Mining Greece: News

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Building a gold mining industry in Greece

The European Union (EU) is one of the world’s largest consumers of raw materials. Yet despite having areas of vast mineral wealth, few are developed and valuable resources (estimated to be worth about €100 billion!) remain in the ground. As a result, the EU has a raw material shortage and it imports nearly 60% of the bulk metals it uses.

In terms of gold, the EU accounted for only 2% of the world’s gold production in 2015. At Eldorado Gold, we are working to grow this percentage and help reduce the EU’s reliance on more expensive imports.

The World Gold Council estimates a single mobile device contains up to 50 milligrams of gold. At a gold price of $1,200 per ounce, that’s almost US$2 per phone!

 

A Greek gold mining renaissance

Together with our Greek subsidiary, Hellas Gold, we are at the forefront of building a leading gold mining jurisdiction in northern Greece. The Skouries and Olympias assets we are developing will help to make Greece one of the largest gold producing nations in the EU.

“We see huge potential to build long-term opportunities,” says Eduardo Moura, our Vice President and General Manager of Greece operations. “These mines are creating jobs, improving local infrastructure, paying taxes and generating export revenues.”

Eldorado’s Greek assets lie in the Western Tethyan Belt, a prospective belt of rocks in eastern Europe often described as “overlooked,” “under-explored” and “highly prospective.” Together, the Skouries and Olympias deposits hold a proven and probable reserve base of 7.8 million ounces of gold among significant amounts of other metals.

 

Committed to responsible gold mining

Greece has a rich history of mining. The gold deposits of northern Greece funded Alexander the Great’s conquests and an empire that, at its peak, stretched across three continents. But Greece’s significant mineral endowment, particularly its gold resources, has largely gone undeveloped in modern times.

“All eyes are on us to demonstrate that mining can be done responsibly, with utmost care for the safety and security of our people, our neighbours and the environment,” says Paul Wright, Eldorado’s President and CEO. “Ensuring people understand our approach, our commitment to community benefits and sustainable mining practices, takes time, patience and a lot of dialogue.”

Our Chief Operating Officer, Paul Skayman echoes this sentiment. “It is important for us to get these projects done right or we won’t be welcome to work in Greece, or anywhere else for that matter, for long.”

Eldorado’s commitment to excellence means local communities and host nations benefit from our:

  • use of industry best practices;
  • strict adherence to safety and environmental regulations;
  • maintaining systems to identify, manage, audit and remedy potential impacts; and
  • commitment to building vibrant communities near our sites.

See how we put our promises into practice from exploration to mine closure in our stories on our website.

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The way for hydrocarbon prospecting in Western Greece is opened

The way is opened for the ratification by the Parliament and the activation of the contracts regarding hydrocarbon prospecting in the regions of Aitoloakarnania and of Northwestern Peloponnese, as the ministry of Environment and Energy approved last Thursday the Strategic Environmental Impact Assessment of the prospecting in the two regions.


For NW Peloponnese, Hellenic Petroleum has been declared as “selected applicant”, as has been Energean for Aitoloakarnania (Hellenic Petroleum has been declared as “selected applicant” for the Arta-Preveza region also that has been included in the same tender and for which Energean had also submitted a tender file). After the approval by the ministry, the control of the contract by the Court of Auditors is expected to proceed.

The area which is under concession in NW Peloponnese is of 3,778.3 square kilometers and includes parts of the Regional Units of Achaia, Arcadia and Ilia, while in Aitoloakarnania the respective area is 4,360.3 square kilometers, mainly in the Regional Unit of Aitoloakarnania and partly in the one of Evritania.
The approval decisions include a series of measures for the protection of the environment in the aforementioned areas. For example, it is provided to maintain a protection zone of 350 meters from the coastline and 300 meters from each side of the basic hydrographic network of the area in SW Peloponnese (500 meters in Aitoloakarnania) within which it will not be allowed to site drillings for research, development and production, or processing or storage facilities, while the passing through of pipelines must also be minimized. Furthermore, there are protection measures for the areas that are visited by wild endemic and migratory fauna species, and it is also provided that the research and prospecting works are avoided in tourist coastal areas during summer.

 

Source: ANA-MPA, March 05, 2017

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Where are the country’s gold reserves stored?

Where are the country’s gold reserves stored?

This question is answered by the “Kathimerini” newspaper in one of its articles, according to which, the reserves are stored in safe depots in Greece and abroad.

More particularly, approximately 50% of the reserves are stored in a treasury of the Bank of Greece and the rest 50%, at the Bank of England, at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in the U.S.A. and in Switzerland.

In more detail they are divided as follows: 29% in the U.S.A., 20% in the United Kingdom, 4% in Switzerland and 47% in Greece, securing thus the coverage of national needs in possible exceptional circumstances while the storage of part of the country’s gold abroad consists an international practice for almost all of the Central Banks. Therefore, this is not an original practice.

“According to the most recent data of the Bank of Greece, the current needs in gold of Greece are about 149.1 tons and their value amounts to 5,261.8 million Euros. As is ascertained by executives of the supervisory authority, in the last years there has been no change in the quantity of gold, with the exception of a small fluctuation due to transactions with the public regarding the trade of gold sovereigns”, as is mentioned in the article.

