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Greece Assumes Presidency of OSCE
SYNERGY, SYMMETRY, STRATEGY
New Cabinet Takes Over
PM KOSTAS KARAMANLIS: A NEW BEGINNING
- The Women of Ancient Greece
- Aristotle and the Perfect Life
- Last Liberty Ship Arrives in Greece
Greece Assumes Presidency of OSCE
SYNERGY, SYMMETRY, STRATEGY
Foreign Minister Ms. Dora Bakoyannis had a telephone communication on January 29 with the new US Secretary of State, Ms. Hilary Clinton. Ms. Bakoyannis wished her all the best with the difficult mission she has undertaken. They discussed a number of issues, including Greece’s plans as it takes over the annual presidency of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
Greece was active in the foundation of the OSCE—the second-largest international group after the United Nations—34 years ago.
Addressing delegates of the 56 member-state organization’s meeting in Vienna on January 15, Ms. Bakoyannis pledged to act as “honest broker” in addressing some of the divisions that have emerged among members in recent years. “Openness, transparency, and the will to build consensus will guide our efforts,” she said. The Greek FM outlined priorities for the year, based on the cornerstones of Synergy (between all participant states), Symmetry (of efforts in dealing with new “asymmetrical threats” and old challenges) and Strategy (to design more effective ways to achieve the common goals of guaranteeing stability and security), as well as enhancing the organization’s legal status. On the crisis in Georgia, which she said will preoccupy the Greek presidency, Ms. Bakoyannis reiterated the chairmanship’s commitment to ensuring the continuation of the OSCE’s field presence in Georgia and observed that “it overturns fixed ideas on security in the region of the OSCE, but may provide the opportunity for a wider discussion on the new European security architecture.” Athens, she added, proposed to hold a summit meeting on the issue, if that is agreed by member states.
The Greek Parliament will host the autumn session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly to be held October 9-12, where the issue of “Energy Security and the Environment” will be discussed.
Other issues touched on in the foreign minister’s speech included the OSCE’s role in counter-terrorism, border security, Afghanistan, migration issues, security of energy supply, and the environment, on which Greece plans to promote the idea of “Greening the OSCE.” On an issue of particular personal interest, Ms. Bakoyannis said that Greece during its presidency will give priority to gender equality.
Addressing the Brussels think-tank European Policy Centre on January 27, the foreign minister emphasized once more that “the OSCE is the only regional forum that encompasses the wider Euro-Atlantic and European regions. It is grounded in a unique, ambitious concept of security based on shared values, agreed commitments, and on the fundamental dignity of the individual.”
Meanwhile, in her capacity as OSCE chairperson, the Greek foreign minister visited Moscow and took the opportunity to underscore Greece’s steadfast determination to facilitate the negotiation process for a new cooperation agreement between Russia and the EU.
One of the immediate fruits of Greece’s assumption of the OSCE’s chair has been the resumption of natural gas supplies to South Ossetia.
Read more at www.osce.org/cio
New Cabinet Takes Over
PM KOSTAS KARAMANLIS: A NEW BEGINNING
Calling for “much work and few words,” Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis on January 7 announced a re-shuffle of his government, designed to add the dynamism of new members to the experience of the old. At the key post of Economy and Finance, Minister George Alogoskoufis was replaced by his deputy, Yiannis Papathanassiou. The ministers of Development and of Culture were also replaced, while other cabinet members were moved to new ministerial posts. No changes were made at the foreign ministry, headed by Dora Bakoyannis, or at the ministries of Defense (Evangelos Meimerakis), Interior and Public Administration (Prokopis Pavlopoulos), and Environment, Town Planning and Public Works (George Souflias).
The prime minister said he will expect regular written reports from his ministers on tangible progress towards specific priority goals. He called also for ministers to set a good example by cutting back on their own official spending and by strenuous efforts to reduce bureaucracy and enhance transparency.
Focus on Economy
The cabinet changes were accompanied by the establishment of a new Interministerial Committee on Economic Policy, headed by the prime minister and including the new Economy Minister, Yiannis Papathanassiou, Development Minister Costis Hadzigakis, and Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister George Souflias.
The Women of Ancient Greece
A major exhibition under the title “Worshipping Women: Ritual and Reality in Classical Athens,” on view at the Onassis Cultural Center in New York, attempts to reveal aspects of the public lives of women in ancient Greece. On display are some 155 unique archaeological artifacts — mostly from Greek museums but also from international institutions, such as the Vatican Museum, Russia’s Hermitage Museum, the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Ferrara, and the State Museums of Berlin — focusing especially on how women’s religious activities contributed not only to personal fulfillment in Classical Greece but also to civic identity.
According to The Art Newspaper, “this groundbreaking show attempts to overturn the idea that women led highly restricted public lives, by exploring the role of women in cults and festivals, as essential for the successful functioning of the polis. Nikos Kaltsas, director of the National Archaeological Museum of Greece, and Alan Shapiro, professor of Classics and Archaeology at Johns Hopkins University, organized the show.”
