- τουρισμός, περιβάλλον, πολιτική

Court finds Ios Tourism Mega-Developer Guilty of Environmental Violations

Residents and environmental organizations have tried for many years to stop a large tourism development on the picturesque Koumbara-Diakofto peninsula, that becomes a small island during winter months, one of a few remaining pristine landscapes on touristy Ios island until recently. The project was initially approved by the New Democracy (Samaras) administration in August 2014, while in late 2015, the Syriza-led government also approved the exclusive use of the beach by the development, causing a mini-crisis with their junior coalition partner Ecologists-Greens. A Council of State ruling in 2016 succeeded in stopping most of the works. The project was deemed a strategic investment by the New Democracy (Mitsotakis) administration in July 2020 in an effort to unlock it. Now, Efimerida Syntakton reports that a three-member court in Naxos, has ruled in December 2021 that the development has indeed violated environmental laws, mainly in relation to a cement (rather than wooden) bridge connecting the peninsula and sentenced the owner of 105 S.A. to a 16-month suspended sentence. It may be an ethical victory against uncontrolled tourism development but in reality there is little reason for residents and environmentalists to rejoice: the development has not been deemed illegal per se, and it will stay in place. Some constructions and the bridge may have to be redesigned or rebuilt, while the developer, a Greek-American ex-Wall Street investor, who controls many other developments on Ios and reportedly now owns up to 30% of the island through various shell companies (owning hotels, bars and restaurants) after a long series of land purchases since 2010 during the Greek Economic Crisis, will most certainly appeal.

City of Athens Launches Accessible, Cultural Tourist Routes

"This is Athens", the official tourist guide of Athens in collaboration with the non-profit organization "With other eyes" have mapped a total of 8 tracks in the capital, four aimed at people with mobility disabilities and four at people with visual impairments. The routes, explained in English and Greek, are presented on an interactive map, which shows possible obstacles, as well as how to avoid them. The aim was to combine the most possible points of interest in the city with the fewest obstacles along the way.

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ECLIPSE, the 7th Athens Biennale, on until November 28, 2021

"Nea Xysta" by Navine G. Khan-DossosThe 7th Athens Biennale, titled "ECLIPSE" is currently taking place in the historic centre of Athens featuring local as well as well-known international artists, many of whom are exhibiting in Greece for the first time. It is co-curated by Omsk Social Club and Ghanaian-American Larry Ossei-Mensah under the artistic direction of Greece's Poka-Yio (Polydoros Karyofillis), co-founder of the Athens Biennale.

The exhibition "highlights the obscured perspective of reality caused by the constant state of flux we are experiencing in our society now" and also focuses on changes in Athens itself, "as a rising metropolis located at the intersection of Europe, Asia and Africa both physically and historically." Seeking to "assess the implications of identity, history, and cultural complexity" the 7th Athens Biennale highlights works of artists from the African Diaspora, Queer and other artistic voices that have historically been marginalised, with the aim of encouraging the viewers' imagination of potential parallel worlds and futures, platforming ideas such as co-existence, "radical care", "interspecies friendship" and "sonic viewing", with references to the pandemic social-distancing and isolation, while challenging oppressive mechanisms and "outdated idealism". It deploys various immersive techniques such as real game play, radical gossip, persuasive realities, "emotional hypnosis", bodying, synthesis, and visualization.

Among many striking installations one notes Christoph Draeger's "Black September", a detailed restaging of the kidnapping, execution and massacre of the Israeli Olympic team by members of the terrorist group Black September at the XX Olympiad in Munich 1972,  Navine G. Khan-Dossos's "Nea Xysta" art installation, inspired by Chios island's Xysta decorative wall art tradition, and Simon Denny's "The Extractor" board game, which criticizes data-mining and surveillance Capitalism. 

ECLIPSE offers a unique opportunity to visit the three neighbouring landmark "ghost" buildings in the historic centre of Athens where it is housed: the Former Department Store Fokas, shut down by the economic crisis, the Former "Santaroza" Courthouse in Justice Square (built in 1830, the first public building in Athens after national independence, originally the royal printing house, sealed since 1986), and Schliemann-Mella Hall, a grand, neo-baroque 5-level building of the 1890s, which although abandoned, still houses "Ideal" Athens' oldest cinema and the largest with 2,000 seats when it first opened in 1922. It is also possible and highly recommended to book a guided tour with Bienalle's art experts while there are live performances detailed in the official programme.

"The Extractor" by Simon Denny

The 7th Athens Biennale is co-financed by the Hellenic Republic and the European Union through the Regional Operational Programme of "Attica" in the framework of NSRF 2014-2020, performs under the auspices of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports and the City of Athens and is realised in partnership with Onassis Culture  of The Onassis Foundation.