Another interesting detail, as is pointed out, is the fact that, according to the balance sheet items of the Bank of Greece, “the amount of gold that has been transferred to the European Central Bank, after the country’s accession to the Eurozone and the participation of the Bank of Greece to the Eurosystem, is very small compared to the total gold reserves”.

A similar transfer has been performed by every country that participates to the Eurozone. The decision of the Bank of Greece in 2003 to sell 20 tons of gold of its reserves was part of the more efficient management of its portfolio, a policy that was pursued by most of the European Central Banks. This liquidation just led to a differentiation of the portfolio of the Bank of Greece and regarded part of the quantity of gold that has been collected by the currency markets”.

It is also interesting that, since 2000, the Bank of Greece has converted its reserves into gold bars that follow international standards, in order to make their management easier.

Of course, as it is remarked in “Kathimerini”, “the stories about our country’s gold reserves are many. The most famous, however, is the one that has to do with February 1941, when the management of the Bank of Greece has managed, in a reckless action, to load the valuable reserves it had on vessels of the Hellenic Navy, in order to transport them secretly to its branch of Heraklion, Crete. A few days before the entry of the German troops into Athens, in April 1941, the governor of the Bank of Greece Kyriakos Varvaresos and deputy governor Georgios Mantzavinos abandoned, along with the political leadership, the capital of Greece, going to Crete. Subsequently, the management and the gold were transferred to Cairo and short afterwards the transfer of the gold reserves to Pretoria was deemed appropriate. Thus, the mortgage for the future reconstitution of the drachma was registered. Finally, after a “stopover” in London, the gold reserves returned to Greece after the war”.

 

Published: HuffPost Greece 05/03/2017  Source:  Kathimerini
 

 

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Greek factories still awaiting promised revival

Among the promises that propelled leftist SYRIZA to power two years ago was a commitment to revive domestic industry. Even after the government signed Greece’s third bailout agreement in the summer of 2015, the promises kept coming thick and fast. The deputy industry minister at the time, Theodora Tzakri, even drafted a plan for the industrial revival that foresaw the return to operation of 166 shuttered factories.

Two years on, the record of the SYRIZA-Independent Greeks coalition in industry is negligible at best. According to 2016 data from the Labor Ministry’s Ergani database for employment, four of the five activities with the most negative net employment balance in the past year have been in the industrial sector: the food industry, mining and quarrying, specialized construction activities, and non-mineral product manufacturing.

Among the cases that the government cited – and invested heavily from a communications standpoint – was Shelman wood product manufacturer, United Textiles and Hellenic Fertilizers (ELFE). In all these cases, the harsh reality remains far removed from the government’s promises.

United Textiles has been bankrupt since 2012. The company’s resurrection faced a number of legal and financial obstacles, yet this did not prevent Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s government from announcing in July 2015 that four units, in Komotini and Noussa in northern Greece, would be back in operation that autumn. This deadline, of course, was missed but the government did not give up and on December 30, 2015, it issued a legislative act suspending the liquidation of the company’s assets for another six months.

Any hopes that remain of the United Textiles factories ever operating again rest on abandoning the plan to bring the company back to life and finding a new investor to buy its assets. According to Yiannis Mousoulidis, the company’s last CEO before it went bankrupt, the Luxembourg-based Aiglon investment fund has already surveyed 65 percent of the company’s facilities. “As soon as that process is completed and it has assessed the company’s assets, it will submit an investment proposal within two weeks.”

Mousoulidis said “a written commitment to the council of creditors” already exists to this effect, while adding that the fund (which also consists of Greeks) will fully implement the operational plan he and other former employees have drafted.

This remains to be seen, however, as there is also the issue of a European Commission ruling according to which the Greek state must recoup 30 million euros in illegal state subsidies given to the company.

The case of Shelman, which went under in April 2014, is proving equally thorny. Its plant in Komotini has been managed for the past year by a group of former workers (there were more than 90 before it shut down). “We guard the facility and take care of the necessary maintenance,” says Nikos Alexandridis, the head of the workers’ group. In October 2015, the bankruptcy court ruled that the factory could be auctioned off after a Greek investor expressed interest.

The evaluation of the Komotini facility took six months and was completed in March 2016, settling on a value of 11-12 million euros. The preparation of the public auction took an additional eight months.

“It took judges four months to approve the decision by the council of creditors to put the factory up for auction,” says Giorgos Kymparidis, head of the Rodopi Bar Association and the workers’ legal representative. “When it was eventually issued it was the middle of summer and we had to wait until September to get things moving again.”

According to Kymparidis, beyond the first potential investor, others have shown an interest in the facility. This has failed to materialize, however, in consecutive weekly auctions held since early December.

Explosive chemistry

ELFE, meanwhile, is steeped in controversy and tension. Nikos Vogiatzidis, who represents 180 sacked workers, tells Kathimerini that businessman Lavrentis Lavrentiadis, who took control of the company in 2009, transferred all its operations to two new companies in 2015, leaving to ELFE only its massive debts. Then, last March, says Vogiatzidis, “we [the workers] were asked to sign a buyout agreement – the compensation was one month’s salary plus 1,000 euros to be paid in installments – with the possibility of being rehired at the new companies on individual 14-month contracts.”

Vogiatzidis said that those who refused to sign were sued by the company for a number of reasons, including sabotage of company property. After the suits were filed, “we were fired without compensation and without the ability to claim unemployment benefits,” he claims.

