancement Plan to build various missiles, launchers, and military facilities.
The National Chung-Shan Institute for Science and Technology has so far produced 19 Sky Sword II missile launchers to prepare the country for a potential Chinese invasion.
According to the MND, the rate of progress for production and procurement is currently at 95 percent.
The figure is on par with the recorded rate of progress for missile procurement of 100 percent.
The defense ministry expects that around 1,000 Sky Sword II and other types of missiles will be produced domestically this year.
The Sky Sword II
Taiwan’s Sky Sword II is a medium-range, air-to-air missile for fighter aircraft.
It features an inertial navigation system and an active radar seeker to effectively engage multiple airborne targets.
The weapon also has a fire-and-forget capability, eliminating the need for additional guidance toward enemy assets.
The missile first entered service with the Taiwanese Air Force in the 1990s, increasing the lethality of its Ching-Kuo fighter aircraft.
An updated version of the Sky Sword II has a new rocket motor and improved electronic components, extending its range to 80 kilometers (49.7 miles).
Apart from missiles and launchers, the Taiwanese military is stocking up on other heavy weapons and equipment to defend against a potential Chinese attack.
Tensions have risen significantly between the nations as Beijing continues insisting that Taipei is part of its territory.
Last month, CNA announced that the island nation will receive its first batch of 200 Javelin anti-tank missiles from the US in the second half of 2023.
Another batch of 200 Javelins will reportedly be delivered “at some point in 2024.”
The US Air Force has also ordered four MQ-9B SkyGuardian drones to help the Taiwanese military monitor China.
The complicated relationship with Alexis Tsipras, the tumultuous meetings of the Eurogroup, the “negotiation” and the bankruptcyWho closed the banks in 2015? Mario Draghi. Yanis Varoufakis, although he had notified his wife Danai that “my love, I closed the banks” and shared his feat everywhere, now denies it. It is now “black establishment propaganda”. Who will be responsible if the banks close again? Draghi again. Since 2019, the head of the European Central Bank is Christine Lagarde, Draghi’s successor, but this is of no importance to Varoufakis. Reality has relative value for him, as we all saw broadcast live in the first half of 2015 when, as finance minister, he toured Europe to teach economics to his counterparts.
The conflict with Europe
If another finance minister had been expelled from the Eurogroup in the way he was in the “hard month of April” in Riga, Latvia, when he was effectively kicked out of the state dinner in a fit of self-centeredness, paradoxes and sleight of hand, he would have been held to account.
Varoufakis, however, does not let anything or anyone come between him and himself. What was he saying in 2015? That the government should bluff by reaching extremes in negotiations with the institutions, so that in the face of the threat of leavib they would panic and retreat.
Finally, both the Europeans and Alexis Tsipras had a hard time getting rid of him. In order to get back at them, Varoufakis exposed everyone’s dirty laundry, in his book “Adults in the Room”, and when his counterparts reacted, he informed them that he had illegally recorded the conversations. He submitted the relevant USB to the Greek Parliament, in order to deprive his critics of “the right to lie”. The Speaker of Parliament Kostas Tasoulas returned it to him as unacceptable.
After the referendum, Varoufakis exerted all his leverage on Alexis Tsipras to continue as they started. “Either you activate our plan, or surrender” he told Tsipras.
“Minister no more”
But Tsipras had understood the game very well and was trying to do his “volte-face” (kolotoumba meaning forward roll in Greek) without losing his supporters. He suggested to him, according to what he writes in his book, that they play a double game with the lenders. Publicly pretending to be the good guys and behind the scenes preparing their counterattack. However, Varoufakis wanted a genuine revolution and told Tsipras. The latter suggested Varoufakis take on the Ministry of Culture, which he refused. He returned home, told everything to his wife Danae’s camera, which had become his confessional, slept, and then wrote his seventh and final letter of resignation, announcing on his blog: “Minister no more.”
However, he did not leave a loser. He began to travel the world and give lectures for a fee, he also published his book, which became a global bestseller and a film by Costas Gavras. The title in the English version is “Adults in the room”, a phrase borrowed from a statement by Lagarde, who did not flatter him but Christine treated him more agreeably than the others, and so their tight-rope dialogues were quoted in the book, real or approximate.
Much has been written about Varoufakis’ psychological make-up, since we learned that as a student he still forced everyone to spell his name with one “n” instead of two as is the regulart Greek spelling. His family history suggested a different kind of development. His father Giorgos was born in Cairo, a leftist academic that had been exiled, and later served as the president of the Board of Directors of Halyvourgiki (the largest steel plant in Greece). His mother Eleni, a chemist and an active member of the feminist movement. When he went to study in Essex, he got a letter of recommendation from Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou. He had a close relationship with the latter’s son, and also Prime Minister, George Papandreou, and was his advisor until the first memorandum, then he was won over by ant-memorandum protesters.
In 2018, he founded the European Realistic Disobedience Front (MERA25) and was declared its secretary general. The following year it entered Parliament with a percentage of 3.44% and elected 9 deputies, himself included. Along the way, three female MPs left, accusing him of bullying, nepotism and authoritarianism. He stopped appearing in Parliament, as he used to in flamboyant outfits, chosen by Danae, which had made headlines in the international media. Moreover, with the corona virus pandemic, he isolated himself in Aegina, and thus Parliament forgot his eccentricities, and for the procedural needs, everyone turned to MeRA25 MP Sofia Sakorafa. However, they have to say that MeRA25 was the only party that in the four years of its parliamentary term did not ask for the slightest of favors.
“Prophet of Doom”
On the MeRA25 website there is a speech by Varoufakis to the Central Committee of the party, entitled “Here we are building the new disobedient fighting Left is being”, the slogan of “responsible disobedience”. How responsible it is to take advantage of a difficult time for banks in the US and Europe to sow panic for Greek banks just before elections is up for debate. Some suspect that he is playing Mitsotakis’ game for his own reasons, but it is also possible that he is pretending to be the “prophet of doom”.
Criticism is wasted, Varoufakis doesn’t give a damn about the powerful and the regime, the only opinion he cares about is that of those in Exarchia, an Athens neighborhood known for harboring self-styled anarchists, which he frequents. When anarchists beat him up while dining, af ew months ago (they were recently identified from videos they posted on social media and arrested) he told reporters that the assailants were gangster thugs, questioning even the video evidence.
Government and main opposition focus on large social groupsLarge social groups with targeted signals for their support in the next four years are at the center of attention of the incumbent government and the main opposition. PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis addressed critical categories of citizens (and pools of voters), such as young people, civil servants, family heads, from Elefsina yesterday, announcing measures with a total cost of over half a billion euros.
The “positive” surprises, as expected by the government, through “specification of the economic program for the four-year period 2023-2027, are causing conflicts at the top. “I had and still have concerns,” said Mitsotakis, speaking to the citizens of Western Attica, “we will support the weakest, so they feel that in difficult times the state is by their side, as we did during the pandemic.” A little while earlier, he himself from the Elefsina shipyards committed to three interventions.
The first is the institutionalization of the “Youth Pass”, i.e. the support of 150 euros for each young person who reaches adulthood (200,000 beneficiaries per year) for cultural and tourist activities as well as for transport. The second is the reduction of ENFIA property tax by 10% on the condition that the owners will insure their properties against natural disasters. The third concerns the reform of the salary of civil servants from January 1, 2024 with an emphasis on the low paid, those in positions of responsibility, but also on parents with an increase in the family allowance: to 70 euros for those with one child, to 120 euros for two children, at 170 euros for three children, at 220 euros for four children.