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Food and Tourism sector employees to go on strike on 9 November 2021

POEET the Greek Federation of Food and Tourism Employees announced that its members will go on a 24 hour strike on 9 November 2021 to protest patchy unemployment benefit and inadequate social insurance cover issues which are related to the pandemic lockdown of 2020 and early 2021. Around 11% of Greeks work in the Accommodation and Restaurant sectors and around 25% work directly or indirectly in Tourism & Leisure.

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EuroVelo National Coordination Center to be set up in Greece to boost Cycling Tourism

The National EuroVelo Coordination Center Greece will operate on the basis of a memorandum of cooperation between the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport, the Ministry of Tourism, the Central Union of Greek Municipalities and the NGO "Poleis gia Podilato" (Cities for Cycling). The centre will research and coordinate the further development of Greek cycling routes. Currently there are three European cycling routes that include Greece: EV8 (Mediterranean Route, Cadiz to Athens), EV11 (East Europe Route, Norway to Athens) and EV13 (Iron Curtain Trail, Arctic Ocean to the Black Sea via Central and Eastern Macedonia and Thrace).

Read more:  EuroVelo | EuroVelo GreeceMinistry of Infrastructure & Transport 

Petrified Forest Mountain Bike Adventure Race takes place in Lesvos

The race was organized by the Natural History Museum of the Petrified Forest with the support of the Lesvos Cycling Association and the participation of world-renowned veteran cyclist Dror Pekatch. There was a separate race for electric mountain bikes. The action was supported by the EU Horizon 2020 programme.


Large Greek Hotels will be obliged to avoid and document food waste

According to new law 4819/2021, effective from January 1, 2022, hotels with more than 100 beds will be obliged to implement procedures so as to avoid food waste and register any food waste produced on a new online platform. The law incorporates an EU Directive and also establishes tax incentives for food donations. The hotels should also organize the separate collection of packaging waste, at least plastic packaging, in each room. Given that the majority of Greek Hotels are under 100 beds, the measure will only have a limited effect at best. It is unclear if the platform will be accessible by the public so as to be able to check the environmental performance of the hotels.

Restoration of Plaka Bridge wins Europa Nostra Award

Plaka Bridge in Epirus, built in 1866 over the river Arachthos, is one of the largest single arched stone-bridges in Southern Europe, and a key entry point to Greece until 1913. The bridge, a historical monument, collapsed after heavy rainfall in February 2015 due to foundations erosion. Under the guidance of famed restoration Architect Manolis Korres, a 6 year reconstruction project, first of its kind in Greece, was successfully completed using natural, traditional materials and construction methods. The reconstruction team won a Europa Nostra award with the ceremony taking place on October 2, 2021. 

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Controversial apprenticeship agreement between Labour Ministry and Hotel Chamber for 16-Year-Olds in hosting structures

An agreement between the Greek Hotel Chamber and the Labour Ministry to assist adolescents in state foster care who are over 16 years old to find internships in Hotels has met with huge criticism by hotel labour unions and left-wing opposition parties who accuse the government of Dickensian-era policies promoting child labour rather than compulsory education until 18 years of age. The Ministry of Labour has dismissed such criticism as 'fake news' while stressing the need to de-institutionalize the children and ease their entry into the job market. Children over 15 years old are legally allowed to work in Greece as long as the position does not involve dangerous, heavy or unhealthy work. Children under 15 years old may also work in the cultural sector although there are strict hour limits.


Rhodes: Locals, environmentalists and archaeologists protest illegal development on Glystra beach

A protest rally was held on Glystra beach in southern Rhodes on September 5, 2021 against an illegal development. The controversial construction, apparently a beach bar/restaurant, apparently commenced in February 2021, in winter and during quarantine, so as to go undetected. According to reports, the beach umbrella rental operators have only obtained a license from the municipality for a small canteen on wheels. However the new construction somehow managed to be connected to the electricity and water grid. The nearly completed building, which the antiquities authority, among others, are now trying to demolish is on a public land and within an archaeological zone. Such illegal constructions used to be the rule on many popular Greek beaches however central authorities have become more determined to stop this corruptive phenomenon in recent years. But it seems not all local authorities are on board yet.

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Rare species to be protected through national action plans

The Ministry of Environment and Energy announced that six-year National Action Plans will be drawn for seven endangered species including the three vulture species, the caretta sea turtle, the Balkan chamois (Rupicapra), the Karpathos toad (Pelophylax cerigensis), indigenous trout, Lepidoptera (Parnassius Apollo) and the flower Silene holzmannii. The plans will be funded by the European regional development fund.

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