Those who signed the buyout agreement are on fixed-term contracts (there are more than 400 now) and in open confrontation with the sacked workers. Meanwhile, on December 30, production was transferred to yet another new company, called Nea Karvali Fertilizers.

Following months of unrealistic promises from the government, the Labor Ministry is expected next week to send the agency responsible for the Nea Karvali Fertilizers plant’s operating license (the Regional Authority of Eastern Macedonia and Thrace) a scathing report on safety violations found at the unit. This report looms as yet another bump in the course of the company’s turbulent history.

source: ekathimerini.com, Yannis Palaiologos

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The Ancient Mines of Samos

In Mytilene, one of the largest villages in Samos, in an area called Koutsodontis, there are 45 caves in the hillside. These are all entrances to Ancient Mines. The lowest caves are 147 meters above sea level, and visitors can enjoy a beautiful view of the valley around Chora when they reach them.

11905402_1166028026746697_8373136490076962702_nAll the entrances are supported by man-made carved columns which bear witness to the accuracy of the studies made before work began, the well-planned layout and the careful construction of each and every entrance in such a way as to keep the mountain above the entrances stable.

For thousands of years, time, wind and rain have ravaged these ancient structures and washed the traces and the sweat of humanity from the carved faces of the columns. So today they stand to be admired, both as works of art and feats of engineering.

Inside one of these entrances there is a hole which leads into the hillside. Explorers have found 8 levels of mining tunnels, all of which are also supported by columns. They also measured the maximum depth as being 70 meters. All the levels are 1 km long.

It is very probable that the history of this place hides many more surprises for us to discover. However there are already reliable reports about its use in the past.

2According to Herman Kienast, an architect with the German Archaeological Institute, former supervisor of the archaeological excavations at the Temple of Hera, and expert on the Tunnel of Eupalinos (or Eupalion Aqueduct), building materials for the construction of the great Temple of Hera and for other buildings in the sanctum area and in the ancient city of Samos (nowadays Pythagorion) were mined here in ancient times.

The engraved pieces of rock which are still visible on the floor of the mine today are undisputed evidence of this mining activity.

The “Samiaka” newspaper also reported that during the 1821 Greek War of Independence this place functioned as a “Nitrate Mine” where a monk named Ignatius manufactured gunpowder using nitrates. Unfortunately, in modern times, the mine has not received attention commensurate with its importance and historical value.

However, it is significant that since 2002 the Greek Ministry of Culture has, following the advice of the Greek Central Archaeological Council, conducted topographic surveys, measurements, and surface research on the area surrounding the ​​quarries. These are being carried out under the supervision of Maria Viglaki-Sofianou, an archaeologist from the 21st Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classic Antiquities, with the cooperation of the architect, Ioannis Mitsoulis (an employee of the same Ephorate). The architect Herman Kienast also takes part in the research on behalf of the German Archaeological Institute.

During recent years, fires destroyed the surrounding forest which had acted as a “protective shield” for the site by stabilising the ground. Today, erosion has affected the soil, and if action is not taken there is a danger that the site will be destroyed.

Recently, the Prefecture and the Municipality of Pythagorion have attempted to clean up the surrounding area. This effort was supported by the Speleological Association of Samos “EUPALINOS”.

This archaeological site, which is unique on a global scale in terms of how deep it reaches into the mountain and its architecture, “is crying out” for us to take an interest in it, to save it and to promote it.

Following a study on landscaping the site made by the Greek Ministry of Culture, all 45 entrances to the quarries can now be visited by tourists. They have been linked by an impressive path which starts from the top of the hill and passes in front of all the entrances until it reaches the north entrance of the Tunnel of Eupalinos and the Springs of Agiadon, the water of which was channelled through the tunnel.

If action taken by the local authorities was coordinated with special studies and was integrated into relevant European programmes, it would be possible to undertake work which would allow visitors to go inside all 45 caves, thereby highlighting another remarkable ancient work of Samos. Speleological Association of Samos “EUPALINOS”

[ΠΗΓΗ: http://my-samos.blogspot.gr/, http://www.samos-caves.gr/, http://www.visaltis.net/, photographs Christos Vasileias, Ιpponax Apollodoros]

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EIT RawMaterials: 1st Greek Raw Materials Community Dialogue

EIT Raw Materials brings together more than 100 partners – academic and research institutions, as well as businesses – from more than 20 EU countries. Within the framework of EIT Raw Materials they can work together to find new, innovative solutions to ensure the supply and improve the sector of raw materials through all the stages of the value chain – from extraction to processing, recycling and reusing multiple primary and secondary products.

There are already six (6) active regional centers in Belgium, Finland, France, Italy, Poland and Sweden (Co-location centers), representing regional links between business, research and education.

Website: http://www.eitrawmaterials.eu/ Email: info@eitrawmaterials.eu

EIT Raw Materials has an ambitious vision to transform the challenge of dependence on raw materials into a strategic strength for Europe. Its mission is to boost the competitiveness, development and attractiveness of the European sector of raw materials through radical innovation and entrepreneurship.

The six regional centers in Belgium (in Leuven, Belgium), Finland (in Espoo, Finland), France (in Metz, France), Italy (in Rome, Italy), Poland (in Wroclaw, Poland) and Sweden (in Luleå, Sweden), are called co-location centers and they represent different regional ecosystems that create a link between business, research and education.