Alexis Tsipras and SYRIZA attacked Mitsotakis’ promises, accusing him of “electoral anxiety and panic”, which, according to the main opposition, refutes the claims that New Democracy is “galloping” towards electoral victory. After all, a “war” has already broken out between New Democracy and SYRIZA over the content but also over the cost of each side’s government plan.
Government sources insist that yesterday’s announcements concern measures “included in our program and costed” in the context of the medium-term 9 billion that has been submitted to the Commission. In this context, on the way to the ballot box, it is not excluded that there will be further targeted “revelations”, as long as SYRIZA raises the tone for “false promises”.
In any case, the issues of the economy, which are of great concern to the public, as can be seen from polls, along with the social agenda, which all the political leaders have opened in anticipation of broadening their appeal, will remain in the foreground until the election.
Mitsotakis tries to describe a scenario of fiscal balance, highlighting mainly the deeds of his administration, SYRIZA’s past record (“over-taxation”, “defunding pensions” and so on) as well as the consistency of speech and actions during the four years. “All the policies we are discussing for the coming years are based on the economy” was his message from Western Attica. “If you ask me what my goal is for the country,” he added, “it is to quickly approach the European average everywhere, whether we’re talking about investments or a welfare state. And the key is rapid growth, in terms of fiscal stability, so that we don’t experience what we experienced in the last decade.”
Another three individuals have been namedAnother three individuals have been named, in a relevant indictment, as possibly involved in the assassination of Greek journalist Giorgos Karaivaz in April 2021, days after two arrests were made in the explosive case.
The killing of Karaivaz, in broad daylight outside his southern Athens apartment building, shocked Greek public opinion and generated headlines around the world.
The two suspects in custody are local men, identified as brothers, 48 and 40 years old.
One previous criminal case considered as related to the Karaivaz contract killing dates to 2015 and involved a protection racket, with authorities focusing on whether the rider of the scooter used in the journalist’s assassination is one of the main suspects in the former case.
Sources said Greek police believe the other named – but not charged – suspect ordered the “hit” and coordinated the attack, a convicted felon identified only as “Thamnakias”, Greek for “bushman” or “bushes”.
The gunman who shot Karaivaz dead with an automatic handgun fled the scene as the “back-seater” on the getaway scooter. However, he is believed to have shortly thereafter hopped off the scooter and enter a small white van – the latter vehicle is what, according to police, led them to the first two suspects.
The specific van is seen on footage from CCTV cameras along the getaway route as “shadowing” the scooter carrying the two assailants.
The vehicle is registered to a cleaning company owned by one of the two jailed suspects’ companion, and driver by the other arrested man, his brother.
Media reports said police first pinpointed the van at 12.57 on April 9, 2021, with the scooter first seen 16 minutes later at 13.13 (11.13 GMT), but with only one rider aboard.
At 14.15 the scooter is again spotted, but with two men riding atop. After five minutes they head towards the soon-to-be-slain journalist’s residence, where they expect him to soon arrive.
Another two camera images show both men fleeing atop the two-wheeler, whereas the third successive image shows only one rider. The van is captured on video following close behind.
According to revealed or leaked information, the assailants and the alleged two-man support team, communicated via two “burner” mobile phones the day before the assassination and on the same day, and specifically in the vicinity where the shooting took place.
The specific cell phone numbers were first activated on April 5, 2021 after being purchased from a tech store in central Athens three days earlier.
Finally, in terms of mobile phone data, the 48-year-old’s registered phone is shown as shown as being inactive during specific times on April 8 and 9, including at the moment of the shooting, travel to the crime scene and afterwards.
The Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) signed between the UAE and Israel in 2022 will go into effect on Saturday, April 1.
The trade agreement will see reduced or removed tariffs on more than 96 percent of product lines, according to the UAE’s Ministry of Economy.
In addition to the new tariff structures, “the agreement with Israel removes unnecessary barriers to trade, improves market access for services suppliers, opens opportunities in government procurement, provides a platform for SMEs to expand internationally, establishes parameters for digital trade, protects intellectual property, and creates transparent trade remedy mechanisms,” the Emirates News Agency (WAM) reported.
The agreement is expected to increase non-oil bilateral trade from $1.3 billion recorded in 2021 to $10 billion by the end of the decade.
In 2022, bilateral non-oil trade reached $2.49 billion, with re-exports from Israel growing 71.2 percent and non-oil exports to Israel climbing 48.6 percent, WAM reported.
The UAE-Israel CEPA is the second of the Gulf nation’s new foreign-trade deals to be ratified following a similar deal with India in 2022.
It has also concluded CEPA deals with Indonesia, Turkey and Georgia.
The UAE and Israel normalized ties in 2020 in a US-brokered deal. However, ties between Israel and its neighbors have been shaky following uncivil comments made by a minister in Netanyahu’s coalition-led government.
The UAE issued a statement condemning the Israeli finance minister Betzalel Smotrich’s call to destroy a Palestinian village earlier this month.
At the time, the UAE called for strengthening tolerance and coexistence, and stressed the need to “confront hate speech and violence.”
It also reiterated the need for establishing an independent Palestinian state along 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital and “advance the Middle East Peace Process.”
Moldova will hand over the building of the former Theological Seminary in Chisinau to the Metropolis of Bessarabia, which is linked to the Romanian Orthodox Church, if a draft law registered by several deputies of the ruling Action and Solidarity Party, PAS, is adopted.
The supporting note of the draft law, submitted on Thursday, is that the assets of the Metropolis of Bessarabia were wrongly confiscated and nationalised by the Soviet regime after World War II, when Moldova became part of the USSR, so the transfer back of the property would “restore in the smallest possible way a measure of historical equity.”
The draft law has been also signed by the Moldovan parliament’s speaker, Igor Grosu, who on February 9 met the Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church, Daniel, in Bucharest.
During the meeting, the Romanian Patriarch said Moldova should return the former Orthodox Theology Faculty and former Theological Seminary in Chisinau to the Metropolis of Bessarabia.
However, current Moldovan legislation only allows the retrocession or compensation of nationalised assets for persons who were subject to political repressions, not legal entities.
The Catholic Church and Jewish community have also requested the return of properties confiscated by the Soviets but have obtained nothing because of the current law.
The initiators of this bill propose that the retrocession to the Metropolis of Bessarabia be done via the laws on the protection of monuments and denationalisation of public property.
The leader of the ruling Social Democratic Party in Romania, PSD, Marcel Ciolacu, said Moldovan citizens would benefit from justice being done to the Metropolis of Bessarabia.
“After 30 years of discrimination and injustice, justice is finally being done for the Metropolis of Bessarabia, the only faith-based alternative in Moldova to the Church directly subordinated to the Patriarchate of Moscow,” Ciolacu wrote on Facebook.
Moldova was part of Romania between the two world wars before being annexed by the Soviet Union. It remained a Soviet republic until the USSR dissolved, when it became an independent state. Over one million of 2.6 million Moldovans – around 40 per cent of the population – have Romanian citizenship, mainly to access the EU, of which Romania is a member.
Most Moldovans, however, belong to the Metropolis of Moldova, which is subordinate to the Russian Orthodox Church and controls most Church assets. The ratio between the two entities’ possession of churches and monasteries is about 8 to 1 in favour of the Church linked to Moscow.
Russia maintains great influence in Moldova via the Moscow-linked Church whose clergy get closely involved in elections on the side of pro-Russian, anti-Western parties.
