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Athens News Agency: News in English, 08-03-28
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 Euro-Med Parliamentary Assembly in AthensThe 4th plenary session of the Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly opened in Athens on Friday, with keynote addresses by Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, European Parliament President Hans-Gert Poettering, and EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas.
Other speakers included Greek Parliament President Dimitris Sioufas, as chairman of the Assembly, and Deputy FM Yannis Valinakis.
In his opening address to the Assembly, Premier Karamanlis stressed that the Mediterranean, as a crossroads of peoples and cultures, comprised and must comprise a source of wealth, development and progress.
Consequently, cooperation was required for better exploitation of the "common opportunities", consolidation of the vision of the region where "the historical past meets the hope-bringing future", he said.
Regarding the meeting's agenda, which focuses mainly on energy and environmental protection issues, Karamanlis noted that this was a "twin, modern-day challenge" which was at the center of European interest, and called on the Assembly's 37 member countries to highlight their common backgrounds and jointly tackle the challenges and take advantage of the opportunities.
Sioufas, as chairman of the Assembly, noted that the Euro-Med cooperation was marking the 14th year since the institution of the Barcelona Process, and the 4th year since the founding of the Parliamentary Assembly, which recently met with the encouragement of the leaders of France and Germany for its renewal and reinforcement.
On the Assembly's agenda, Sioufas stressed that development, energy and environmental protection were intertwined targets, and referred to the Athens Treaty of 2005 that instituted the Southeastern Europe Energy Community.
He further referred to Greece's proposal for the establishment of a Euro-Med Energy Cooperation, and highlighted the discussion for a new energy policy that would promote sustainable development and consolidate renewable forms of energy. "Europe, the Mediterranean, our peoples and our countries can send a clear message, from Athens today: Protection of the environment is the best policy, the biggtest legacy, for the coming generations," he stressed.
Deputy FM Valinakis stressed Greece's long-standing and intense interest in the Mediterranean region, and outlined the course and progress of the EU's Partnership Relations with the countries of the Mediterranean, noting the development of the political dialogue, the strengthening of economic relations, the inter-cultural dialogue, the cooperation on security and immigration matters.
"Now, we are discussing the substantive development of the regional dimension of an integrated cooperation among the EU member states and the countries of the Mediterranean south," he said, highlighting the role of the Parliamentary Assembly in the new scheme that was evolving.
Noting that the Assembly has also acquired a political dimension and realises the importance of the issues of the region, Valinakis referred to the Declaration adopted recently at the 5th Euro-Med conference of energy ministers aimed at the gradual creation of a single energy market in the region, with parallel promotion of sustainable development and exploitation of alternative energy sources. Regarding the evolution of the Barcelona Process into a Union for the Mediterranean, he stressed the need for preserving the principle of co-ownership, while noting that the 3rd conference of culture ministers would convene in Athens in May to discuss the inter-cultural dialogue.
Valinakis further proposed the creation of a Mediterranean "Erasmus Programme" for inter-university cooperation, stressing that "cooperation is the key to stability, development and progress".
European Commission chief Barroso noted that EU decisions impact the Mediterranean, and vice-versa, and consequently the interactive function mandates cooperation for meeting the major challenges of the times.
Therefore, he added, "the Mediterranean is an immediate priority for the EU", noting that this message had been "received and transmitted" during trhe recent EU summit, with the leaders calling for upgrading of the Barcelona Process, and cited as tangible results the imminent founding of the Euro-Mediterranean University in Slovenia, as well as the existing cooperation on migration issues, which he said needed to be strengthened.
Barroso further noted that, of the Community funds, 10 billion euros were earmarked for the Mediterranean, adding also that EU imports from the Mediterranean countries were increasing at an annual rate of 4 percent. He remarked, however, that the prospect of creation of a Mediterranean Free Trade Zone was still far away while, in the tertiary sector of the economy (provision of services), the Euro-Med cooperation has had limited results, as also were the results in environmental protection and in establishing gender equality.
He said the problems in the Middle East had been an obstacle to further development of the Euro-Med cooperation, and stressed that only through cooperation and dialogue could peace and security be consolidated in a region.
European Parliament head Poettering said that "our future is at stake today, and protection of the environment is our immediate and highest priority".