The Metallurgical Laboratory of the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA) and EIT RawMaterials(KIC) organized the “EIT RawMaterials: 1st Greek Raw Materials Community Dialogue” on 23-24 November in ElectraMetropolis Hotel.

In an attempt to highlight the needs and problems of the Mineral Resources sector, there was massive participation by all those involved in the industry (state, academia, businesses) at the first open debate on strengthening the position of the sector in the national and European economic landscape.

Issues relating to technological lag, as well as innovation, European, national and regional policy strategy, financing mechanisms and tools at a national and European level and proposals for the development of new tools and mechanisms to strengthen the sector were the main subjects of the presentations and dialogue.

Moreover, there was also a special presentation announcing a Support Centre for the Greek Raw Materials Community (GRAMASC), based in the NTUA, which,due to its dynamic presence,may act as the communication “antechamber” for requests, proposals, etc., addressed to the IET by the Greek community.

The most interesting presentations made during the conference by Greek and foreign scientists will be presented in a forthcoming article.

[SOURCE: http://www.oryktosploutos.net/, editing by PetrosTzeferis, 25/11/2016]

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As markets rally, should you still hold gold?

Trump’s election victory has tempered demand for the yellow metal

A desire to hold “real assets” in turbulent times has massively boosted the popularity of gold-backed exchange traded funds (ETFs). But following the biggest political upset of the year — Donald Trump’s US presidential victory — gold prices have gone into reverse.

After a brief rally following last week’s election result, gold ended the week down 5.2 per cent at $1,234.50 a troy ounce as the dollar rallied, and investors ditched traditional haven assets. In contrast, gold rose by $100 a troy ounce in the two weeks following the Brexit vote in June.

That was a disappointment for investors in the yellow metal, who have ploughed a record $64.5bn into gold-backed ETFs this year, according to the World Gold Council. In the third quarter, 78 per cent of the inflows were into European-based products according to their data.

The direction of future gold prices greatly depends on whether that investor flow stabilises — and, if not, whether demand from India and China, the two largest consumers, could help support the price.

Gold is still up 16 per cent this year in dollar terms, and 36 per cent measured in pounds. That compares with a return of about 12 per cent for the FTSE 100 index (with dividends reinvested) and about 4.68 per cent for the FTSE All-World Index.

Global markets avoided the feared “Trump slump”, with equities rallying on hopes the president-elect would boost spending and growth in the US economy. But gold could still benefit from his plans to boost infrastructure, according to analysts.

“Mr Trump’s policies could result in bigger public deficits, this could mean higher inflation and be supportive of gold,” says Jim Steel, an analyst at HSBC in New York.

Political uncertainty is also not going away. Investors in Europe are now turning their attention to elections next year in Germany and France, according to Alistair Hewitt, head of market intelligence at the World Gold Council.

“In Europe, we’ve got a very active political calendar next year and investors are thinking about the implications of that,” he said.

Still, the outlook for gold is likely to be heavily determined by the central banks — especially the Federal Reserve.
ECB policymakers are widely expected to extend their quantitative easing scheme by six months in December. The possibility of a US rate rise in the same month — which markets had been discounting before the election — now looks a distinct possibility. If the Fed goes ahead with a second increase, this could hit gold prices (rates rising will mean a stronger dollar and that is usually associated with falling commodity prices).

Another concern is that actual physical demand for gold in the form of jewellery and gold bars remains weak in the two largest consuming nations of India and China. Consumer gold demand fell by 22 per cent in China in the third quarter and 28 per cent in India, according to the World Gold Council.

Still, the two countries are likely to buy if the price of gold continues to dip, according to Mr Hewitt. A fifth of consumers in China and a third India are waiting for a further price dip according to their surveys, he says.

“If the price does dip there are plenty of consumers in the two large markets who will dive in,” he says.

Gold demand in China could also pick up ahead of the week long New Year holiday next January, when most Chinese return home with gifts. A property downturn in the country could also shift money to gold, according to analysts at Goldman Sachs.

James Butterfill, head of research at ETF Securities in London, remains convinced that ETF demand is relatively stable. The company has seen $4.3bn of inflows into gold products this year, with only about $110,000 going into products betting that the gold price will fall, he says.

That is different to gold’s last rally between 2007 and 2012, when there were strong investment flows into products that benefit if the gold price declines, he says.

“Investors are buying and holding on to gold,” he says. “The contrarian in you could see this as a great contrarian trade but it is driven by a lack of faith in monetary policy and political uncertainty.”

source:www.ft.com

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In the birthplace of democracy, Obama extols its virtues

Closing his two-day trip to Athens on Wednesday, after visiting the Acropolis and its museum, US President Barack Obama delivered a spirited valedictory speech praising democracy, noting the threats that it faces, and urging the world’s citizens to work for solutions in the future.

Speaking at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center on the capital’s southern coast, Obama addressed the world, noting that this was his last foreign trip as president. But he also addressed Greece, noting the suffering and sacrifices caused by the economic crisis. Above all, however, Barack Obama stood before history and presented his understanding of a world which he helped shape over the past eight years and which is now at a critical point, demanding solutions to pressing problems that many nations face – alone and collectively.