The Metropolis of Moldova has also engaged in propaganda and manipulation of public opinion concerning the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
A large reduction in the trade balance deficit in January was shown by the data announced today by the Hellenic Statistical Service (ELSTAT).
The total value of imports-arrivals, in January 2023 amounted to 6,827.1 million euros (7,329.9 million dollars) in comparison with 6,454.9 million euros (7,281.3 million dollars) in January 2022, recording an increase, in euros, of 5.8%. The corresponding value excluding oil products in January 2023 recorded an increase of 170.4 million euros or 3.8% and the corresponding value excluding oil products and ships in January 2023 recorded an increase of 186.7 million euros or 4.2%, in comparison with January 2022.
The total value of exports-dispatches, in January 2023 amounted to 4,462.6 million euros (4,820.3 million dollars) in comparison with 3,427.7 million euros (3,889.8 million dollars) in January 2022, recording an increase, in euros, of 30.2%. The corresponding value excluding oil products recorded in January 2023 an increase of 429.0 million euros or 17.5% and the corresponding value excluding oil products and ships in January 2023 recorded an increase of 423.7 million euros or 17.3%, in comparison with January 2022.
The deficit of the trade balance, in January 2023 amounted to 2,364.5 million euros (2,509.6 million dollars) in comparison with 3,027.2 million euros (3,391.5 million dollars) in January 2022, recording a drop, in euros, of 21.9%.The corresponding value of deficit excluding oil products in January 2023 recorded a drop of 258.6 million euros or 12.7% and the corresponding value excluding oil products and ships in January 2023 recorded a drop of 237.0 million euros or 11.7%, in comparison with January 2022.
Greek railroad disaster: Rapid developments – The inspector and two station masters are being prosecuted
The circle of defendants for the tragedy in Tempi is expanding. The district attorney’s office filed additional criminal charges against three individuals for disturbing the safety of transportation, a felony punishable by ten years to life, as well as the misdemeanor counts of manslaughter and aggravated assault.
The “3” in the crosshairsProsecutions were brought against the OSE inspector who put the Larissa station master, who has already been remanded in custody, on the night shift, but also against two station masters who were supposed to be present until 11 in the evening and left earlier, abandoning their post.
It is noted that, for Friday, the Plenary Assembly of the Appellates of Larissa, 21 senior judges in total, has been set to be convened, in order to select the two appellate investigators who will in the future run the investigations after the initiative to upgrade the investigations, made by the superior Larissa Appeals Prosecutor’s Office Stamatis Daskalopoulos, who supervises the investigations in their entirety from the first moment by order of the Prosecutor of the Supreme Court Isidoros Dogiakos.
Audio documents in the hands of Larisa investigatorEvidence that sheds light on the case of the accident in Tempi is being collected by the Larissa investigator, while today she is in the process of comparing the statements received so far, with the conversations from the radio – wireless of the night of the accident.
The investigator’s goal is to fully understand what happened that night in order to identify what led to the accident and attribute responsibility. According to information, at the same time, the investigator is calling the persons involved, until now, for additional statements.
Where does the Larissa inspector lay the blame?At the same time, he blamed the station master of the afternoon shift and the dead driver of the passenger train. “The train driver certainly realized that he came to the descending line and he should ask himself why he did not take model 1001. The specific driver Georgios Koutsoumbas, as far as I know, has not been working on the Athens-Thessalonica line for the last time and has recently returned,” he said .
“When at 01:15 I met Vassilis Samaras, I asked him why he was alone, while there was a station master, he answered that Pavlopoulos (afternoon station master) handed over to him and left around 21:45 to 21:50. I asked Pavlopoulos again what time he left, and he replied that he left normally without specifying an exact time. I believe that if Pavlopoulos had secured train 2597, the accident might have been avoided…”.
Despite claims on Monday that Kosovo and Serbia had agreed to a European Union plan on the normalisation of relations, Serbia’s President on Tuesday evening warned he will not sign the deal, because of points referring to mutual recognition and Kosovo joining the UN.
“We are ready to negotiate the implementation plan but I will not sign this,” Aleksandar Vucic said on TV.
“That’s what I said to [French President] Macron and [German Chancellor] Scholz in Munich, and to all the big leaders … we cannot talk about mutual recognition and the entry of Kosovo into the UN,” said Vucic.
Asked about the chances of the European proposal being changed, he replied: “None”.
Vucic said practical implementation of the guideline planned to be the annex of the agreement – agreeing on what will be implemented – was acceptable, but Serbia “will not implement [Kosovo’s] admission to the UN”.
Vucic agreed that normalization of relations with Kosovo was needed and said he is willing to work on that. He also conceded that 99.99 per cent of Kosovo Albanians back an independent Kosovo, and that this will not change. “Let’s make rational compromises that concern real life,” the President said.
“But on the key issues concerning the Constitution of Serbia, I have said it unequivocally, publicly and clearly everywhere. Why do you think I didn’t sign anything, which they said I was going to sign?” Vucic asked, referring to Serbia’s right-wing opposition parties who have accused him of treason.
He said that the next meetings with EU envoy Miroslav Lajcak will be about the implementation plan, adding that the pressures on Serbia will likely continue, because, by 24 March, when the European Council meets next, they will need to have some result.
Vucic insisted that the planned Association of Serb-Majority Municipalities in Kosovo, a body representing the Kosovo Serb community, was agreed to in Brussels back in 2013, but has never been implemented. For him, this was the number one point in the implementation plan.
He expressed doubt that Kosovo PM Albin Kurti will implement it, however.
After Monday’s meeting, the EU published the agreement on its website. It is expected that the EU’s envoy for the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, Lajcak, will visit the two countries in the coming weeks, while the next Kurti- Vucic meeting is due on March 18 in Skopje, North Macedonia.
With a brilliant reception at the Athens Concert Hall, the Japanese ambassador to Greece Nakayama Yasunori and the Japanese embassy celebrated the Birthday of Emperor Naruhito of Japan, a national celebration in the land of the Rising Sun, on Thursday evening, in the presence of Deputy Foreign Minister Costas Fragogiannis. From early Thursday afternoon, Nakayama Yasunori and his wife Nakayama Chizuko welcomed their official guests to the Concert Hall to celebrate the Emperor’s Birthday with them.
In his greeting, the Japanese ambassador praised the excellent level of relations between Japan and Greece and their “very positive dynamics”, while expressing his commitment that he is determined to make the maximum possible effort for their further promotion. Highlighting the current level of bilateral relations, he expressed the belief that at no time in the history of the two countries, since 1899, have such rapid developments been recorded as in the last 12 months of 2022, starting with the meeting of Foreign Ministers Nikos Dendias and Yoshimasa Hayashi in April in Tokyo. “The two ministers, recognizing that both countries share fundamental values such as democracy, human rights and the rule of law, including the free and open maritime order, discussed not only bilateral relations but also various international issues, including the situation in Ukraine”.
The Mitsotakis visit
Nakayama Yasunori made a special reference to the results of the visit of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis to Japan at the end of January, stressing that it contributed significantly to the strengthening of bilateral relations, but also to their upgrading to strategic cooperation. “It was the first visit of a Greek prime minister to Japan after 17 years, which, I believe, contributed significantly to the strengthening of relations between Japan and Greece. During their meeting, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis issued a joint communique, in which, among other things, the bilateral relationship is upgraded to “strategic cooperation”.