Although a German national himself, he said, he firmly believed that "the Mediterranean is the cradle of Europe and democracy, the birthplace of which we find ourselves today".
Poettering stressed that the Euro-Med Parliamentary Assembly must follow in the steps of the European Parliament which "in the past, had limited authorities, but today we have enhanced powers", and urged the Assembly to acquire "expanded authorities, so that its decisions will be binding".
European Commissioner Dimas stressed the problems created by contamination and pollution of the environment, adding, however, that "as energy comprises a part of the problem, improvement of energy yield comprises part of the solution.
Turning to climate change, Dimas noted that the Commission has designed a "holistic policy" in the framework of which it has formulated a cluster of proposals, "because this issue constitutes a global threat and immense effort is required to confront it".
Turning specifically to the Mediterranean, Dimas noted that the region was particularly vulnerable to the consequences of climate change, and backed a proposal by European Commission president Poettering for setting up an ad-hoc committee.
Dimas said that the cooperation on the issue must involve governments, parliaments, businesses and NGOs, noting that the crux of the Commission's policy was to achieve reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in tandem with counteracting the consequences that have already been caused. He said the rise in temperatures has caused destabilisation of the climate, imposing adaptation to the changing climatic conditions.
He warned that the climate changes, global warming, drought, melting of the ice, wildfires and desertification of large expanses of land, would put international security at risk, and cause clashes and tension. "It is a global problem that the EU cannot tackle on its own," he said, noting that a new international agreement in 2009 was hoped to establish a global basis of cooperation in the direction of increasing energy yield as well as the use of renewable energy sources.
Expressing conviction that the EU will achieve its targets and exceed its share of targets arising from the Kyoto Protocol, Dimas said that the package of proposals drafted by the Commission was totally compatible with the financial aspect, noting indicatively that the cost corresponded to 3 euros per week, per family.
As for the Mediterranean, he said the area was threatened by marine pollution caused by industry, shipping and urban waste, but also by over-construction, given that, in the immediate future, it was estimated that 50 percent of the coasts of the Mediterranean will have been built upon, with disastrous repercussions on the ecosystem and on bio-diversity.
He further noted that the cost from environmental destruction corresponded to 3 percentage points of GDP for the Mediterranean countries of Africa.
Dimas noted that in the last 30 years the Mediterranean region has dramatically deteriorated, stressing that steadfast political volition was required to reverse the situation. "Protection of the environment in the Mediterraean ins a top-line priority," he said, warning that a "destroyed environment means a destroyed economy".
"We must dissolve the myth that protection of the environment counteracts development and the economy," the Commissioner said, stressing that, "on the contrary, they are targets that are inter-cnnected and which we must jointly advance, because the Mediterranean is our common heritage".
Caption: Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis (L) along with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso (C) and European Parliament President Hans-Gert Poettering (R) arrive at the Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly in Athens on Friday, 28 March 2008. ANA-MPA/ MARGARITA KIAOY.
 KKE inaugurates nat'l campaignKKE on Friday announced the launch of a nationwide campaign with political rallies across Greece, press conferences, workplace and campus visits and contacts with party supporters. The campaign will be headed by KKE General Secretary Aleka Papariga and will be launched with speeches before university students in Ioannina and Thessaloniki on March 31 and April 3. Outdoor rallies are scheduled to be held in the cities of Alexandroupolis, Kavala, Thessaloniki, Kozani, Patras, Ioannina and Agrinio.
Caption:ANA-MPA file photo of Communist party of Greece Secretary General Aleka Papariga
 Greek music concert in RotterdamGreek songs will be performed by Dutch bands in the "Greek Music - Dutch Voices" Concert to take place in Rotterdam's "de Doelen" Conference Centre on Sunday, hosted by the Greek General Consulate on the occasion of the March 25 Greek Independence Day celebrations. The Dutch artists will perform Greek music by renowned contemporary composers such as Theodorakis, Hadjidakis, Kougioumtzis and Loizos, as well as traditional Greek folk songs from different parts of Greece and Asia Minor and "rebetika" songs. Among the performers will be the famous Stanislas College orchestra and choir from the historical city of Delft.
Caption:ANA-MPA/EPA/Olaf Kraak/ file photo of Rotterdam city harbour new so-called H2O picknickboats are launched 16 May 2007. In the small round boats maximal 9 passengers can make a guided cruise in the harbour.
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