Maria Sakkari Sweeps Through to the Fourth Round of Australian Open

Greek tennis champion Maria Sakkari reached the second week of a major tournament for the first time in her young career, dispatching 2015 semifinalist Madison Keys to advance into the fourth round of the Australian Open in straight sets.

Sakkari, who was playing in the third round of a Grand Slam tournament for the eighth time in her career, finally broke through in emphatic fashion, booking a Round of 16 clash with 2019 runner-up Petra Kvitova after playing one hour and 15 minutes on Margaret Court Arena.

“I have been struggling a lot at every Grand Slam,” Sakkari said during her on-court interview after the match. “I was getting stuck at the third round, so I’m so happy to be through to the fourth round! It was a great day for me, and a great crowd.”

Public Smoking Now Curbed, Greece Wages New War Against Draft Tsipouro

One of the many great traditions in Greece is the enjoyment of a couple of shot glasses of tsipouro liqueur accompanied by meze in the company of friends. Tsipouro is widely available in great quantities and it is still relatively cheap.
The reason tsipouro is so inexpensive is because it can be homemade. As a result, there is a completely unregulated market around it, resulting in the loss of tens of millions of euros in taxes every year. Now the Greek government has decided to ban the sale of draft tsipouro altogether.
Tsipouro – made from grape residue after grapes are pressed to make wine – is the drink of choice in celebrations in the Greek provinces. One of the reasons tsipouro – or “tsikoudia,” as they call it on Crete – is so popular is because it doesn’t cause dizziness or headaches if consumed in moderation.
Tsipouro is also inexpensive and relatively easy to make. There are countless families across Greece who make their own liqueur at home; everyone is even allowed to make up to 150 liters per year for personal use.
Usually, the tsipouro served in bars, tavernas and restaurants is in draft form, sold to the businesses by small distillers. It can also be served bottled, when produced by big distillery companies. In Greece there are several tsipouradika specializing in many varieties of tsipouro and serving special meze dishes to accompany the drink.
The beautiful seaside city of Volos is famous for its numerous  tsipouradika and the delicious meze they serve there.
During the economic crisis, Greeks turned to draft tsipouro and ouzo because it is cheaper than wine and beer.
In 2013, right in the middle of the crisis years, a Finance Ministry committee had estimated that 17 million liters of illegal draft tsipouro were being produced and sold annually without being taxed. As a result, it was believed that the Greek state misses out on approximately 97 million euros in taxes annually — while the competition among producers is unfair.
In 2015, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) had estimated that 24 million liters of draft tsipouro are made every year in Greece. The OECD suggested that among the various reforms Greece should undertake to boost state revenue is the prohibition of the sale of draft tsipouro.
After two years of going back and forth on the issue, a bill to ban the sale of draft tsipouro passed in the Greek parliament in 2017. However, it turned out to be one of those laws that was never enforced, much like the prohibition of smoking in public places.
However, the Greek government has finally decided to enforce this dormant legislation. The General Secretariat of Commerce and Consumer Protection has started inspections across the whole chain of producers and providers of the beloved drink, including liquor stores, restaurants, supermarkets and bars.
Dozens of businesses were found to be selling draft tsipouro in violation of the law, which states that the distillate product offered exclusively in bulk under the name tsipouro or tsikoudia is prohibited to appear in price lists and other handling and marketing documents.
Moreover, any product named tsipouro or tsikoudia should be bottled.
The inspections and general monitoring of the sale of tsipouro are incorporated in the General Secretariat of Commerce and Consumer Protection’s annual operational control and market surveillance plan.
According to data available to the relevant ministries, there are 51,439 holders of a license to produce tsipouro, with 47,771 of them stating that their annual batch of the liqueur is less than 150 liters, claiming it is made for their own use.
According to the Secretariat, however, there is a great discrepancy between what is declared and the quantities of draft tsipouro found on the market today.
To that effect, the Secretariat is calling on those small producers to modernize their production facilities and abide by health laws. It is also suggested to small producers to take advantage of the NSRF’s programs and switch to branded tsipouro.
According to large distillers, the surge of bulk tsipouro on the market is due to the substantial difference in taxation between bulk and bottled tsipouro, creating a strong incentive to exploit the “small producer” status.
While bottled product is subject to a special tax of EUR 12.75 per liter of anhydrous alcohol, producers of bulk tsipouro are taxed with a lump sum tax of EUR 1.40 per liter of ethyl alcohol.
It remains to be seen if these newly-enforced tsipouro laws will have the same, wide-ranging effect as Greece’s anti-smoking legislation, now enforced as a matter of course.