He also pointed out that during his stay in Japan, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and his wife met with Crown Prince Fumihito Akishino of Japan and Kiko Princess Akishino, which lasted longer than planned and was very cordial and warm.
Referring to the front of bilateral economic relations, he spoke about the wide-ranging meetings of Kyriakos Mitsotakis and the Greek delegation with executives of Japanese business groups of the Keidanren (Federation of Economic Organizations of Japan) and the Japanese External Trade Organization JETRO. “They were very fruitful in increasing the visibility of bilateral business opportunities,” the Japanese ambassador to Greece emphasized. In addition, he made special mention of the Greek prime minister’s “very substantial meetings” with representatives of the Japanese financial sector, including those of the Japan Bank for International Cooperation.
In the wake of Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ visit and contacts in Japan, he explained that in this very positive dynamic created in bilateral economic relations it is his duty to work hard, together with his Greek partners, to achieve tangible progress, whether it is investment or trade.
The business visit
He further highlighted the importance of the much-anticipated Japanese business visit to Greece, which took place in October last year and was organized by Keidanren, the Japanese Federation of Economic Organizations. “It was Keidanren’s first visit in the last 20 years and the members of the business delegation left Greece with a very positive impression of the performance of the Greek economy and business opportunities in that country.”
Referring more broadly to the bilateral relations of Greek-Japanese relations, the ambassador pointed out that Japan and Greece will celebrate 125 years of their diplomatic relations in 2024, as the “Year of Culture and Tourism”. In this context, he said he looks forward to working closely with his Greek counterparts to organize a multitude of events, both in Greece and Japan to celebrate this special year.
The story of the “Tokei Maru” in the destruction of Smyrna
He made a special mention of the special event organized by the Japanese embassy in September to commemorate the heroic rescue carried out by the Japanese merchant ship “Tokei Maru” in Izmir 100 years ago. “During the great fire in Smyrna in September 1922, the Japanese ship is said to have dumped its cargo in order to accommodate more than 800 Greek refugees,” he said and pledged to make this story widely known in both Greece and Japan.
The “Posidonia” exhibition
It also demonstrated the global importance of the “Posidonia” maritime exhibition. “In June, we participated in Posidonia 2022, the most important event in the world of shipping companies. It served as an excellent opportunity to reaffirm the strong ties based on the rich maritime history between Japan and Greece, which spans more than 70 years,” he said and expressed his belief that the maritime sector remains and will remain firmly as the central pillar of bilateral economic relations.
Afterwards, Deputy Foreign Minister Costas Fragogiannis addressed a greeting on behalf of the Greek government, expressing his congratulations and wishes for the Emperor’s birthday. Speaking about bilateral relations, he referred to the long-term ties between the two countries and emphasized that their relations are based on common values. K. Fragogiannis emphasized the results of the contacts during the Prime Minister’s recent visit to Japan, in which he also participated. In a similar spirit, he expressed Greece’s willingness to further strengthen bilateral relations in all areas provided for in the joint statement, signed by the two prime ministers in Tokyo.
The reception was attended by figures from the political, diplomatic, economic, cultural, sports, academic and journalistic worlds, as well as members of Japan-related organizations.
It is noted that last night was the first reception hosted by Nakayama Yasunori in Athens for the Emperor’s Birthday since he was appointed ambassador of Japan to Greece in January 2021.
Giorgi, an Italian national, was arrested on Dec. 9, 2023 along with former MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri and Kaili, with whom he has young daughter
Jailed MEP Eva Kaili’s domestic partner, Francesco Giorgi, was ordered released from pre-trial remand but will remain under arrest by being fitted with an electronic bracelet, according to an announcement by federal prosecutor’s office in Brussels late Thursday afternoon.
Kaili, Giorgi and a handful of other individuals face felony bribery and money laundering charges related to the explosive “Qatar-gate” furor, which involves alleged influence peddling in the European Parliament in return for cash and gifts.
Giorgi, an Italian national, was arrested on Dec. 9, 2023 along with former MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri and Kaili, with whom he has young daughter.
The development comes a day after the Times of London revealed that Giorgi and Panzeri shared the same Belgian prison cell for several weeks, albeit both are charged in the same case.
R. Kelly, already serving 30 years for sex trafficking, sentenced to 20 years in federal child porn case
Disgraced R&B singer R. Kelly was sentenced to 20 years in prison in a Chicago federal courtroom Thursday following his conviction last year on charges of child pornography and enticement of a minor, his second such lengthy sentencing in the past year.
Kelly, 56, is already serving a 30-year prison term for his 2021 conviction on racketeering and sex trafficking charges in a New York federal court.
US District Judge Harry D. Leinenweber said in court Thursday that 19 years of the 20-year prison sentence would be served concurrently, or at the same time as his other sentence. One year would be served consecutively, or after that sentence is complete, he said.
Kelly was convicted in September on three counts of production of child pornography and three counts of enticement of a minor to engage in criminal sexual activity. A motion for a new trial was denied last week.
Prosecutors had asked for a 25-year sentence to be served once his other 30-year prison sentence is complete.
“Robert Kelly is a serial sexual predator who, over the course of many years, specifically targeted young girls and went to great lengths to conceal his abuse of Jane and other minor victims,” prosecutors said in a filing. “To this day, and even following the jury verdict against him, Kelly refuses to accept responsibility for his crimes.”
The defense said in its filing Kelly is already serving a “de facto life sentence” and asked for any sentence be served at the same time as his 30-year sentence in the New York case.
“In the unlikely event that Kelly was to survive his 30-year sentence, there is no reason to believe he would reoffend as a geriatric in his mid-80s,” his attorneys wrote. “The overwhelming majority of Kelly’s criminal conduct was committed a quarter century ago.”
The advisory sentencing guidelines offer a range of 14 to 17.5 years in prison, according to the prosecution’s calculations, or 11.25 to 14 years in prison, according to the defense’s calculations.
The question of whether the two sentences will be served consecutively or concurrently was up to the court’s discretion.
The sentencing hearing is the culmination of nearly three decades of allegations Kelly had sexually abused underage girls, accusations first laid out in the Chicago Sun-Times. In 2002, Kelly was indicted on child pornography charges for allegedly videotaping himself having sex with an unidentified underage girl, but he was acquitted in 2008.
Through the allegations, Kelly was one of the most successful R&B artists of the 1990s and 2000s, known for hit songs “Bump N’ Grind,” “Ignition (Remix)” and “I Believe I Can Fly,” which won him three Grammy Awards. He has been nominated for 26 Grammy Awards in all, including as recently as 2015.
In the wake of the #MeToo movement, Kelly faced further allegations of wrongdoing in a 2017 BuzzFeed article and in the January 2019 Lifetime documentary “Surviving R. Kelly.” A month later, he was indicted in Cook County, Illinois, on 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse, and two federal indictments followed in July 2019.
What happened at the trials
The federal trial in Chicago last September was based on allegations from five minors who prosecutors allege were abused by Kelly in the late 1990s by making explicit videos with four of them.
One of the witnesses in the trial, a 37-year-old woman, spoke in federal court under the pseudonym Jane and testified Kelly began engaging in sex acts with her when she was 14 and had sex with her starting when she was 15. They had sex “hundreds” of times before she turned 18, she said.
She testified that she falsely denied they had a sexual relationship in interviews with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, Chicago police investigators and to a grand jury in 2002.
“Why were you untruthful?” a prosecutor asked Jane in court.
