Santorini Mayor 'Not Particularly Concerned' About Coronavirus Spread

Chinese tourists wearing masks enjoy a walk in picturesque Oia, Santorini on Friday. Photo by Michael Ermogenis

As hundreds of Chinese tourists, some wearing protective facemasks, strolled the streets of Santorini on Friday, snapping photos of the magnificent view of its caldera, the mayor the Greek island played down concerns about the possibility of the spread of the coronavirus.
Speaking to Greek Reporter, Antonis Sigalas maintained that he “is not particularly concerned,” pointing out that there are no direct charter flights from China to Santorini during the winter months. “Those who arrive in Santorini are being monitored at Athens’ international airport,” the mayor added.
The Cycladic island has the highest concentration of Chinese visitors in Greece, especially during the winter months, and in particular around the Chinese New year. The stunning volcanic island has now even become a Mecca for wedding ceremonies.
Every year, dozens of Chinese couples make their wedding vows at the towns overlooking the caldera including Fira, Imerovigli, Firastefani and Oia, which are perched far above the sea and whose scenic backdrops look like paintings.
It is estimated that up to 3,000 Chinese tourists are currently vacationing on Santorini.
Sigalas says that fully 70 percent of bookings by Chinese tourists to Santorini had been cancelled by early this week. “As we speak today, the cancellation rate could be as high as 100 percent,” he adds.
The mayor calls the possibility of a tourist carrying the virus, but who has not been diagnosed yet, an “extreme scenario, that cannot be excluded.” In any case, he adds, the health authorities on the island have taken measures to deal with such a possibility.
Some local residents, however, are skeptical. Symptoms are thought to appear between two and ten days after contracting the virus.
There is also some evidence, as yet unconfirmed, that the virus can be spread by completely asymptomatic people — that is, people who carry the virus but are not yet sick. If this is correct, it will make the virus considerably more difficult to control.
“It is possible that tourists who arrived from China during the last ten days or so could have been carriers of the virus,” Santorini resident Michalis Ermogenis tells Greek Reporter.
“Of course, I am worried,” he adds, pointing at a large contingent of Chinese tourists walking around the island. “Almost 90 percent of tourists in Santorini right now are Chinese. One must be blind not to see the danger.”
Ermogenis also says that he has not seen or heard of any measures taken to prevent or deal with a possible coronavirus case on the island.
Meanwhile, as the current  influx of Chinese tourists to Santorini ceases, authorities are mulling over the inevitable damage to the local economy.
Mayor Sigalas accepts that businesses will suffer from the coronavirus scare. He announced through Greek Reporter that an extraordinary meeting with representatives of the tourist industry will be held on Saturday to assess the situation and agree on a plan to ameliorate the damage.

Greece to Begin Procedures to Privatize Ten Regional Ports

The port of Volos in Thessaly.

The Greek government has launched the necessary legal procedures for the further commercial development of ten large regional ports in the country, according to an announcement issued on Friday.
Finance Minister Christos Staikouras and Shipping and Island Policy Minister Giannis Plakiotakis called on the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (HRADF) to immediately begin the procedures after analyzing the evaluation surveys for each of the ports of Alexandroupolis, Kavala, Volos, Rafina, Elefsis, Lavrio, Igoumenitsa, Corfu, Patras and Heraklion.
The two ministers expressed the government’s desire for the Fund to proceed with the selection of an advisor to launch an international bidding process for the ports.
The ministries also said in the announcement that following this procedure, each port will become a center of local growth with multiple benefits in terms of attracting investments, creating jobs and raising commerce on a regional level.
The country will also benefit both economically, with higher public revenue, and geostrategically with the increase of international trade through Greek ports.
International Airport of Athens
Meanwhile, the HRADF also announced on Friday that nine investment parties have qualified to proceed to the second phase of a bidding process, the “Binding Offers Phase,” as part of their efforts to acquire the 30-percent stake in the Athens International Airport SA (AIA), which is owned by the HRADF.
With information from AMNA