''We Don't Need Turkish Permission'' PM Mitsotakis Declares on EastMed Pipeline

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, along with most other world leaders this week and he participated in two separate panels there on Thursday.
The first was about the so-called “Green New Deal” and the second was a discussion with Harvard and Stanford University History Professor Niall Ferguson.
During the second panel discussion, Mitsotakis explained how Greece, Cyprus and Israel are planning to bring natural gas to the European Union through the EastMed gas pipeline.
”We don’t need Turkish permission to do that,” Mitsotakis noted emphatically, referring to Turkey’s remarks that the proposed pipeline route passes through its own continental shelf.
He reiterated that Greece’s cooperation with other states does not intend to exclude Turkey, but he also added, ”at the end of the day, one has to accept that we have to play by the rules.”
On the issue of Libya, the Prime Minister reiterated that there would be no political solution on which the EU and Greece could agree unless the Saraj – Turkey memoranda are voided.
“I was very clear to Angela Merkel that it was a mistake that Greece was not invited to Berlin, stressing that Greece is the closest neighbor to Libya from a European perspective,” the Prime Minister said from the Davos conference.
“Libya and Turkey have no maritime borders and the treaty they signed does not take into account the rights of our islands,” Mitsotakis reiterated for the panel participants.
The Greek leader also referred to a number of other issues during his two panel discussions, ranging from the refugee and migrant crisis to the climate debate.
The Greek Premier said that Turkey is utilizing the refugee and migrant issue to place pressure on Greece and the rest of the EU, highlighting the extremely difficult situation that the Eastern Aegean islands are currently experiencing.

Greece Signs Loan Agreement With European Investment Bank for New Heraklion Airport

Greece on Thursday signed two loan agreements with the European Investment Bank (EIB) worth 330 million euros.
The EIB loans, one for the construction of a new international airport in Heraklion, Crete, and the other for priority investments in Greece, were signed at the Finance Ministry in Athens.
The officials inking the arrangement were EIB Vice President Andrew McDowell, chief of lending operations in Greece, and Greek Finance Minister (and EIB Governor for Greece) Christos Staikouras.
The first agreement was also signed by Kostas Karamanlis, Minister of Infrastructure and Transport, while the second was signed by Giannis Tsakiris, Deputy Minister of Development and Investments.

Adonis Georgiadis, Minister of Development and Investments, was also present at the signing event.
Under the first agreement, the EIB has agreed to provide a 180-million-euro loan to support the construction of the new Heraklion International Airport on the island of Crete.
The new airport will replace the current airport serving Heraklion.
During the summer tourism season, the existing airport is heavily congested and cannot handle additional passengers at the required οptimal level of service using the newest security methods.
The new airport will be built at Kasteli, 30 kilometers (19 miles) from Heraklion. The existing airport will be closed once the new airport is operational.
The 28-year EIB loan to the Hellenic Republic will finance the state’s contribution to the 517-million-euro project.
Construction of the new Heraklion airport is expected to take five years. The project will include a new 18 km (11-mile) long motorway and 6 km (3.7 mile) long access road.
Stakouras stated “Today marks a key milestone in the history of aviation in Greece that will unlock the full tourism potential of the beautiful island of Crete. I welcome the support of the European Investment Bank for the new Heraklion Airport that will create thousands of jobs during construction and when operational and ensure a warm welcome for millions of visitors to Greece in the years to come.”
The EIB is the European Union’s nonprofit, long-term lending institution, established in 1958. Over the years, it has helped make possible more than twelve thousand major European projects by the lending of more than one trillion euros.
With information from AMNA

World's Largest Robotics Festival to Be Held in Athens in April 2020

Participants of the “Robotex Festival” take part in the competition at one of its previous events. Credit:

Europe’s largest festival and competition revolving around robotics, called the Robotex Festival, will be held in Athens on April 4-5, 2020, at Athens’ Serafeio Conference Center, it was recently announced. The robotics event is widely believed to be the largest such gathering in the entire world.
As part of this annual event, there will be robotics competitions, speeches and seminars pertaining to robotics, attracting tens of thousands of visitors from almost 50 different countries across the globe.
The Open robotics competitions are the heart of the festival and are carried out according to internationally-accepted standards for the industry.
Teams which have created their own robotic unit and who would like to compete with it are welcome to apply for participation in the event.
In addition, if an individual has not actually built a robot but is interested in robotics, they can also participate as part of the audience for the competitions, speeches and seminars. In this way they will have the opportunity to learn about new technologies and will be able to interact with specialists in the world of robotics.
There are three competition categories, based on age: Level A for children up to 12 years of age; B for teenagers up to 17 years of age; and Level C for adults and college students.
Researchers, engineers and business experts in the field of robotics will come together to share their insights and experience with the public in a number of relevant presentations and discussions.
The annual Robotex event, which started out in Estonia, has since become a worldwide competition and festival that has taken place in more than ten countries thus far.
The detailed schedule for the Robotex Festival is not available just yet, but it will be published in the near future. Entrance to the Festival will be free for all.
For more information about Robotex, please click here:

Russian Bitcoin Laundering Suspect Alexander Vinnik to Be Extradited to France

Alexander Vinnik, also known as ”Mr. Bitcoin.” File photo by AMNA

Russian national Alexander Vinnik’s extradition to France can now proceed, following a ruling of Greece’s Council of State which was published on Thursday.
Vinnik, who was arrested in northern Greece in July of 2017, is currently sought by authorities in the United States, France and Russia, all of which have issued international arrest warrants for him over an e-currency platform he set up and is charged with using for money laundering purposes.
The country’s supreme administrative court rejected Vinnik’s request seeking the annulment of Justice Minister Constantinos Tsiaras’ decision to extradite him to France, then to the United States and finally to Russia. The Russian man is also frequently referred to as ”Mr. Bitcoin.”
The Plenary of the Council of State, presided over by judge Athanasios Rantos, considered that the Minister of Justice had wide discretion in ruling whether or not to order the extradition of the suspect.
The Council of State also ruled that the Minister had the authority to decide the order of the countries to which the suspect will be extradited.

First-Ever Greek Film with Sound Rediscovered in France and Restored

Still from film “The Apaches of Athens.” Photo credit: The Stavros Niarchos Foundation

An historic Greek film from 1930, thought for many decades to have been lost but which was recently found in France, has now been restored. A screening of the early “talkie” will premiere at the Stavros Niarchos Hall of the Greek National Opera (SNFCC) in February.
The black and white film “The Apaches of Athens,” which was discovered in the archives of the Cinémathèque Française, will return to the big screen with the support of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF), as a result of the collaboration between the Greek Film Archive Foundation and the Greek National Opera.
The film, by the brothers Gaziadis, based on Nikos Hadjiapostolou and Giannis Prineas’ legendary operetta of the same title, was the first-ever attempt to create a film with “sound and speech” in Greece.
Starring some legendary figures of the Greek music scene, including Petros Kyriakos, Mary Sayanou, Petros Epitropakis and Giannis Prineas, it was an extremely important link in the history of early Greek cinema. And it was thought to have been completely lost until just recently.
Poster for “The Apaches of Athens.” Photo credit: Stavros Niarchos Foundation

The key power of this filmed operetta lies in the lofty aesthetics of its filming, which splendidly records some of the most significant landmarks of Athens and its surroundings, while capturing the everyday life of the 1930s in the areas of Plaka, Psyrri, Agora, Thiseio, Gazi, Haftia, Syntagma Square, Omonia, Stadiou and Panepistimiou streets.
There are even scenes which were filmed at the Tatoi Palace.
This screening of The Apaches of Athens will be performed to live music, in an effort to restore the work’s original – and forever lost – soundtrack. After its first presentation at the Greek National Opera, the restored copy of the film will travel to major film festivals for early cinema across the world.
The world premiere of the restored copy of this seminal film will happen on Saturday, February 15th, at 8 PM local time, at Stavros Niarchos Hall in the Greek National Opera.
There will be free admission for those with priority vouchers. Musical accompaniment for the film will be provided by the Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation Symphony Orchestra and Greek National Opera soloists. The conductor of the symphony is Anastasios Symeonidis.