“Because I was afraid to expose Robert. Because I was afraid of what might happen to my parents,” she said. “I also did not want that person to be me.”
The jury convicted Kelly of six charges, including three counts of producing videos depicting sexual conduct with Jane and three counts of enticing Jane and two other minors to engage in sexual activity. He was acquitted on seven other counts, including conspiracy to obstruct justice. Two associates were acquitted of all charges.
At the time of the Chicago federal trial, Kelly had already been convicted of racketeering and sex trafficking in a New York federal trial.
In that case, prosecutors from the Eastern District of New York accused Kelly of using his status as a celebrity and a “network of people at his disposal to target girls, boys and young women for his own sexual gratification.”
The New York trial included testimony from witnesses who said they were sexually and physically abused by Kelly. The court also heard from people involved with orchestrating Kelly’s 1994 marriage to the late singer Aaliyah when she was just 15 years old and he was an adult after she believed she’d gotten pregnant.
Last month, prosecutors in Cook County, Illinois, dropped state sex-crime charges against Kelly, citing in part his lengthy federal sentence.
“I understand how hard it was for these victims to come forward and tell their stories. I applaud their courage and have the utmost respect for everyone who came forward,” Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx said in a news release. “While this may not be the result they were expecting, due to the sentences that Mr. Kelly is facing, we do feel that justice has been served.”
The Greek Ministry of Migration and Asylum announced that 2,767 new “golden visas” were issued in 2022, a sharp rise on the 1,525 granted in 2021.
In the last months of 2022, with a peak in December, 1,116 applications were submitted, compared to 337 in September.
Greece introduced its Golden Visa programme in 2014. Under it, third-country nationals purchasing real estate worth at least 250,000 euros are granted a five-year residence permit, which may be renewed.
A residence permit is also granted to third-country nationals who make an investment that will positively impact the national development and economy. Finally, third-country nationals may also reside in Greece if they make an intangible investment in specific forms of securities or a bank deposit exceeding 400,000 euros in value, either as natural persons or through legal entities.
Based on ministry data from 2014 until the end of 2022, 62.8 per cent of the residence permits, a total of 6,159, were granted to Chinese nationals.
They are followed by Turkish nationals, on 6.4 per cent with 631 permits, Lebanese, on 4.5 per cent, and Egyptians on 2.9 per cent. Some 200 permits were granted to British nationals.
Greek media outlet Kathimeri reports that the rush of investors is due to new rules that double the minimum investment limit from 250,000 to 500,000 euros, which will be imposed from May 1.
Eteron, a Greek think tank, reported that the scheme has a downside to it in terms of the affect on real estate prices.
“There is an acknowledgement of the adverse impact of these investment schemes on the housing market; increasing the threshold without applying any other criteria may prove insufficient,” it said.
As BIRN has reported, housing prices are becoming a serious issue in Greece, where rental prices are skyrocketing. Many Greeks have trouble making ends meet and turn to other solutions, such as home-sharing or returning to their parent’s home.
Portugal announced on February 17 the end of its Golden Visa programme as well as a ban on new licenses for Airbnbs and other short-term holiday rentals. The country also has a housing crisis.
In 2022, the European Commission called on EU governments to stop selling citizenship to investors. However, this is different to golden visas, which offer permanent residency rather than citizenship.
Inflation rate in Greece drops slightly in Jan. 23 from previous month; figure stands at 7%
The annual inflation rate in Greece eased, slightly, to 7 percent in January 2023 (on an annualized basis), down from 7.2 percent in December 2022.
The same figure for the corresponding month of 2022 was 6.2 percent.
The decline, albeit marginal, is attributed decreasing electricity rates, as over the past year and a half record high power prices shocked consumers.
However, a more ominous parameter of the announced inflation figure was an increase in foodstuffs by 15.4 percent, now viewed as the biggest threat to Greek households’ disposable incomes.
According to the Hellenic Statistical Authority (EL.STAT), inflation moved at 3 percent for alcohol/tobacco products; 6.5 percent for clothing/footwear; 10.6 percent for durable goods; 2.9 percent in health services; 8.1 percent in transport; 2.2 percent in private education; 7.8 percent in the hospitality sector and 5.4 percent for other goods and services.
The housing index eased by a negligible 0.1 percent, while the telecoms index fell by 1.3 percent in January 2023.
The consumer price index was down by 0.5 percent last month, compared to December 2022, while the harmonized inflation rate increased 7.3 percent in January 2023, compared the corresponding month in 2022.
Several high-profile Bulgarian politicians were sanctioned on Friday simultaneously by the Global Magnitsky Act and the Office of Foreign Assets Control OFAC of the US Treasury as well as by the British government.
Among those designated by the US are GERB member Vladislav Goranov, Finance Minister in 2017-2020 in Boyko Borissov’s third cabinet, Russophile Movement party leader Nickolay Malinov, who in 2019 was charged with espionage, Bulgarian Socialist Party members 2017-2019 MP Ivan Kirov and Rumen Ovcharov, Minister of Economy and Energy from 2005 to 2007, and Alexander Nikolov, former general director of Bulgaria’s sole nuclear power plant Kozloduy. The Bulgarian Socialist Party is the successor to the one-time ruling Communist Party and is traditionally aligned with Russia.
Designated entities include Bulgaria’s pro-Russian far-right Revival party, embroiled in numerous controversies, most recently in an anti-euro campaign and in intimidating journalists, and the more marginal Russophile Movement.
The UK has focused on sanctioning individuals previously sanctioned under the Global Magnitsky program from June 2021: former media mogul and current Movement for Rights and Freedoms MP Delyan Peevski, the exiled oligarch and gambling tycoon Vassil Bozhkov (whose business was nationalised during Goranov’s stint as Finance Minister) and the former deputy chief of Bulgaria’s special intelligence service, Ilko Zhelyazkov.
“Those sanctioned have deprived the people of Bulgaria of resources crucial to its economic and social development. Money that should have been used to fix roads, build hospitals and support economic growth has instead ended up in the pockets of corrupt individuals,” UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said.
“The UK is acting in close coordination with the US to support Bulgaria in its efforts to tackle corruption and strengthen the rule of law by sanctioning these corrupt figures,” he added.
Reformist parties and NGOs in Bulgaria have accused the Bulgarian prosecution of inactivity to sanctions and Chief Prosecutor Ivan Geshev has been dubbed a protector of Boyko Borissov, and of GERB’s legacy.
International criticism of Bulgarian corruption has intensified lately. “In Bulgaria, the oligarchs have an extremely strong grip. They amass power through the politicians and keep it through economic means to keep their image clean,” US ambassador to Sofia Hero Mustafa told a TV interview on January 22.
“Real reform will happen only when there is a reform in the judicial sector and in the Prosecutor’s office as well,” he added.
Former PM Kiril Petkov, whose pro-EU coalition was ousted in June and is currently on a visit in Washington, on his social media on Friday also criticised state inactivity over allegations of corruption: “Why can’t Chief Prosecutor Geshev see anything of what the US Treasury found out recently?” Petkov asked.
Borissov and Goranov were both arrested under Petkov’s governance but successfully appealed. “The corruption connection between Bozhkov, Goranov and Borissov was the main reason for their arrests last year,” Petkov observed.
EU-Turkey relations were always complex and difficult.
Differences regarding violations of the rule of law and Ankara’s extreme, inflammatory rhetoric are an open wound and remain on the negotiating table.
In light of the disaster that has been unfolding over the last days in Turkey, however, no complexity or difficulty is of importance.