A front-page review by Holland Cotter in the Weekend Arts section of the New York Times (“The Glory That Was Greece From a Female Perspective,” December 18, 2008) notes that the show’s twofold intention is to present “a nuanced view of a still-elusive subject” and to correct the misconception that “women had a universally mute and passive role in Athenian society . . . It is using art to survey where, within a system of institutionalized restriction, areas of freedom for women lay . . . and it presents art with a thematic focus, a historical tact and a relevance to the present that our museums can learn a lot from.”
“A woman’s place,” writes Verena Dobnik in the Washington Times, “has never been just in the home — not even in ancient Greece.” Athenian women, the exhibition shows, played “important, vibrant roles, as do their goddesses — from lover to priestesses, to political peacemakers, to protagonists of festivals.”
A review of the “crisply conceived’’ exhibition by Cynthia Cotts for the Bloomberg News service ( “Onassis Center Lets Teen Brides Bathe, Satyrs Romp,” January 6, 2009), regards Greek goddesses, “the wise warrior Athena, the huntress Artemis and sex-symbol Aphrodite” as the stars of the show, pointing out that the exhibition “focuses on works of the 5th century BC, a time when Greece produced political discourse, oral poetry and art — but no written chronicles. The art from that period is exquisitely wrought, but shrouded in mystery.”
Aristotle and the Perfect Life
The Society for the Preservation of Greek Heritage on January 7 presented a lecture on “Aristotle and the Perfect Life” by Daniel N. Robinson, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at Georgetown University and member of the philosophy faculty of Oxford University. The event took place at the Greek Embassy in Washington, where he was introduced by Mr. Andrew Manatos.
In his presentation, Professor Robinson developed the Aristotelian concept of the “happy life,” expounding on Solon’s remark: “Count no man happy until he be dead.” Professor Robinson is author of many books, whose scholarship covers a range of disciplines, including philosophy and history of science, philosophy of law, moral philosophy, history of psychology and intellectual history. In his teachings, he traces the rise, fall, and return of Greek influence on Western culture, exploring the “Greek Legacy” in specific aspects of our lives, i.e., the continuing influence of the classical Greek achievement on contemporary life.
Last Liberty Ship Arrives in Greece
For years the SS Arthur M. Huddell—one of the last of the Liberty Ships—which played a vital role in the efforts of the United States to aid European allies during World War II, had been anchored off Fort Eustis in Newport News, VA, managed by the United States Maritime Administration. When the war ended, many Liberty Ships were purchased by Greece to build up its merchant fleet, which had been decimated by the war, and to deliver food, medicine and supplies in the crucial Cold War years.
On January 11, 2009, the vessel, renamed the Hellas Liberty, arrived at its new home at the Athens port of Piraeus, thanks to an ambitious partnership involving government officials and private citizens from both Greece and the United States, who shared a vision of using it as a floating museum to commemorate Greece’s maritime history, and to create a lasting reminder of the strong ties between the two countries.
The long list of those who worked hard to make this vision a reality includes officials, legislators and historians, including Rhode Island State Senator Leonidas Raptakis, who helped launch the Liberty Ship Project; Connecticut State Representative Dimitrios Giannaros; and Greek ship-owners Polemis and Vasilis Konstantakopoulos, who were crucial in advancing and financing the project.
The arrival in Greece of the Hellas Liberty was celebrated at a reception hosted by Ambassador of Greece and Mrs. Alexandros P. Mallias at the Greek Embassy in Washington on January 29. Ambassador Mallias thanked and congratulated all those involved in the project, for their commitment and dedication to creating a living resource that would educate future generations about a vital era in world history. Pointing out that some 2,000 Greek seamen were lost during World War II and that Greece’s fleet was practically destroyed, he added that the Liberty ships purchased by Greece in the post-war era combined with Greek ingenuity turned Greece into the largest shipping power in the world, carrying one third of global seaborne trade and 60% of China’s sea-carried trade, not to mention Greece’s key role in keeping shipping routes safe and unobstructed. Former US Ambassador to Greece Charles Riess stated that he was proud to have contributed in sending the Liberty ship to Greece, while State Senator Raptakis and Representative Giannaros stated that the ship’s arrival in Greece symbolizes the connection between the land of their forefathers and the US.
The Hellas Liberty will be anchored in Faliron Harbor, near the Port of Piraeus, alongside two famous Greek ships: battleship Georgios Averof, the flagship of the Royal Hellenic Navy during most of the first half of the 20th century, and the destroyer Velos, an American vessel given to Greece in 1959, which sailed for a time in the Greek Navy.
Writing in the Washington Post of January 11 about his book The Way of Herodotus: Travels with the Man Who Invented History, author Justin Marozzi notes that “I never thought traveling with a dead man could be so much fun . . . It didn’t seem possible to become such good friends with someone who died almost 2,500 years ago.”
