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Athens News Agency: News in English, 06-06-09

Athens News Agency: News in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


  • [01] FM Dora Bakoyannis calls on Turkey to respect religious freedoms, Ecumenical Patriarchate
  • [02] Greek beaches get thumbs up from EU's

  • [01] FM Dora Bakoyannis calls on Turkey to respect religious freedoms, Ecumenical Patriarchate

    Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis on Friday called on Turkey to respect religious freedoms in the country and the existence and functioning of the Ecumenical Patriarchate based in Istanbul.

    "We all support the European prospects of Turkey. We believe that Turkey has a place in the European Union, but this position of ours has as unquestionable precondition the recognition of religious freedoms, the exercising of religious freedoms and the existence and functioning of the Ecumenical Patriarchate," Bakoyannis said during her visit to the Ecumenical Patriarchate in the framework of her three-day visit to Istanbul.

    Bakoyannis will hold talks with her Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul on Saturday and give a joint press conference with him.

    "This means the reopening of the Halki School, which is a steadfast position of ours that we support everywhere. I believe that Turkey as well, in her course towards the EU, will accept this very simple reality. The position of my government, for support for the Patriarchate, is the position of all the EU. It is registered in all European texts," Bakoyannis added.

    Addressing the foreign minister, Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos said "why are treaties that I also signed being ignored? Why are things agreed on being violated? Why are rights being infringed? Why are visions being discouraged? Why are wounds being opened?".

    The Patriarch reiterated the position that the Ecumenical Patriarchate encourages the course of Turkey towards the European Union and expressed the wish that "the preconditions for this course will be created."

    He also stressed that Turkey cannot ignore the rights of minorities, the recognition due for the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the right of existence for educational foundations, with that of the Halki School of Theology coming first.

    The Ecumenical Patriarch called for the support of the Greek government and, responding to this call, the foreign minister said "the Greek government is by your side and embraces every initiative that you undertake. I would like you to consider the support of the Hellenic state in all your efforts to be a foregone conclusion, both for the fulfillment of the Patriarchate's major mission and for its presence in Istanbul as the guardian of longstanding principles, values and ideals."

    Bakoyannis praised the initiatives of the Ecumenical Patriarch on inter-religious dialogue and the protection of the environment, "which enjoy international recognition". She also said that it constitutes an expression of the modern role of the Patriarchate's universality and that "your position (for the creation of) a mosque in Athens was heard with great attention. You carry out whatever you believe."

    [02] Greek beaches get thumbs up from EU's

    Greece's beaches once again passed European Union water quality tests with flying colours, according to the EU commission's annual report on bathing water standards released on Friday.

    The Commission found that 100% of the 2,006 coastal areas sampled in Greece last year were suitable for swimming and complied with mandatory standards, while 98.1% complied with the EU's more stringent 'guide' values, an improvement over 97.6% compliance rates in 2004.

    Bathing water standards were even better on Cyprus, where 100% of beaches sampled complied with the stricter 'guide' values.

    Water quality values on a European-wide basis fell slightly from 96.7% in 2004 to 96.1% in 2005 for coastal areas. The drop was more significant for inland bathing sites, such as lakes and rivers, with just 85.6% meeting mandatory standards from 89.4% in 2004 and just 63.1% meeting non-binding guide values.

    According to the Commission, however, the drop in compliance was mainly due to insufficient sampling, particular in Hungary, Latvia, Malta and Poland that submitted figures for the first time, which significantly influenced non-compliance figures for the EU as a whole.

    European Commissioner for the environment Stavros Dimas said that it was "very encouraging that the water continues to be clean for bathers at well over 95% of Europe's coastal waters".

    At the same time, he expressed concern over the worsening compliance rate at inland bathing sites and urged public authorities to step up required testing and clean-up efforts.

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