That is understood by the 27 EU leaders who participated in a summit in Brussels yesterday.
They sent a condolence letter to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in which they lauded the efforts of European rescue teams to find those trapped in the rubble alive.
The EU’s response, however, cannot be exhausted with symbolism and condolences.
That does not suffice today, because everyone knows that the real humanitarian crisis will begin when the dust settles and the time comes to count losses and damages.
EU solidarity must also be palpable in the reconstruction phase.
It appears that this will happen, as the EU’s leaders in cooperation with its Swedish presidency have undertaken an initiative to organise a donors’ conference that will be held in March in Brussels, to mobilise and collect funds from the international community to support Turkey and Syria economically.
Greece has a duty to be in the frontline in this and future EU initiatives, offering ideas and proposals to support the two countries.
The 7.8-magnitude quake struck just after 4 a.m. local time on Monday, 23 kilometerseast of Nurdagi, Gaziantep province, at a depth of 24.1 kilometers, according to data from the United States Geological Survey.
It is not clear precisely how many people have died, but news outlets have said the death toll is at least 641, and growing, across Turkiye and Syria with hundreds more believed to be still missing or injured.
Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said the official death toll stood at 284, with a further 2323 people reported as injured.
Oktay also said that 1712 buildings have collapsed.
News agency AFP reported at least 386 deaths in Syria, citing Syrian state media and a medical sources.
Later, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the death toll at 400 people with hundreds still missing.
The 7.8-magnitude quake struck just after 4 a.m. local time on Monday, 23 kilometerseast of Nurdagi, Gaziantep province, at a depth of 24.1 kilometers, according to data from the United States Geological Survey.
The earthquake caused devastation across both sides of the Turkish-Syrian border claiming hundreds of lives.
The quake was so strong that tremors were felt in Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and Egypt.
A hospital in the southeastern Sanliurfa province was completely destroyed by the earthquake, with many patients remaining trapped beneath the rubble.
Rescue workers and residents frantically searched for survivors under the rubble of collapsed buildings in various cities on both sides of the border. In one quake-struck Turkish city, people frantically pulled away chunks of concrete and twisted metal. People on the street shouted up to others inside a partially toppled apartment building, leaning dangerously.
In the Turkish city of Adana, one resident said three buildings near his home collapsed. “I don’t have the strength anymore,” one survivor could be heard calling out from beneath the rubble, as rescue workers tried to reach him, said Muhammet Fatih Yavus a resident. Further east in Diyarbakir, cranes and rescue teams rushed people on stretchers out of a mountain of pancaked concrete floors that was once an apartment building.
At least 20 aftershocks followed, some hours later, the strongest measuring 6.6, Turkish authorities said.
Buildings toppled to the ground in Syria’s cities of Aleppo and Hama to Turkiye’s Diyarbakir, more than 330 kilometers to the northeast.
Also in Syria, the quake smashed opposition-held regions that are packed with some 4 million people displaced from other parts of Syria by the country’s long civil war. Many of them were already living in destitute conditions with little health care, with Russian-backed Syrian forces surrounding the area and sometimes carrying out airstrikes. Rescue workers said hospitals in the area were packed.
“We fear that the deaths are in the hundreds,” Muheeb Qaddour, a doctor, said by phone from the town of Atmeh, referring to the entire rebel-held area. Raed Salah, the head of the White Helmets, the emergency organization in opposition areas, said whole neighborhoods were collapsed in some areas.
The quake, felt as far away as Cairo, was centered north of the city of Gaziantep in an area about 90 kilometers from the Syrian border.
On the Turkish side, the area has several large cities and is home to millions of Syrian refugees.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Twitter that “search and rescue teams were immediately dispatched” to the areas hit by the quake.
“We hope that we will get through this disaster together as soon as possible and with the least damage,” he wrote.
Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu urged people not to enter damaged buildings due to the risks. “Our priority is to bring out people trapped under ruined buildings and to transfer them to hospitals,” he said.
At least 130 buildings tumbled down in Turkiye’s Malatya province, neighboring the epicenter, Gov. Hulusi Sahin said. In the Turkish city of Diyarbakir, at least 15 buildings collapsed. Rescue teams called for silence as they listed for survivors in a toppled 11-story building.
In northwest Syria, the opposition’s Syrian Civil Defense described the situation in the rebel-held region as “disastrous” adding that entire buildings have collapsed and people are trapped under the rubble. The civil defense urged people to evacuate buildings to gather in open areas. Emergency rooms were full of injured, said Amjad Rass, president of the Syrian American Medical Society.
US President Biden directed USAID and other federal government partners to assess response options to the most affected areas in the Turkiye and Syria earthquake, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said in a statement on Sunday.
The United States is profoundly concerned by the reports of the destructive earthquake, he said.
The US Geological Survey said the quake was centered about 33 kilometers from Gaziantep, a major city and provincial capital. It was centered 18 kilometers deep, and a strong 6.7 aftershock rumbled about 10 minutes later.
Syria’s state media reported that some buildings collapsed in the northern city of Aleppo and the central city of Hama.
In Damascus, buildings shook and many people went down to the streets in fear.
The quake jolted residents in Lebanon from beds, shaking buildings for about 40 seconds. Many residents of Beirut left their homes and took to the streets or drove in their cars away from buildings.The earthquake came as the Middle East is experiencing a snowstorm that is expected to continue until Thursday.
Turkiye sits on top of major fault lines and is frequently shaken by earthquakes.
Some 18,000 were killed in powerful earthquakes that hit northwest Turkiye in 1999.
The earthquake came as the Middle East is experiencing a snowstorm that is expected to continue until Thursday.
Cetizens from as far as Jerusalem and Beirut talked of being awakened by the strong shaking. “I live in Gaziantep, Türkiye. Was sleeping when it started. Absolutely terrifying,” Nasip (@iam_nasib) commented on a video posted on Twitter.
“Felt it in Jerusalem,” said Amy di Nardò (@amybellabella).
Sagittarius (@JRsagittarius) said he was in Beirut and the experienced “was terrifying.”
Karolingston (@karolingston) of Cyprus said he was awakened because “My bed was shaking.”
“Felt it in Lebanon. It was a hell of a feeling!” chimed in CharbelRahmé (@charbelrahm_e)
Turkiye is in one of the world’s most active earthquake zones.
Duzce was one of the regions hit by a 7.4-magnitude earthquake in 1999 — the worst to hit Turkiye in decades.
That quake killed more than 17,000 people, including about 1,000 in Istanbul.
Experts have long warned a large quake could devastate Istanbul, which has allowed widespread building without safety precautions.
A magnitude-6.8 quake hit Elazig in January 2020, killing more than 40 people.
And in October that year, a magnitude-7.0 quake hit the Aegean Sea, killing 114 people and wounding more than 1,000.
History is made! Novak Djokovic clinches the tie-break by a 7-5 scoreline and with it wins a record-equalling 22nd Grand Slam title to move level with Rafael Nadal at the summit of the list of men with the most majors.
The straight sets success also seals a record-extending 10th Australian Open crown as he becomes only the second man to win 10 or more titles at the same Grand Slam (after Nadal with 14 at Roland Garros).
The icing on the cake for the 35-year-old Serb means he will start Monday back as World No.1 for the 374th week (also a record).
For Tsitsipas it was ultimately a disappointing occasion with his forehand failing to fire as he would have liked in what was his second appearance in a Grand Slam final.
He once again finishes as runner-up to Djokovic, but will start next week at No.3 in the rankings.