Marozzi observes that Herodotus, more than a historian, was also an anthropologist, a foreign correspondent and investigative reporter, explorer and great travel writer, and, “above all, an irrepressible, effervescent storyteller.” He writes of the account by Herodotus of the Persian Wars and of the “weird and wonderful” creatures, monuments and customs he noted in his travels, beginning with Herodotus’s own home town of Halicarnassus (now Turkish Bodrum), continuing onto Egypt, Arabia and the region of the Caspian Sea.
The last stop on the journey, inevitably, is Herodotus’ homeland of Greece, with its “bewildering number of places and possibilities.” Marozzi describes his experiences of the Peloponnese, and as a guest in Samos, he obeys the injunction of British poet Byron to “fill high the bowl with Samian wine;” he lunches and drinks “agreeably pine-tinged retsina” in a fishing village in the Peloponnese with Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor, the “life-enhancing war hero and travel writer without equal,” and stays in the northern port town of Kavala where his hostess Anna in the “fabulous Imaret, more of a monument than a hotel” welcomes him with “repeated glasses of fine malt whiskey.” Finally, he concludes, “Herodotus is telling me it is time to go to bed.”
In a book review in the Washington Post (“Going the Distance,” January 29, 2009), Michael Sims notes that Marozzi’s observations and assessments in the course of his journey render him “worthy of his illustrious model, as he travels with the ghost of the father of history,” while the very subtitle of the book “emphasizes travel with a man, not with a book. This personal relationship is a side effect of Herodotus’s writing style. He reaches across the millenniums, tugs your sleeve and whispers, ‘Hey, look over there’.”
On January 14 noted US archaeologist, academic, and philhellene Stephen G. Miller presented at a leading Athens bookshop the English-language edition of Plato at Olympia, his illustrated children’s book on the connection between athletics, philosophy and the “unsuspected archaeological treasures in the basement.”
The book tells the story of young Plato and his quest for an Olympic victory. Plato at Olympia aims to provide young readers with an enjoyable, memorable, and historically accurate introduction to Olympia, the Olympic Games, and the Olympic Ideal.
The book has been translated into Greek by Foteini Pipi.
Miller is a former professor of archaeology at University of California at Berkeley (1973-2004) and ex-director of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (1982-1987), with nearly 40 years of excavation experience in Greece.
We record with regret the death of Harvard University history professor Angeliki Laiou, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on December 11, 2008. She was a leading historian of the Byzantine Empire, a former Deputy Secretary of Foreign Affairs, and member of the Greek Parliament. A pioneer in Mediterranean economic history and in women’s history, in 1985 Ms. Laiou became the first woman to serve as chairman of a Harvard University department. She also served between 1989-1998 as Director of the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection in Washington, DC. As only the second woman to be so honored since the founding of the Academy of Athens in 1926, she was named a permanent member in 1998.
BRIEFLY . . .
• Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis sent a letter of congratulations to US President Barack Obama on the occasion of the assumption of his duties. In his letter Prime Minister Karamanlis said that he looked forward to cooperating with President Obama and to meeting him in the near future.
• Stating that tourism is of “crucial” importance for the country’s economy, Prime Minister Karamanlis announced a series of supportive measures. They include a 50 percent increase in promotional advertising and numerous tax concessions for hotels and others in the tourist trade. Meanwhile the Telegraph Travel Awards 2008, polling 25,000 readers, placed Greece in second place, behind Italy, in their “Best European Country” ranking.
• On the occasion of the International Holocaust Remembrance Day (January 27), the Greek Press and Communication Office in New York hosted an event organized by the American Friends of the Jewish Museum of Greece, in memory of the victims of the Greek Jewry who perished in the Holocaust. The event concluded with the screening of the movie “Triumph of the Spirit,” a 1989 film directed by Robert M. Young, and starring William Dafoe and Edward James Olmos, based on the true story of a young couple from Thessaloniki who managed to survive the concentration camp of Auschwitz.
• The internationally acclaimed architect Renzo Piano, designer of the New York Times Building and co-designer of the Pompidou Centre in Paris, has been chosen to design a cultural park in Greece that will house the country’s new Opera House and National Library. The complex will be built on a former race-course in the southern suburbs of Athens and will be funded by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation through an exclusive sponsorship of !300 million.
• The supply of Russian natural gas to Greece and other countries of Europe was discussed in a telephone call on January 12 from Vladimir Putin to Prime Minister Karamanlis. Other topics of mutual interest were also reviewed during the 15-minute call, including cooperation in tourism and other economic areas.
• Mr. Konstantinos Gioulekas was sworn-in on January 29 as Deputy Interior Minister, responsible for media issues. He takes over one of the four new under-secretary posts created during a sweeping government reshuffle on January 7
• Life Magazine’s legendary photographic archive is now available on line through Google’s Image Search function. Out of 10 million photographs, Life Magazine has already digitized 20%, including snapshots from Greece’s political, cultural and social life, stretching from 1948-1968.
Source: Press Office of the Embassy of Greece