Greece Nominates European Court of Human Rights for 2020 Nobel Peace Prize

The Courtroom of the European Court of Human Rights. Credit: WIkipedia

The Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement on Friday announcing the decision taken by the country’s current administration regarding their nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize for 2020.
”Greece, by the decision of the Greek government, proposes the European Court of Human Rights for the Nobel Peace Prize 2020,” the statement begins.
Alternate Foreign Minister Miltiades Varvitsiotis sent a letter with this same declaration to the Nobel Committee, by which he officially informed them of Greece’s decision.
”Greece highly appreciates the work of the European Court of Human Rights, which is an important institution for the protection of human rights and the safeguarding of international justice, recognizing its wider contribution to the consolidation and promotion of world peace,” the Greek Ministry declared.
”The fact that our country is taking over the next Presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, which will have as its central theme the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the signing of the European Convention on Human Rights, the implementation of which the ECHR is monitoring, is an additional reason for submitting this proposal,” the Foreign Ministry statement said.
The European Court of Human Rights, which also known as the Strasbourg Court, was established in 1958. It has jurisdiction over the 47 nations which are members of the Council of Europe.

Volunteers Collect More Than 13 Tons of Garbage from Greek Beaches

Volunteers showing their handiwork after one of HELMEPA’s events in Vravrona. Photo credit:

Over thirteen tons of garbage were collected from Greek beaches and the seabed in 145 separate cleaning operations between September and October 2019, the Hellenic Marine Environment Protection Association (HELMEPA) announced on Thursday.
The detritus was collected by a total of 6,500 volunteers, who pooled their efforts to make this all possible.
The organization coordinated the beach clean-ups for the 29th consecutive year in Greece as part of a global event called “International Beach Cleaning Volunteer Day.”
Over 73 kilometers (45 miles) of Greek coastline were cleaned, while volunteer scuba divers collected an impressive 1.5 tons of garbage from the seabed.
Graph credit:

Cigarette butts were once again the most common type of garbage collected, followed by disposable plastics, including plastic bottles and straws.
Glass bottles, paper, plastic bags and styrofoam were also among the most frequently found refuse items on Greek beaches.
”As it is well known, plastic pollution has reached every corner of the planet – from the most remote and uninhabited places to the depths of the oceans – and through the food chain may also end up on our plate. So it is vital that we all become part of the solution to limit this serious environmental problem,” HELMEPA noted in its announcement.
HELMEPA volunteers at one of the beach cleanups in Heraklion, Crete. Photo credit:

Spectacular Findings Uncovered in Santorini's Akrotiri Archaeological Dig

Some of the recent findings at Santorini’s Akrotiri archaeological site. Photo credit: Greek Ministry of Culture

Significant new findings were recently revealed during ongoing excavation works at the archaeological site of Akrotiri, on the Greek island of Santorini (Thera), the Ministry of Culture of Greece announced in a statement on Thursday.
Most of the discoveries are related to the everyday life of the people who lived on the island before the volcanic explosion which destroyed most of the island and subsequently the Minoan civilization on Crete.
Some of the most recent findings at the Akrotiri site. Photo credit: Greek Ministry of Culture

Ordinary objects used by the people of the island, even including clothing and burned fruit, were found, most likely believed to be the very last objects the people of Santorini were using in the moments before the devastating volcanic eruption.
Additionally, more than 130 micelle vessels were found, which archaeologists believe were most likely related to a burial place.
Painted black and white pottery found at the Akrotiri site. Photo credit: Greek Ministry of Culture

The archaeological dig on Santorini is taking place under the auspices of the Greek Archaeological Society and under the direction of Professor Christos Doumas.
The statement from the Ministry of Culture informs the public that among the new discoveries are ”four vessels, partially discovered in earlier excavations.”
Other findings include bronze objects, including two large double braids and miniature horn cores, as well as small fragments and beads from one or more necklaces.
Beads found by archaeologists at the Akrotiri site. Photo credit: Greek Ministry of Culture

Among dozens of other new findings, the Ministry of Culture noted that an inscription, consisting of Linear A syllables and an ideogram, was found written in ink on an object which is most likely related to the use of a building, also uncovered in the dig.
Exquisite pottery shell and other small objects found at the Akrotiri site. Credit: Ministry of Culture of Greece

The Ministry of Culture concluded by saying that scientists expect many additional smaller and larger findings to be uncovered in the next phases of the works, which continue at the Akrotiri site.
Akrotiri, a Bronze Age settlement from Santorini’s Minoan culture, was destroyed in a massive volcanic eruption sometime in the 16th century BC.
The city was completely buried in volcanic ash, which preserved the remains of fine frescoes and many other artworks and objects, much like what occurred later in the city of Pompeii, near Italy’s Mt. Vesuvius.

