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Athens News Agency: News in English, 08-06-05
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 Greece observes World Environment DayThe June 5 World Environment Day was observed throughout Greece on Thursday with a series of events extending into the weekend, with the spotlight on the ongoing reforestation of fire-ravaged Mt. Parnitha overlooking Athens from the northwest, and a "Green Week public" awareness drive by the city of Athens, along with similar events by other municipalities around the country.
Messages stressing the vital importance of environmental protection were released by President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece, Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos and practically every political leader.
President of the Republic
President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias, in a message issued on Wednesday, said a "reversal of the destruction in the environment constitutes the great moral, political and economic challenge of our era".
"This demands the consolidation of an environmental and cultural conscience, individually and collectively, as well as the activation of society in its entirety. It demands a new way of thinking," he said.
In a statement issued on Thursday, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis stressed that "the environmental crisis is perhaps the greatest challenge that humanity is called on to face".
"It is an existing and pressing problem, a complex and multi-faceted problem, one that places life on our planet at risk," the prime minister warned.
"Today, even the most sceptical voices agree on the need for specific, effective actions to be taken to confront the problem. The cause concerns us all -- global and supranational agencies, national governments, local governments, non-governmental organisations, the Society of the Citizens. The realisation of the urgency is a given fact. What is now sought is its active confrontation," Karamanlis urged.
Greece, he continued, was implementing a strategy of sustainable growth and protection of the environment, "which comprises actions and policies for limiting greenhouse gases emissions, the introduction of green energy into the country's grid, the adoption of modern perceptions on spatial planning, the rational management of water resources, recycling, and waste management".
"Greece fully respects the measurable commitments it has assumed, as a European Union member state and in the framework of the Kyoto Treaty," he added.
Reforestation on Mt. Parnitha
More than 57,000 saplings of chiefly fir trees and black pines have been planted on fire-ravaged Mt. Parnitha near Athens, using a modern method originating in Australia, Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister George Souflias said on Thursday, symbolically choosing to visit the Parnitha forest on World Environment Day, where he was briefed on the progress in the ongoing reforestation.
"Hope is alive on Parnitha, and it is the duty of all of us to protect the environment with works and actions, and not only with big words. The environment belongs to all of us and to each and every citizen separately. It is a serious cause, and cannot tolerate populism, extremities, exaggerations and political expediencies," the minister said.
Souflias also said that the public's attitude must change, and that the people need to change their habits and to act with respect for the environment.
"Parnitha encompasses in a nutshell the messages of the present day. We here on Parnitha are working with devotion for a common purpose, to restore the environment of the mountain," he said.
Souflias stressed that the reforestation of Parnitha was being conducted in the best possibly way, and an overall 42 million euros have been designated for the restoration of the burned areas and for anti-flooding and anti-erosion projects.
The minister also announced to the local mayors that jeeps and other vehicles they have requested for boosting fire-prevention in the area would be forthcoming to them in July.
Further, the chief project of replanting and protection of the mountain has been undertaken by a management body that was being constantly reinforces with staff, including guards, geotechnical experts, environmental engineers and other specialists.
Speaking in turn, the director of the management body Dimitris Spathis added that the current 22 guards monitoring Mt. Parnitha on a 24-hour basis would soon be joined by more personnel, under five-month contracts.
Spathis also said that the fir saplings that have already been planted originated from Vytina, in Arcadia prefecture, and have covered some 30 hectares of the 2,000 hectares burned in the wildfires.
"We planted as many as we could plant this year, as we had no more saplings available from Greece. The planting will continue next year and over the coming years," Spathis said.
Souflias added that Mt. Parnitha was being monitored constantly by satellite, with recording of the territory every three months so that unlicensed buildings would not crop up.
He said there were no illegal structures in the forest, while regarding the Mt. Parnitha casino, Souflias said that a relevant concession had been signed in 2003 and has not been revised.
Pupils from dozens of primary schools throughout the greater Athens area gathered at central Syntagma square on Thursday to promote environmental protection.
Wearing red and black T-shirts, the pupils gathered outside the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and formed the phrase "No CO2".
The pupils taking part in this symbolic move were from several of the schools that took part in a WWF-Hellas educational program on climate change, in the framework of the organisation's "The Climate is in Your Hands" campaign.
WWF-Hellas director Dimitris Karavellas said Thursday's event was a follow-up of an action undertaken many months ago, adding that the children taking part in the educational program had learned "first hand" what climate change was, what the problem was, and what the solution was, and had also learned the significance of individual responsibility on the environmental issue.