Greece Ahead of Germany, France and the UK in Share of Renewable Energy Produced

A surprisingly positive development was made public on Thursday in regard to Greece’s efforts to step away from forms of energy which are detrimental to the environment and shoot for the EU’s targets in the use of renewable energy.
According to a report published by Eurostat, Greece stands well above major European powers in terms of its share of renewable energy sources in 2018, coming right at the European Union average.
Greece is above Germany, France, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and other major European Union member nations.
Greece is among the twelve member states which have already reached a share equal to or above their national 2020 binding targets, gaining 18 percent of its total energy needs from renewable energy sources, including solar and wind energy.
Of course, Greece is well behind the nations of Scandinavia, which top the list of European Union member states who have put enormous efforts into developing renewable resources.
Sweden, for example, comes first in the entire EU, with fully 54.6 percent of its energy needs in 2018 provided by renewable resources.

Finland came in second with 41.2%, and Denmark came in fourth place, with 36.1 percent. Third place was taken by the small Baltic nation of Latvia.
Each European Union member state has its own “Europe 2020” target regarding the production of renewable resources.
Each national target takes into account the member nation’s different starting points, its potential renewable energy sources and its economic performance.
Perhaps most surprisingly, the Netherlands and France are the furthest away from their renewable energy goals, with the Dutch coming in very last place in the entire European Union.
Greece’s conservative government has pledged that in the next eight years the country will completely abandon its traditional lignite coal mines in the production of electrical power, turning much more decisively toward cleaner forms of energy.

Turkey Calls for the Demilitarization of Sixteen Greek Islands

The Turkish Defense Minister called on Wednesday for the demilitarization of sixteen Aegean islands, claiming that Greece is violating international agreements. Athens quickly responded by accusing Ankara of hypocrisy.
Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said “the islands near the cost of Turkey,” which he did not name, were illegally militarized.
“We expect Greece to act in line with international law and the agreements it has signed,” Turkey’s state-run Anadolu News Agency cited Akar as saying in Ankara.
Turkey claims that the militarization of the Eastern Aegean Islands was restricted in the Treaty of London in 1913, and their demilitarized status was confirmed in the Treaty of Lausanne, signed in 1923. The 1947 Treaty of Paris, which ceded the Dodecanese from Italy to Greece, also confirmed this demilitarized status.
Athens responded to Akar’s claims, saying that the Greek islands are legitimately defended, a right which is enshrined in various international treaties.
A statement issued by the Greek Foreign Ministry charges that Turkey is acting in a hypocritical manner in invoking international law.
“It is at least hypocritical for a country that systematically violates the territorial integrity, sovereignty and sovereignty of almost all of its neighboring countries, a country that threatens a neighbor and an ally with war, to invoke international law,” the statement reads.
“This country [Turkey] does not understand why its neighbors are obliged to take every measure for their legal defense throughout their territory, a right enshrined in the UN Charter itself,” the statement concludes.

Maria Sakkari Defends Greek Fans Tossed Out of Australian Open

Greek tennis champion Maria Sakkari on Wednesday threw her support behind Greek fans who were evicted from her match at the Australian Open for being too rowdy.

Victoria Police confirmed that a group of between 15 and 20 men were ejected from the tennis court for disruptive behavior. “The group had received numerous warnings during the match on Court 8 from the match referee, security and the police,” a police spokesperson said.

After being asked to leave, they eventually left the area peacefully, but some of them still labeled their treatment as “racist.”

Asked about the incident by reporters after winning her match against Japan’s Nao Hibino, the 24-year-old Sakkari was quick to defend her Greek fans, saying “They supported me in a very nice way.”

“They respected the opposition and stopped when it was necessary. It’s my favorite type of atmosphere to play in and I love having them by my side. All they said was ‘break, break, break’ but everyone does that. I’m fine with them, I think they’re great!” she added.

Sakkari also commented on the fact that there were certain ethnicity-related chants heard throughout the game referring to the dispute with North Macedonia — which she didn’t seem to have an issue with.

“They (the fans) are very patriotic, so they give a lot of significance to anything happening in Greece. I understand their sentiments, they feel a lot more Greek than even we do, it’s very nice. It’s not something illegal,” the player maintained .

On Monday, Stefanos Tsitsipas expressed his annoyance at the the degree of exuberance his supporters were displaying. “I really like that they come and support me because that gives me a lot of positives in my game. I don’t really know why they want to go the extra mile some of the time,” Tsitsipas stated.

“If I would be an opponent… I mean, I do understand he doesn’t understand what’s happening out there and what the chants are, but I think also, from their side, they should be a little bit more respectful to the opponents. That’s all. Nothing else,” the tennis phenom added.