Greece to Step Up Campaign for Return of Parthenon Marbles after Brexit

As the UK was officially leaving the European Union after 47 years of membership on Friday, Greek Culture Minister Lina Mendoni was declaring that Athens will step up its campaign for the return of the Parthenon Marbles from Britain.
Speaking to Reuters, Mendoni said she believes the circumstances are ripe at the moment for the return of the marbles, part of the great patrimony of the Greek people.
“It is the mentality that has changed, the fact that Britain is distancing itself from the European family, it is 200 years since the Greek revolution. I think the right conditions have been created for their permanent return,” the Culture Minister stated.
On Friday, Britain left the EU after three and a half years of intense negotiations, demonstrations, elections and turmoil that Britain had not seen in decades.
The historic moment, which happened at 23:00 GMT, was marked by both celebrations and anti-Brexit protests.
Candlelit vigils were held in Scotland, which voted to stay in the EU, while Brexiteers partied in London’s Parliament Square.

Greece plans grand cultural events throughout the year 2021 to mark 200 years since the beginning of its revolt against Ottoman rule.
Mendoni earlier told a conference in Athens “As Britain distances itself from Europe and the ideas that it advocates, Greece, rebounding from the recent crisis, will in coming years have the opportunity to attract attention and interest from an international audience.”
The Greek Culture Minister said her country would never give up the campaign for the marbles’ return, accusing Lord Elgin of being nothing short of a thief.
“Motivated by financial gain, publicity and self promotion, Elgin deployed illegal and untoward measures to extract from Greece the Sculptures of the Parthenon and a plethora of other antiquities in a blatant act of serial theft,” she was quoted as saying by Reuters.

The Parthenon Sculptures: A Story of Cultural Theft

Bring them back! Full story:

Posted by Greek Reporter on Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Turkish Research Vessel Violates Greek Borders on Anniversary of Imia Crisis

Greek authorities revealed on Friday that Turkey’s “Oruc Reis” research vessel has violated the boundaries of Greece’s continental shelf, and was operating south of the island of Kastellorizo.
The Turkish vessel entered Greece’s continental shelf area at 6:40 a.m. and its activity was being monitored continually by Greek frigate HS Nikiforos Fokas.
The incident occurred on the 24th anniversary of the Imia crisis, when Turkish commandos landed on the Greek islet, near Kastellorizo, sparking an international mediation effort to avert a Greek-Turkish war.

Greece Ratifies New US Defense Agreement

The Greek Parliament on Thursday approved an updated defense agreement with the United States, allowing the use of Greek military facilities, including the airbases at Larissa and Stefanovikio.
The agreement was ratified with 175 votes for, 33 against, and 80 declaring “present” out of a total of 288 MPs voting.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo welcomed the Greek Parliament’s ratification of the updated Greece-US cooperation agreement.
“I welcome the Greek Parliament’s ratification of our updated Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement, a strategic touchstone in our defense relationship. Greece is a key NATO ally, and we’ll continue to build on our strong partnership and promote stability in the region,” Pompeo posted on his personal Twitter account.
Supporting the Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement (MDCA) were the parties of ruling New Democracy and Movement for Change (KINAL). Main opposition Syriza voted “present,” while all the other parties — Communist Party of Greece (KKE), Greek Solution and MeRA25 — voted against it.
Under the agreement, permitted actions for U.S. forces at these facilities include training, refueling, temporary maintenance, storage and emergency response.
The U.S. is also granted priority status for “unimpeded access and use” within 48 hours of the port of Alexandroupolis, a Balkans and Black Sea gateway of strategic value to the U.S. Navy and NATO.
The updated deal was originally signed in October during a visit by Secretary Pompeo.
“This agreement is beneficial to national interests,” Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos told Parliament.
“It upgrades (Greece’s) importance in U.S. planning and can help deterrence,” the defense minister stated, adding that U.S. forces are expected to invest over €12 million ($13 million) on the Larissa base and around €6 million at Marathi, part of the U.S. base at Souda, Crete.