Here are excerpts from his speech:

As many of you know, this is my final trip overseas as president of the United States, and I was determined, on my last trip, to come to Greece – partly because I’ve heard about the legendary hospitality of the Greek people – your philoxenia, partly because I had to see the Acropolis and the Parthenon, but also because I came here with gratitude for all that Greece – “this small, great world” – has given to humanity through the ages.

…We’re indebted to Greece for the most precious of gifts – the truth, the understanding that as individuals of free will, we have the right and the capacity to govern ourselves. For it was here, 25 centuries ago, in the rocky hills of this city, that a new idea emerged. Demokratia. Kratos – the power, the right to rule – comes from demos – the people. The notion that we are citizens – not servants, but stewards of our society. The concept of citizenship – that we have both rights and responsibilities. The belief in equality before the law – not just for a few, but for the many; not just for the majority, but also the minority. These are all concepts that grew out of this rocky soil.

Of course, the earliest forms of democracy here in Athens were far from perfect – just as the early forms of democracy in the United States were far from perfect. The rights of ancient Athens were not extended to women or to slaves. But Pericles explained, “Our constitution favors the many instead of the few… this is why it is called a democracy.”

Athenians also knew that, however noble, ideas alone were not enough. To have meaning, principles must be enshrined in laws and protected by institutions, and advanced through civic participation. And so they gathered in a great assembly to debate and decide affairs of state, each citizen with the right to speak, casting their vote with a show of hands, or choosing a pebble – white for yes, black for no. Laws were etched in stone for all to see and abide by. Courts, with citizen jurors, upheld that rule of law.

Politicians weren’t always happy because sometimes the stones could be used to ostracize, banish those who did not behave themselves.

But across the millennia that followed, different views of power and governance have often prevailed. Throughout human history, there have been those who argue that people cannot handle democracy, that they cannot handle self-determination, they need to be told what to do. A ruler has to maintain order through violence or coercion or an iron fist. There’s been a different concept of government that says might makes right, or that unchecked power can be passed through bloodlines. There’s been the belief that some are superior by virtue of race or faith or ethnicity, and those beliefs so often have been used to justify conquest and exploitation and war.

But through all this history, the flame first lit here in Athens never died. It was ultimately nurtured by a great Enlightenment. It was fanned by America’s founders, who declared that “We, the People” shall rule; that all men are created equal and endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights.

Ideals challenged

Now, at times, even today, those ideals are challenged. We’ve been told that these are Western ideals. We’ve been told that some cultures are not equipped for democratic governance and actually prefer authoritarian rule. And I will say that after eight years of being president of the United States, having traveled around the globe, it is absolutely true that every country travels its own path, every country has its own traditions. But what I also believe, after eight years, is that the basic longing to live with dignity, the fundamental desire to have control of our lives and our future, and to want to be a part of determining the course of our communities and our nations – these yearnings are universal. They burn in every human heart…

Now, democracy, like all human institutions, is imperfect. It can be slow; it can be frustrating; it can be hard; it can be messy. Politicians tend to be unpopular in democracies, regardless of party, because, by definition, democracies require that you don’t get a hundred percent of what you want. It requires compromise. Winston Churchill famously said that democracy is the worst form of government – except for all the others. And in a multiethnic, multiracial, multicultural society, like the United States, democracy can be especially complicated. Believe me, I know.

But it is better than the alternatives because it allows us to peacefully work through our differences and move closer to our ideals. It allows us to test new ideas and it allows us to correct for mistakes…

And so here, where democracy was born, we affirm once more the rights and the ideals and the institutions upon which our way of life endures. Freedom of speech and assembly – because true legitimacy can only come from the people, who must never be silenced. A free press to expose injustice and corruption and hold leaders accountable. Freedom of religion – because we’re all equal in the eyes of God. Independent judiciaries to uphold rule of law and human rights. Separation of powers to limit the reach of any one branch of government. Free and fair elections – because citizens must be able to choose their own leaders, even if your candidate doesn’t always win.

We compete hard in campaigns in America and here in Greece. But after the election, democracy depends on a peaceful transition of power, especially when you don’t get the result you want.

And as you may have noticed, the next American president and I could not be more different. We have very different points of view, but American democracy is bigger than any one person. That’s why we have a tradition of the outgoing president welcoming the new one in – as I did last week. And why, in the coming weeks, my administration will do everything we can to support the smoothest transition possible – because that’s how democracy has to work.

And that’s why, as hard as it can be sometimes, it’s important for young people, in particular, who are just now becoming involved in the lives of their countries, to understand that progress follows a winding path – sometimes forward, sometimes back – but as long as we retain our faith in democracy, as long as we retain our faith in the people, as long as we don’t waver from those central principles that ensure a lively, open debate, then our future will be OK, because it remains the most effective form of government ever devised by man.

It is true, of course, over the last several years that we’ve seen democracies faced with serious challenges. And I want to mention two that have an impact here in Greece, have an impact in the United States, and are having an impact around the world.

Globalization

The first involves the paradox of a modern, global economy. The same forces of globalization and technology and integration that have delivered so much progress, have created so much wealth, have also revealed deep fault lines. Around the world, integration and closer cooperation, and greater trade and commerce, and the internet – all have improved the lives of billions of people – lifted families from extreme poverty, cured diseases, helped people live longer, gave them more access to education and opportunity than at any time in human history.