"For us, it was just another day of work," Karavellas said, adding that it was good that, once a year, "we speak about the environment", but stressed that "the problems are so many, and we must understand that they require constant work, vigilance and participation, otherwise they won't be solved".
Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos on Wednesday issued a message in view of Thursday's World Environment Day.
Thirty six years after the designation of June 5 as World Environment Day by the United Nations, "the reality which is appearing on the Planet with regard to climate changes, the greenhouse effect, the reserves of natural resources, and the laying in waste, is an enormous threat for mankind. All recognize the need for there to be an immediate world mobilization to overcome, even now, this catastrophic course. Because the effective protection of the environment and the securing of viable conditions for the next generations do not constitute a problem which one country or a group of countries can confront by itself," Pavlopoulos said.
Education Minister Evripides Stylianidis said in a message that the participation of all in the overall mobilisation to save the environment is imperative, adding that the key-sense in this collective awakening effort is "education", because "everything is a matter of education."
The minister further said that "education on the environment and sustainable growth is considered one of the most effective tools today to build personalities with friendly attitudes towards the environment and to develop capabilities among our young people to enable them to influence social options in the direction of sustainable growth."
Foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis said that World Environment Day was "another opportunity for greater sensitization and greater mobilisation of citizens and governments for facing this major common problem of the Environment and climate change.
It is a problem that knows no borders, and therefore its confrontation concerns everyone, she said.
Bakoyannis adding that confrontation of the problem requires common and coordinated efforts and, in that framework, Greece was participating actively in all the international initiatives and international fora aimed at improving the environment and confronting the problems created by climate change.
In a message on the same issue, Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Ieronymos said that "the natural environment is none other than the home of God in which he placed man for him to live and manage the material products that he is providing for him. In order for him to enjoy these products, he must live a spiritual life."
The Archbishop went on to say that "we must think that we must behave towards the environment as Orthodox Christians and responsible citizens. Speaking usually about the environment, we mean our fellow man, the family, friends, and society."
Governments, citizens and parliaments must be on alert, particularly with their every-day attitudes, "in order to send the message that it is in our hands to change the reality that we are witnessing today and of which the scientists are speaking", parliament president Dimitris Sioufas said in a message on Thursday adding that "we must join the more optimistic side that the planet can be saved".
"We must all be vigilant, not only once a year, but 365 days a year," he added.
"The Ecumenical Patriarchate adds its voice to calls of environmentally sensitive individuals and organisations, regardless of their religious or political affiliation," Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos (Bartholomew I) stressed in his message, issued on the occasion of Thursday's World Environment Day.
Vartholomeos, often referred to as the "Green Patriarch" for his ecological initiatives, called on rival countries to leave their differences behind and offer their unreserved financial and scientific assistance to nations ravaged by famine and civil wars.
He added that the time has come for the world's people to radically reconsider their conduct and way of thinking and protect the environment.
Human beings have adopted a greedy attitude towards nature resulting to the catastrophic climate change witnessed, water pollution, overfishing, loss of biodiversity, desertification, forest destruction and other manifestations of an unprecedented ecological crisis," he stressed.
Caption: A view of a press conference on Thursday, June 5, 2008, by the Greenpeace group. ANA-MPA
 Athens on FYROM provocationAthens on Thursday said it expected a reaction from NATO and KFOR within the next few days over the way Greek troops travelling to join the KFOR peace-keeping mission were turned back at the border of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). Repeating a position stated earlier by the Greek foreign and defence ministries, foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos stressed that Skopje's decision to deny entry to Greek troops was "a NATO and KFOR issue".
"These sorts of problems, whether of lesser significance or of greater significance and substance, such as the issue of allowing the passage of Greek troops to participate in the peacekeeping mission of the Alliance in Kosovo, in line with the decisions of the United Nations Security Council, confirm in the most categorical way the correctness of Greek policy and of the Greek government's decision to resolve the dispute over FYROM's name in a mutually acceptable way," he added.
Asked if Greece intends to send a telegram congratulating Nikola Gruevski on his party's victory in the FYROM Parliamentary elections, the spokesman said that Athens intended to wait until controversies surrounding the recent elections in the neighbouring country had been settled, stressing that Greece's position had not changed.
"There is an issue that has been raised emphatically by international organisations that monitored the way the elections were conducted, but also by the European Union, that there should be repeat and secure elections in the regions where the process was interrupted, either by incidents - in some cases bloody - or by flagrant irregularities. This is an issue where we will see how things develop in the neighbouring country before we adopt a position," he added.
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