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Athens News Agency: News in English, 08-05-13
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 Additional aid to MyanmarForeign Minister Dora Bakoyannis on Monday announced the sending of additional aid to Myanmar with the dispatching of a ship, saying that "the Greek people cannot remain impassive before this unbelievable humanitarian disaster."
Bakoyannis also said that Greece was the second European country, after Italy, to reach the region and appealed to other countries as well to send aid and that "people count above the regime, who currently need urgent support."
She further noted that Greece has already sent two loads of aid by air.
Caption: A Burmese woman carries her baby while standing in a house destroyed by the devastating cyclone Nargis, on the outskirts of the capital Yangon, Myanmar, 08 May 2008. ANA-MPA/EPA/AKTION DEUTSCHLAND HILFT/ FRED SCHMIDT
 Africa Day conferenceForeign Minister Dora Bakoyannis inaugurated the 'Africa Day' conference on Monday and referred to the bonds linking Greece and the Greeks to the African continent.
The symposium aims at highlighting the possibilities and opportunities for cooperation for the economic and social development of the countries of Africa.
Bakoyannis said that problems, particularly in Sub-Sahara Africa, are many and serious. However, as she added, Greece sees a potential economic partner in Africa, a continent of opportunities and possibilities for further economic cooperation in many sectors.
Referring to Greece's role, she said that the country is participating actively in the effort to strengthen the development prospects of Africa, through humanitarian and food aid programmes, granting scholarships, securing drinking water, creating suitable infrastructures and boosting transparency and democratic institutions.
She further stressed that the Greek foreign ministry provided for African countries, during the 1997-2007 period, aid amounting to 110 million dollars.
Bakoyannis said that what is necessary to achieve prosperity for African peoples "is for us to overcome whatever obstacles and to assume initiatives that will strengthen commercial and economic relations."
Deputy Foreign Minister Petros Doukas said that the conference was a first effort to strengthen relations with Africa.
He added that a second meeting will be held in Athens in May 2009 and although there are major opportunities in Africa, the are substantial problems as well which, however, as he said, constitute a challenge.
Lastly, he said that Greece can and is willing to contribute to the development of Africa and referred to the programme for the development of Greek firms' extroversion.
Caption: Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis at her address at the Africa Day conference in Athens on Monday 12 May 2008.ANA-MPA /SYMELA PANTZARTZI
 Sites closed on May 18The archaeological sites throughout Greece will remain closed on Sunday, May 18, due to a 24-hour strike declared by the sites' guards who are calling for the immediate hiring of more permanent personnel.
Caption: ANA-MPA file photo . Sunset at the archaeological site of the Temple of Poseidon in Sounion,near Athens.
 Measures to combat air pollutionEnvironment Minister George Souflias on Monday presented a 'National Plan for Combatting Air Pollution', outlining a series of measures providing financial and other incentives for curbing emissions of pollutance, as well as the introduction of a "green zone" with restricted access for the vehicles.
These included financial incentives for withdrawing old-technology non-catalyst vehicles, changes to current road taxes to incorporate environmental criteria and allowing local authorities to impose tolls for entry into central areas within their boundaries, as well as measures for encouraging industry to adopt non polluting technologies and for central heating systems.
Souflias said that the financial incentives for renewing Greece's fleet of cars were an issue to be decided by the finance ministry based on the country's financial capacity while the rest of the measures announced could begin to be implemented between 2009 and 2010 after consultation with the various bodies involved.
The minister said the measures sought to cut down air pollution at large and secondary urban centres by renewing the fleet of vehicles and based on a "polluter pays" philosophy.
Regarding new-technology cars, meanwhile, he said the state should be a front-runner and purchase cars with hybrid or low-emission technology.
The new road tax system proposed by the minister would seek to pass the cost on to the biggest polluters, so that the amount paid would not be determined by the size of the engine as now but by the amount of pollution that engine emits.
Cars would thus be required to produce their exhaust emissions control card but the taxes would continue to be one-off payments made once a year. The system will introduce four 'classes' based on the amount of emissions produced, so that vehicles with no or low emissions would not have to pay road tax. The next three categories (medium, high and very high emission vehicles) will pay increasing amounts and receive colour-coded tax stickers to display on their vehicles.
The 'Green zone' measure will allow local authorities to prevent certain categories of vehicles from entering their central areas, based on how polluting they are. A similar measure is also being considered for the City of Athens.
Specifically, the minister said the measure would allow cars equipped with catalytic converters and medium and high-polluting vehicles to continue entering central Athens on alternate days as at present, using the 'odd and even' system. Entry will be barred to the very high pollution vehicles and old-technology vehicles, which will only have access on the weekends. Low-emission vehicles, by contrast, will have free access at all times.
Souflias also indicated that the present borders of the controlled traffic zone in Athens might change slightly but would largely remain as they were today while the Athens municipality would be free to impose entry tolls, if it saw fit, again based on the levels of pollution emitted by a vehicle's engine.
Regarding taxis, he said the measures for renewing the fleet of cars would also apply for them but not the zone access restriction, since they were considered a means of public transport.
Proposed measures for industry include available optimum practices and regular inspections by environmental inspectors to check their implementation.
Measures for central heating systems will include the mandatory replacement of oil-burning furnaces with natural-gas furnaces within three years of when a natgas supply is available in the area, more frequent inspections and applying EU directives for building energy efficiency.
Souflias stressed as he presented the plan that Greece's air pollution problems could be divided into urban air pollution, especially in heavily populated areas, and the problems caused by industry.
In urban areas, he clarified, the main source of pollution was emissions from vehicles and secondly from central heating systems. They were made more acute by bad town planning, with a lack of open spaces and by tall buildings ranged along narrow roads.
Souflias stressed the need to renew Greece's fleet of vehicles, noting that the average age of private cars and light goods vehicles was 12 years, while that for heavy vehicles was more than 17 years. In the EU, by contrast, the average ages of these types of vehicles is 7 and 12 years, respectively.
Problems caused by industry mainly concerned the areas where power plants were based and depended on the type of fuel these used, with the biggest problems reported in Florina, Kozani and Arcadia. Other major polluters included both industries that used high amounts of energy but also those that produced pollution through their activities, most of which were based in Athens, Thessaloniki, Volos, Kavala and Halkida.
Problem pollutants according to the minister included ozone, formed as a byproduct of several pollutants and sunlight, and small particles like fine dust, soot and salt used on roads.
The plan also calls for systematic monitoring of levels of pollutants to check that the measures are bringing results.
Caption: Enviroment Minister George Souflias presents the 'National Plan for Combatting Air Pollution' on Monday 12 May 2008 in Athens.ANA-MPA/MARIA MAROYANNI
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