… The world has never, collectively, been wealthier, better educated, healthier, less violent than it is today. That’s hard to imagine, given what we see in the news, but it’s true. And a lot of that has to do with the developments of an integrated, global economy…

What we’ve also seen is that this global integration is increasing the tendencies towards inequality, both between nations and within nations, at an accelerated pace. And when we see people – global elites, wealthy corporations – seemingly living by a different set of rules, avoiding taxes, manipulating loopholes – when the rich and the powerful appear to game the system and accumulate vast wealth while middle- and working-class families struggle to make ends meet, this feeds a profound sense of injustice and a feeling that our economies are increasingly unfair…

… In advanced economies, there are at times movements from both the left and the right to put a stop to integration, and to push back against technology, and to try to bring back jobs and industries that have been disappearing for decades. So this impulse to pull back from a globalized world is understandable. If people feel that they’re losing control of their future, they will push back. We have seen it here in Greece. We’ve seen it across Europe. We’ve seen it in the United States. We saw it in the vote in Britain to leave the EU.

But given the nature of technology, it is my assertion that it’s not possible to cut ourselves off from one another…

Course correction

We cannot sever the connections that have enabled so much progress and so much wealth. For when competition for resources is perceived as zero-sum, we put ourselves on a path to conflict both within countries and between countries. So I firmly believe that the best hope for human progress remains open markets combined with democracy and human rights. But I have argued that the current path of globalization demands a course correction. In the years and decades ahead, our countries have to make sure that the benefits of an integrated global economy are more broadly shared by more people, and that the negative impacts are squarely addressed.

And we actually know the path to building more inclusive economies. It’s just we too often don’t have the political will or desire to get it done…

These are the kinds of policies, this is the work that I’ve pursued throughout my time as president. Keep in mind I took office in the midst of the worst crisis since the Great Depression. And we pursued a recovery that has been shared now by the vast majority of Americans…

Now, I say all this not because we’ve solved every problem. Our work is far from complete. There are still too many people in America who are worried about their futures. Still too many people who are working at wages that don’t get them above the poverty line. Still too many young people who don’t see opportunity. But the policies I describe point the direction for where we need to go in building inclusive economies…

Greek crisis

Here in Greece, you’re undergoing similar transformations. The first step has been to build a foundation that allows you to return to robust economic growth. And we don’t need to recount all the causes of the economic crisis here in Greece. If we’re honest, we can acknowledge that it was a mix of both internal and external forces. The Greek economy and the level of debt had become unsustainable. And in this global economy, investment and jobs flow to countries where governments are efficient, not bloated, where the rules are clear. To stay competitive, to attract investment that creates jobs, Greece had to start a reform process.

Of course, the world, I don’t think, fully appreciates the extraordinary pain these reforms have involved, or the tremendous sacrifices that you, the Greek people, have made. I’ve been aware of it, and I’ve been proud of all that my administration has done to try to support Greece in these efforts. And part of the purpose of my visit is to highlight for the world the important steps that have been taken here in Greece…

At the same time, I will continue to urge creditors to take the steps needed to put Greece on a path towards sustained economic recovery. As Greece continues to implement reforms, the IMF has said that debt relief will be crucial to get Greece back to growth. They are right. It is important because if reforms here are going to be sustained, people need to see hope, and they need to see progress. And the young people who are in attendance here today and all across the country need to know there is a future – there is an education and jobs that are worthy of your incredible potential. You don’t have to travel overseas, you can put roots right here in your home, in Greece, and succeed.

And I’m confident that if you stay the course, as hard as it has been, Greece will see brighter days. Because, in this magnificent hall and center – this symbol of the Greek culture and resilience – we’re reminded that just as your strength and resolve have allowed you to overcome great odds throughout your history, nothing can break the spirit of the Greek people. You will overcome this period of challenge just as you have other challenges in the past.

Ensuring rights

So economics is something that will be central to preserving our democracies. When our economies don’t work, our democracies become distorted and, in some cases, break down. But this brings me to another pressing challenge that our democracies face – how do we ensure that our diverse, multicultural, multiracial, multi-religious world and our diverse nations uphold both the rights of individuals and a fundamental civic adherence to a common creed that binds us together.

Democracy is simplest where everybody thinks alike, looks alike, eats the same food, worships the same God. Democracy becomes more difficult when there are people coming from a variety of backgrounds and trying to live together. In our globalized world, with the migration of people and the rapid movement of ideas and cultures and traditions, we see increasingly this blend of forces mixing together in ways that often enrich our societies but also cause tensions…

So, just as we have to have an inclusive economic strategy, we have to have an exclusive political and cultural strategy. In all of our capitals, we have to keep making government more efficient, more effective in responding to the daily needs of citizens. Governing institutions, whether in Athens, Brussels, London, Washington, have to be responsive to the concerns of citizens. People have to know that they’re being heard.

Here in Europe, even with today’s challenges, I believe that by virtue of the progress it has delivered over the decades – the stability it has provided, the security it’s reinforced – that European integration and the European Union remains one of the great political and economic achievements of human history. And today more than ever, the world needs a Europe that is strong and prosperous and democratic.