Meanwhile, hundreds of Communist, left-wing and anti-war demonstrators protested in central Syntagma Square.
“Wherever they are, U.S. and NATO bases are targets for reprisals… NATO bases do not protect,” said Communist party chairman Dimitris Koutsoumbas, warning that the government was “deepening” its involvement in “adventurism.”

Greece Halts Visa Applications from China as it Prepares to Tackle Coronavirus

Greece has halted all visa applications from Chinese citizens at least until February 9 as health authorities are meeting early next week to assess the threat posed by the spread of coronavirus.
A message sent to all travel agents by the Consulate General of Greece in Shanghai on Friday says that all visa application centers of Greece have suspended operation and that resumption of operations will be announced with a new notice.

An extraordinary meeting of Greece’s National Council on Public Health (NCPH), the main body which evaluates health threats and formulates strategy for public health, will be held on February 3, following a decision by Health Minister Vassilis Kikilias.
The move follows a decision on Thursday by the World Health Organization to declare coronavirus a global emergency.
“The main reason for this declaration is not what is happening in China but what is happening in other countries,” said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
At least 213 people have died in China — mostly in Hubei province where the virus first  emerged — with almost 10,000 cases nationally.
The WHO said there had been 98 cases in 18 other countries, but no deaths as of this time.
The majority of the international cases have occurred in those who had traveled to the Chinese city of Wuhan in Hubei.
A Thessaloniki resident who developed flu symptoms after returning home from Wuhan, China, has tested negative for the new coronavirus.
Authorities said the Pasteur Institute, which had received a sample of the 62-year-old’s DNA to determine whether he has the coronavirus or the regular flu, has confirmed the results.
Meanwhile, the NCPH announced that 21 people lost their lives from flu complications in Greece since the start of the year, with eight succumbing last week.
Of these victims, 19 belonged to high-risk populations, and of these, only eight had received a flu shot for this year.
The Council’s weekly report said that 13 of the 21 victims had been hospitalized in intensive care units.
Of the total, 11 were men and 10 women, ranging in ages from 4 to 91 years of age.

Historic Day for Europe as the United Kingdom Leaves EU After 47 Years


This is — finally — it.

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland officially leaves the European Union on Friday, January 31 at 23:00 UTC (midnight of February 1, Brussels time) after three and a half years of intense negotiations, demonstrations, elections and turmoil that Britain had not seen in decades.

A country divided down the middle between those who want the UK to again become a fully independent kingdom and those who want to remain inside the European fold, is finally taking the big step of leaving, 47 years after it officially joined the club.

Despite the undeniable symbolic dimensions of Friday night’s departure, however, nothing significant is expected to change soon.

The UK will continue to abide by European law — at least until December 31, 2020, with a one or even two-year extension being very possible if London and Brussels don’t manage to find an agreement on what their future relationship will look like after 2021.

European Union citizens will still be able to travel, stay and even work in Britain, and Britons will enjoy the same rights throughout the EU, until at least December 31, 2020.

Almost everyone in Europe is describing Great Britain’s departure today as a historic yet deeply sad day for a continent which has been ravaged in the past by national divisions.

However, half of Britain and definitely its government sees this historic event as a great opportunity for the country to take back control of its policies, forging a future according to its own will.

Will Great Britain succeed after Brexit? Will the United Kingdom remain truly United?

No one really knows for sure, especially since the independence movement in Scotland, a country which overwhelmingly voted to remain in the European Union, is growing dramatically.

Only time will tell whether London’s momentous decision was made for good or for ill.

What is sure for now is that one of Europe’s greatest nations is taking a different turn in the road away from the rest of Europe, and beginning a new journey into the unknown.