The German military has contracted Rheinmetall to modernize its soldier systems’ command and control equipment.
A total of 14 Future Soldier-Extended Systems will be delivered to the army, enough to equip 476 soldiers.
The contract is in the mid-double-digit million-euro range.
Networked Warfare Loop
In 2021, the latest System Panzergrenadier (system for mechanized infantry), was declared combat-ready by the German Army.
The system links a digitized vehicle platform — the Puma infantry fighting vehicle — with the soldier system equipped for digital radio communication.
The platform allows mounted and dismounted soldiers to access the same information, enabling quicker and more precise communication.
Faster Target Engagement
“Close networking of sensors and effectors of both the soldiers and infantry fighting vehicle minimizes the time between target detection and target engagement,” Rheinmetall wrote.
“Melding these capabilities into a total system of systems enables more effective tactical interaction between dismounted troops and their infantry fighting vehicle, in turn enhancing the combat effectiveness of mechanized infantry formations.”
The use of a bicycle helmet becomes obligatory as from the 1st of February, 2023
Police traffic checks begin as from the 1st of February, 2023
The legal provision rendering the use of a helmet by bicyclists (drivers and passengers) obligatory is coming into effect, based on the legislation, as from the 1st of February, 2023.
Cyprus Police announce that on the 30th of December, 2022, a notification was published in the Gazette of the Republic (act 523/2022), issued by the Registrar of Motor Vehicles, as regards the approval of a specific type of the protective helmet for any bicyclist or passenger of a bicycle.
Based on the notification, the Registrar of Motor Vehicles has specified that the type of the protective helmet for bicyclists and passengers of bicycles must comply with standard CYS ΕΝ 1078:2012+A1, must be explicitly mentioned that it is destined, at least, for bicyclists and must bear the signage for declaration of conformity: CE.
Also, it is specified that alternatively, for small children up to the age of 14, the type of the protective helmet for bicyclists and passengers of bicycles, must comply with standard CYS ΕΝ 1080:2013 and must bear the signage for declaration of conformity: CE.
Based on the legislation, the obligation for the use of a protective helmet is taking effect as from the 1st of February, 2023. As from the 1st of February, Police will be conducting traffic checks as well as issuing out of court tickets for any traffic violation, with the aim of implementing and enforcing the provisions of the legislation for the use of protective helmets by bicyclists and passengers of bicycles.
In case of committing a traffic violation and Court conviction, the offence will be punishable by a fine not exceeding €500. The relevant offence is regulated with an out of court fine of €50.
Tatoi: The progress of the renovation works of the royal estates and the palace
In Tatoi nothing is the same anymore. In the former royal estates, the marks left by the devastating fire in the summer of 2021 are still visible. The fire, which had reached the historic core of the estate, may have left the palace untouched and burned only two of the containers, with various objects from the buildings of the estate, but it altered the natural environment while causing serious damage to 13 peripheral buildings , with the most important to the Directorate, but also those of the Personnel Housing, the Forestry building, Telecommunications, the Guard of the Tombs and the “Sturm Residence” and the Caretaker’s House.
The image that will be seen by the guests who will attend the funeral of the former King Constantine, on Monday, has nothing to do with the former paradise of Tatoi. Although in recent months crews have been systematically working on the cleanup, black, burnt logs remain as a reminder of the ecological disaster caused by the fire a year and a half ago, although the forest has begun to regenerate.
Regarding the restoration of the summer palace and the kitchens, the contractors of the project, ERETVO, ETVO and Nirikos Techniki, is proceeding. The aim is that by the end of 2025, the premises will be open to visitors and function as a museum, where the furniture and objects of the former royal family will be exhibited, while a museological study will also be carried out for the new agricultural building. At the same time, the gardens of the palace will be restored, the conservation and restoration of the artefacts will progress, as well as their recording, documentation and registration, as well as the digitization of the printed archival material that has been found in the premises. For the time being, the contractor who has settled in the area is proceeding with preliminary works inside the building. The restoration of the palace has secured funding of 14.3 million euros (including VAT) from the Recovery Fund.
Studies on regional buildings
As for the burnt buildings still lying exposed to rain and damp as they have lost their roofs, they need immediate protection before they collapse, like other important regional buildings. For some of these there are ready studies for their restoration. Some time ago, the Central Council of Newer Monuments gave a positive opinion on the studies of the new Cow Shed, the Horse Stables and the Refuge, as well as the accessibility study of the restored Forester’s House, which will host the information and visitor information center about the history of the estate. The operations will be carried out with the aim of highlighting their architectural and historical value, preserving their authentic morphological and typological elements.
For the New Cow Sheds, the approved final study foresees its conversion into an exhibition space. The ground floor will host a museum display area for the objects preserved in the building, with separate sections for the display of dairy, oil and wine production. The same building will host the exhibition of the cars found on the estate (Rolls-Royce of the era, MG TD Midget, electric Fiat 500 Boano Spider Elegance and golf vehicles). The project, with a budget of 4,300,000 euros, has secured funding from the Recovery Fund and a completion date of the end of 2025.
The Horse Stable building will function as a place for children’s creative work and an information center for horses. It is part of the second complex of stables which was erected during the first period of reconstruction of the estate (1873-78) by George I. In its immediate surroundings, the estate’s bell tower is preserved – with the word “Tatoi” and the date “1895” engraved on the bell.
The restoration of the Refuge is underway so that it will host a digital visitor information center. Its basement belongs to the palatial section of the Estate and has two visible entrances. Its construction is placed during the interwar period of reconstruction (1930-1939) at the same time as the underground portico that connects the Summer Palace with the Kitchens. During the December events (1944-45), during the fighting in the wider area of the airport, the residents of the Estate took refuge there.
The restored “Forest Ranger’s House” is now accessible, after the reconstruction of the 850 meter long route from the Lefkas Gate to the building. In the attic of the House there is a digital projection with snapshots from the history of the estate. The Forester House in 1896 is recorded as a stable, supporting the Head Gardener’s House.
New necessary infrastructure
The studies for the modernization of the infrastructure networks – water supply, fire fighting, irrigation, drainage and sewage treatment, electric power and telecommunications have also been completed and approved by Central Council of Newer Monuments based on the requirements created by the new uses that will be accommodated in the estate.
Among other things, a connection with the central water main, a new distribution network for all the buildings and facilities of the Estate, construction of a water supply tank, a fire extinguishing network that will cover the entire core of the Estate, with fire hydrants and water jets in selected locations as well as an installation of a self-contained system with gas in spaces where water cannot be used as an extinguishing medium. There will also be undergrounding of the electricity network, a sewage network and sewage treatment plant, a telecommunications network, etc. The infrastructure projects will be financed by the operational program “Transport Infrastructures, Environment and Sustainable Development 2014-2020”.
However, it is noteworthy that the “Tatoi Estate Management Agency” has not yet been established to direct the utilization of the area, which was already foreseen in 2006 in the Presidential Decree for the protection of the mountainous mass of Parnitha and the utilization of Tatoi.
Former King Constantine: Will he lie in state? – The officials who will attend the funeral
Police have already started the processes for the security measures and the operational plan for the dignitaries who will arrive to Greece from abroad
On Monday, January 16, the funeral procession of the former King Constantine will be held in the Metropolitan Church of Athens, and then his burial will follow in Tatoi, near his ancestors.