But I think all institutions in Europe have to ask themselves: How can we make sure that people within individual countries feel as if their voices are still being heard, that their identities are being affirmed, that the decisions that are being made that will have a critical impact on their lives are not so remote that they have no ability to impact them?…

In closing, our globalized world is passing through a time of profound change. Yes, there is uncertainty and there is unease, and none of us can know the future. History does not move in a straight line. Civil rights in America did not move in a straight line. Democracy in Greece did not move in a straight line. The evolution of a unified Europe certainly has not moved in a straight line. And progress is never a guarantee. Progress has to be earned by every generation. But I believe history gives us hope.

Twenty-five centuries after Athens first pointed the way, 250 years after the beginning of the great American journey, my faith and my confidence, my certainty in our democratic ideals and universal values remain undiminished. I believe more strongly than ever that Dr King was right when he said that “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” But it bends towards justice not because it is inevitable, but because we bend it towards justice; not because there are not going to be barriers to achieving justice, but because there will be people, generation after generation, who have the vision and the courage and the will to bend the arc of our lives in the direction of a better future.

In the United States, and in every place I have visited these last eight years, I have met citizens, especially young people, who have chosen hope over fear, who believe that they can shape their own destiny, who refuse to accept the world as it is and are determined to remake it as it should be. They have inspired me.

In every corner of the world, I have met people who, in their daily lives, demonstrate that despite differences of race or religion or creed or color, we have the capacity to see each other in ourselves. Like the woman here in Greece who said of the refugees arriving on these shores: “We live under the same sun. We fall in love under the same moon. We are all human – we have to help these people.” Women like that give me hope.

In all of our communities, in all of our countries, I still believe there’s more of what Greeks call philotimo – love and respect and kindness for family and community and country, and a sense that we’re all in this together, with obligations to each other. Philotimo – I see it every day – and that gives me hope.

Because in the end, it is up to us. It’s not somebody else’s job, it’s not somebody else’s responsibility, but it’s the citizens of our countries and citizens of the world to bend that arc of history towards justice.

And that’s what democracy allows us to do. That’s why the most important office in any country is not president or prime minister. The most important title is “citizen…”

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Obama visits the Acropolis ahead of set-piece speech

President Barack Obama started his final day in Greece with a tour of the Acropolis, the nation’s most famous ancient monument.

A picture posted by the US Embassy on Twitter showed Obama during a private tour on the ancient citadel by Dr Eleni Banou of the Greek Ministry of Culture.

The ancient site will remain closed to the public for the day to accommodate the president’s visit.

Obama will also deliver a speech to the Greek people as he winds up the first leg of his final foreign tour as president and heads from Greece to Germany.

The president is expected to touch on both the country’s efforts to emerge from its financial crisis, and on its role in dealing with hundreds of thousands of refugees who have crossed Greece’s borders on their way to more prosperous European countries.

Obama’s visit to Greece is the first official visit by a sitting US president since Bill Clinton. [Combined reports]

source: ekathimerini.com
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Remarks from Obama visit to Greece

On the eve of his last foreign trip as US head of state, President Barack Obama on Monday outlined the purpose of his visit to Greece and Germany, saying that this is part of an effort to help stabilize the global economy. In Greece Tuesday, in remarks with President Prokopis Pavlopoulos and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, the American president spoke also of issues that are important for Athens: the Greek economy and the need for debt relief, efforts to solve the Cyprus issue, the refugee crisis and NATO. Below are excerpts from President Obama’s remarks.

Purpose of the trip

Our work has also helped to stabilize the global economy… I’ll spend this week reinforcing America’s support for the approaches that we’ve taken to promote economic growth and global security on a range of issues.

I look forward to my first visit in Greece. And then, in Germany, I’ll visit with Chancellor Merkel, who’s probably been my closest international partner these past eight years. I’ll also signal our solidarity with our closest allies, and express our support for a strong, integrated and united Europe. It’s essential to our national security and it’s essential to global stability. And that’s why the Transatlantic Alliance and the NATO Alliance have endured for decades under Democratic and Republican administrations…

In my conversation with the president-elect, he expressed a great interest in maintaining our core strategic relationships. And so one of the messages I will be able to deliver is his commitment to NATO and the Transatlantic Alliance. I think that’s one of the most important functions I can serve at this stage, during this trip, is to let them know that there is no weakening of resolve when it comes to America’s commitment to maintaining a strong and robust NATO relationship, and a recognition that those alliances aren’t just good for Europe, they’re good for the United States, and they’re vital for the world.

(Press conference in Washington on November 14, 2016)

Greece and the US

I’ve always wanted to come to Greece and I’m delighted to be able to make this part of my last trip overseas as president of the United States.

I think we all know that the world owes an enormous debt to Greece and the Greek people. So many of our ideas of democracy, so much of our literature and philosophy and science can be traced back to roots right here in Athens.

I’m told there’s a saying from those ancient times, kalos kai agathos, when someone or something is good and beautiful on the outside, but is also good and noble on the inside in terms of character and in terms of purpose. And I think that’s a fine description of the friendship that exists between the Greek people and the American people.

Now, the ideas of ancient Greece helped inspire America’s founding fathers as they reached for democracy. Our revolutionary ideas helped inspire Greeks as they sought their own freedom. And Americans came here to help fight for Greek independence. At the dawn of the Cold War, when President Truman committed the United States to the defense of Greece, he said, “I believe that we must assist free peoples to work out their own destinies in their own way.”

To this day, the United States is profoundly grateful for our friendship and alliance with Greece. And I’m personally very grateful to my many friends in the Greek-American community, sons and daughters of Ellines who have found success in every walk of American life.

(In remarks with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras)

Support for Greece

Obviously, Greece has gone through very challenging economic times over the last several years. And it has been the policy of my administration to do everything we can to work with the Greek government and the Greek people to restore growth and optimism and to alleviate hardship. And we are glad to see that progress is being made, although we recognize that there are significant challenges ahead, and we intend to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the Greek people throughout this process.

And finally, whether it’s dealing with terrorism, addressing some of the challenges that are occurring in the Middle East, hosting our naval vessels, cooperation in the Aegean Sea, the strong NATO relationship between the United States in Greece is of the utmost importance. And I want to reaffirm not only our appreciation for the Greek people in that alliance, but underscore how important we consider the Transatlantic Alliance.

Support for Europe

We believe that a strong, prosperous and unified Europe is not only good for the people of Europe, but good for the world and good for the United States.

And we also believe that it’s important that all people have opportunity and inclusion in growth inside of Europe. And part of my message as I travel not just to Greece but to meet with other European leaders is to encourage a process that ensures opportunity for all, particularly for the youth of Europe and youth here in Greece.

The refugee crisis

I also want to extend the world’s appreciation for the humanitarian and compassionate manner that Greece has dealt with the severe migration and refugee crisis that’s been taking place.

As I said at the UN Summit on Refugees that I hosted in September, it’s important that we don’t have any single country bear the entire burden of these challenges – that all of us are contributing and participating in alleviating suffering and dealing with migration in an orderly and compassionate way. And we have been very glad to partner with the Greek government in managing this situation appropriately.

The need for debt relief

Our argument has always been that when the economy contracted this fast, when unemployment is this high, that there also has to be a growth agenda to go with it. And it is very difficult to imagine the kind of growth strategy that’s needed without some debt relief mechanism. Now, the politics of this are difficult in Europe. And I think in fairness to some of the governments up north that I know are not always popular here in Greece, it’s important to recognize that, you know, they have their own policies and their populations and their institutions often are resistant to some of these debt relief formulas.

But I think that having seen Greece begin many of these difficult steps toward structural reform, having shown a commitment to change, with the Greek people having endured some significant hardships for many years now, there should be an opportunity I think for both sides to recognize that if we can come up with a durable solution as opposed to each year or every six months having a new negotiation, that that could potentially be good for everyone.

And now that the Greek economy is growing again, the timing may be right.

We spent much of our time discussing the economic situation here in Greece and how Greece can continue to move forward. I know this has been a painful and difficult time, especially for Greek workers and families, pensioners and young people.

This crisis is not an obstruction, but has had a very concrete and devastating impact on the lives and livelihoods of millions of people across this country…

I’ve been clear from the beginning of this crisis that in order to make reforms sustainable, the Greek economy needs the space to return to growth and start creating jobs again. We cannot simply look to austerity as a strategy and it is incredibly important that the Greek people see improvements in their daily lives so that they can carry with them the hope that their lives will get better.

And in this context, as Greece continues reform, the IMF has said that debt relief is crucial. I will continue to urge creditors to take the steps needed to put Greece on a path toward a durable economic recovery because it’s in all of our interests that Greece succeeds. We all want the Greek people to prosper, to be able to provide a good life for their families and their children. That would be good for Greece, that would be good for the European Union, good for the United States, and ultimately, good for the world.

Cyprus

We discussed Cyprus, where the prospects for a just, comprehensive and lasting settlement are the best that they’ve been for some time. It doesn’t mean that success is guaranteed, but the possibility of resolving a decades-long conflict is there and we urge the parties to continue their work. The interests of all Cypriots would be advanced with a bizonal bicommunal federation.

We’re hopeful that a solution that’s durable, which would create new economic opportunities for all the people across Cyprus, is within reach. And it would be a powerful example to the world of what’s possible with diplomacy and compromise.

This is ultimately a negotiation between Cypriots – Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots. And the good news is that you have two leaders who seem genuinely committed to finding compromises and an approach that would serve both their peoples well. If, in fact, you can see a meeting of the minds between them, then the issue will be can we make sure that all of us – the international community, Turkey, Greece, the United States – support that agreement in a way that can be ratified by both sides.

And we’ve invested a lot of time, Vice President Biden’s been actively involved in this. We are encouraged by the progress that’s been made. I think there’s a window in the next few weeks, months, where this issue [will actually be] resolved and I think if we can find an equitable solution, it won’t provide 100 percent of what either side wants. There may be some mechanisms for a transition from status quo to the future that both sides envision, but I think it’s achievable and we’re going to do everything we can to support the process.

(Reply to a question in press conference with PM Tsipras)

NATO

Beyond economic issues, we discussed the pressing security challenges that we face as NATO allies. I want to take this opportunity to commend Greece for being one of the five NATO allies that spends 2 percent of GDP on defense, a goal that we have consistently set but not everybody has met. Greece has done this even during difficult economic times. If Greece can meet this NATO commitment, all our allies should be able to do so.

(Remarks with PM Tsipras)

source: ekathimerini.com, 15/11/2016

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