The Greek government, after an inter-ministerial meeting chaired by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis – and after intense behind-the-scenes consultations – decided that the former King Constantine will be buried as a private person and discusses all the procedures provided for in the Protocol for officials from abroad, who will attend the funeral in Athens.
The Greek government will be represented by the Minister of Culture, Lina Mendoni, while the funereal procession will be led by Archbishop Hieronymos and probably members of the Holy Synod will also take part.
According to government sources, the government’s decision to bury him as a private person was purely political and the prime minister never wavered about it.
The dignitaries and security measures
At the same time, police have already started the processes for the security measures and the operational plan for the dignitaries who will arrive in our country from abroad.
Constantine’s children and his sister Sophia of Spain have been in Athens for days since his health deteriorated. All his grandchildren are expected in Greece, the five children of Pavlos and Marie-Chantal and the four of Alexia.
Sending invitations by the family to the persons who wish to attend the funeral of the former King Constantine is considered a matter of time.
The relatives and members of the royal families of Europe, with whom they are connected, have already been informed in order to prepare their visit to Athens.
Representatives of the royal houses of Spain, Denmark, Great Britain and Luxembourg are expected to attend the funeral in Athens, without excluding representatives of other European royal families.
As reported by Spanish media, the country’s royal family will be gathered in Athens. Queen Mother Sofia is already here, her daughters Princess Elena and Princess Cristina will arrive today, Friday, while King Felipe of Spain and Queen Letitia will also attend the funeral.
The honorary king of Spain Juan Carlos, who has been living in Abu Dhabi for the last few years, is also expected to be present.
Grand Duke of Luxembourg, Henry, will come to Athens to attend the funeral, according to information.
Also, members of the Danish royal family, with whom there are close ties of kinship, will come to Greece. More specifically, Queen Margrethe of Denmark, Anna-Maria’s sister, and their sister Princess Mathilde are expected. Crown Prince Frederik will also attend.
As far as the British royal family is concerned, it has already informed that it will be represented at the funeral. It is unknown which of Charles’ family members will attend.
It is most likely that King Charles will not attend as according to British royal protocol this is not foreseen. Prince William, whose godfather Constantine was and who has baptized the eldest of the children of Paul and Marie-Chantal, may be found in Athens. Otherwise, it is likely that Princess Anna will come to Athens.
Lying in State
The family of the deceased, who visited the PM’s office at the Maximos Mansion, has requested that his body be placed in a popular pilgrimage at the chapel of Agios Eleftherios next to the Metropolis, in order for those citizens who wish to say goodbye to him.
Circles close to the family, speaking to in.gr, stated that their wish is for the body of the former king to arrive in the metropolis early in the morning and for there to be a period of 3-4 hours until his funeral, which is expected to take place at 12 noon.
However, on the part of the government, the final decisions have not been made on this specific issue, as the security measures that will be in place to protect the foreign leaders who will be in the Greek capital for the funeral will have to be decided upon.
Ten years after the delivery of the last major extension of Line 2 of the Athens metro, which today connects Anthoupolis with Ellinikon, a new esxtension is on the way. Attiko Metro yesterday turned the hourglass of the tender for the extension to Ilion with approximately 4 km of new line and three new stations. Traffic congested Western Attica is finally on track for new infrastructure projects, as is the extension of the Suburban railway that will connect Ano Liosia with Megara, for which the tender was launched before the holidays by OSE.
The new extension of Line 2 has been designed to cover many densely populated areas of Western Attica, while in the future it is also going to go towards Acharnes. There is provision, in the context of the overall planning of the metro network of the capital, for a response to the Ilion station with the future extension of Line 4 to Petroupolis.
It is estimated that the new section of the extension of Line 2, after Anthoupolis with three stations in Palatiani, Ilion and Agios Nikolaos, with a length of about 4 km, will serve at least 67,000 passengers daily, the number of citizens who will be served in terms of their residence within a radius of 500 meters from the 3 new stations will rise to 42,000 and the corresponding jobs served are estimated at around 5,000.
Mapping of the new stations
Palatiani station is located at the intersection of Thivon and Andreas Papandreou streets and has two entrances on either side of Thivon, with the depth of the station reaching 22.5 m from the ground surface. The Ilion station will also be located on Thivon, with two entrances on either side, at the intersection with Elaion street , which will reach 24 meters below the surface of the ground. The final station Agios Nikolaos is located under part of the street of the same name and part of the landscaped green space located between Paramythia, Olynthos, Zitsis and Agios Nikolaos streets. The three stations will have side platforms 4.50 m wide and 110 m long.
The project also includes the Station Ventilation Wells (some of which are integrated into the stations), as well as six Wells along the route: “Agiou Sostis”, “Antipaxon”, “Filoktitos”, “Hermionis”, “Platonos” and “Agia Glykerias”. In Palatiani, a transfer station will also be created, in an undeveloped area adjacent to the station under construction, between Andreas Papandreou and Iconio streets. It will have three underground levels with access via ramps, with a total capacity of approximately 150 vehicles and with a direct connection to the station. On the surface of this, a bus transfer area will be formed.
Expansion of the depot in Eleonas
The future operation of the extension in question, combined with the planned supply of an additional 13 new trains that will strengthen the network of the capital, make it necessary to expand the depot in Eleonas in the adjacent area at the corner of Agia Anna and Pieria streets. The area has an area of approximately 2 hectares and is currently occupied mainly by warehouses of the former Athenian Paper Factory and other properties. It is noted that the tender for the new trains is being prepared for the middle of the year.
Accordingly, the future operation of the extension also makes it necessary to upgrade/replace some equiupment in a large part or even in the whole of the existing Lines 2 and 3, as the existing ones are no longer supported by the manufacturers, there are no spare parts and the costs have increased their down time.
The international electronic tender for the entire “triple” project will take place in two stages, with the pre-selection in phase A followed by the financial offers in phase B. The estimated budget amounts to 550 million euros or 682 million including VAT.
The goal of extensions
With the work on the brand new Line 4 having begun, Attiko Metro has gun actions to mature the next day of the Athens Metro. The next phase of the extension of Line 2 is going to have three stations towards Kamatero and Ano Liosia, where it will connect with the Suburban Railway on Attiki Odos, and finally end in Acharnes (centre of Menidi).
Priority has also been given to the connection of the metro network with the National Highway, in order to breathe life into one of the most burdened axes of the capital. The Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport recommends the extension of Line 1, the well-known old electric line, from Kifissia to Varibompi as the most suitable, as the northern phase of the future Line 4 extension to the north will take a long time.
The extension of the electric line will pass through Nea Erythrea and will end at the Varymombi junction. As long as the project matures and the necessary financing is found, then the electric railway will arrive faster than any other solution to the National Highway. The budget of the project is estimated at around 200 million euros.
Of course, the northern extension of Line 4 will also end there in the future. Initially, the orange line will connect to Marousi from Goudi with seven new stations. It will serve the municipalities of Psychiko-Filothei, Halandri and Marousi. Then, it will pull towards National Highway. The twin project has an estimated budget of over €1 billion.
A priority is also the underground connection of the electric line after the station of Thisio to Kallithea, 5 km long, with four stations: Hamosternas, Davaki Square, Filaretou Hill/Tzitzifies and SNFCC. The cost is estimated at 450 million euros. The next phase of the line’s development will extend towards Paleo Faliro, along Amphithea Avenue.
The “southern” extension of Line 2 from Elliniko, 4.4 km long, with stations in Ano Glyfada, Vouliagmenis Avenue and Glyfada, with a budget of 350 million euros, is still being prepared.