Crete News April 2006 – Page 2

Crete exports Olive Oil

After a year of speculation, a new deal for the export of Olive Oil to the United States has been struck. The Enosis Agricultural Co-operative, from their factory on Heraklion’s industrial estate, has already sent a first shipment of 36 tonnes of oil. The ‘Mythical’ 100% Greek Extra Virgin Olive Oil label is no longer just a myth, and the brand may soon be arriving in the US in even greater quantity, as Enosis has the capacity to produce 25,000 tonnes, if required, and already sends oil to Germany and several other countries.

Life Sentence for Police Officer

Police officer Giorgos Dimitrakakis was given a life sentence after being found guilty of murder. The court in Chania delivered its sentence on March 17th. Iraklis Maragakis, aged 22, apparently failed to stop at a checkpoint in December 2003. He was shot in the head and died the next day. Two other officers were cleared of manslaughter but were given suspended two-year prison sentences for contravening regulations concerning firearms. The events caused widespread unrest, particularly among young people concerned with the powers of ‘special units’ who regularly stop and search vehicles for drugs and guns.

Mikis Theodorakis Returns to Crete

World-renowned composer Mikis Theodorakis returned to his native Crete to give a talk on his theory of cosmic harmony. The international symposium, organized between the University of Crete and Heraklio Municipality, brought a wide range of figures to this inter-disciplinary event, from the worlds of psychology, mathematics, theatre and social anthropology and the sciences. Five of his pieces were played to mark the end of the two day symposium, at Creta Maris hotel in Hersonnisos. Theodorakis first conceived his theory during 1945, and it is now drawing attention from thinkers around the world.

Tourism in Crete; Forecast Looks Healthy

The message is that Crete continues to be a highly popular destination for visitors. A dynamic marketing campaign in Europe has yielded good results, with advance bookings up by 5% to 8% across Crete. German and French tourists make up the bulk of these new figures, with Germany still ranking second behind Britain as the main exporter of holiday-makers. There is huge potential for growth in tourism in Crete and Greece, according to the Office of Touristic Affairs in Athens, and the new Minister, Fani Pali-Petralia, has said that Greece could see numbers up to 25 million visitors annually in ten years time.

Crete’s Southern Neighbour

Monday 6th of March saw a historic meeting between President of the Hellenic Republic Karolos Papoulias and Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi. President Papoulias had earlier met with Libyan Prime Minister Baghdadi Mahmudi as the Greek delegation were warmly received in Libya’s capital, Tripoli. George Voulgarakis, the Minister of Culture, Deputy Foreign Ministers Evripides Stylianidis and Yannis Valynakis, along with Deputy National Economy and Finance Minister Petros Doukas also attended a dinner hosted by Qaddafi.

“A new chapter regarding Greek-Libyan relations has begun with a new momentum that is based on mutual political volition to promote relations for the benefit of both peoples,” Papoulias said during the signing of two bilateral agreements in the tourism and cultural exchanges sectors.Already, Greece imports the bulk of its oil from the Republic of Libya.

Libya would like to see more co-operation between itself and Greece, a restoration of accord that would have clear implications for Crete, lying roughly the same distance between Mainland Greece and Libya. Since Minoan times, regular trade with North Africa has been common, although in recent decades Greece has turned its face toward Europe as a cultural and economic partner.

Fake Building Licenses in Heraklion

A major scandal has emerged relating to the issuing of fake building licenses. The culprit in this case is a woman who worked for a private quantity surveyor. She had been making fake licenses, or changing the terms of permits and taking them along to the authorities for official approval. On one occasion, occurring in Ammoudara, Department of Heraklion, a building license was changed to include an extra floor.

The accused woman was, for a long time, a member of the Deparmental Council, working for the administration of Heraklion.

The story emerged when a central Heraklion woman living in a multi-story apartment building went to the bank to obtain a loan, with her flat as collateral. It was then discovered that the plans and building license were for another Heraklion building altogether. The next discovery was the Ammoudara case. Currently an investigation is underway into all the projects undertaken by the un-named accused, and a wide ranging enquiry is being carried out into all licensing practices. It was announced that in future, landlords will have to present their applications for building permits in person, rather than relying on quantity surveyors to carry this out.

Religious Tourism on the March in Crete

The Orthodox Church is interested in several areas of religious tourism and is taking steps to develop its appeal to visitors. One concerns following in the footsteps of the Apostle Paul from Northern Greece to Heraklion and on to Rhodes, the other, a walk taken by Cosmas Aitolos. In Crete, the development will have as a centre Kaloi Limenes, supported by government regional development agency, Peripheria Kritis.

Additionally, five touristic villages comprising a capacity of seven thousand beds will be built in the Vai area of north-east Lassithi. These buildings will cover an area of 25,000 square metres, while the land will remain under the ownership of Greece’s church.

Construction of this massive project will be the responsibility of a multi-national company, Loyalworld.

Stephen Cook Appeal Continues

There has still been no sign of missing tourist Stephen Mark Cook, 20, who went missing six months ago in Malia. His parents are offering a reward for any information that might shed light on the case, and are making every effort to keep the hunt for Stephen a focus of attention. Last seen leaving a bar on the night of 1st September 2005, he has not been seen since. A website has been set up to disseminate his description and to maintain wider co-ordination of the search.
Despite the efforts of police, who have worked alongside the family to discover what happened, there have been no new developments.


New Freedom in Boat Prices, but Rethymnon has to wait

In an announcement by Commercial Shipping Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis, shipping lines operating between Crete and the port of Pireaus will be given freedom to set their own ticket prices. Until now, all boats, including older and less comfortable ships were obliged to sell at the same price. It is not expected that prices will radically alter under the new arrangements.

Rethymnon has asked for another boat, to serve passengers between that town and Pireaus. The single boat currently operating makes the round-trip three times per week. Rethymnon Council has stated that a new service would boost tourism, and that the one boat to the capital that they have is not enough, even for local needs. However, Mr. Kefaloyiannis, the Minister responsible, has rejected the proposal completely.

Update for Chinese Investment in South Crete…

Gavdopuola, a small uninhabited island off the southern coast of Crete, near Gavdos in the Department of Chania, is the latest subject of speculation in the ongoing saga of Chinese interest in the island. According to Athenian newspapers, the Chinese shipping ministry, and the China Shipping Terminal Development Company, are investigating the possibility of building a container port in this location.

The island, only 3 kilometres long by 700 metres, is owned by private interests already, and this, say commentators, would make it more interesting to outside investors. As with previous stories concerning possible Chinese involvement in Crete, The Crete Gazette will do our best to bring you the latest facts as they emerge.

Unrest in Milatos and Vrahassi

A regional government programme called Kapodistrias, instigated in 1998, sought to simplify local government in Crete. Under the administration of then-governing PASOK, the plan called for the amalgamation of communities and municipalities into centralised units, making around 500 municipalities in the whole of Greece. Previously, a system of many small, self-governing units had been in place, which presented enormous difficulties to any efforts to co-ordinate planning and development.

However, several municipalities disagreed with the moves to become part of larger districts. Recently we have seen ongoing protests, including the forced blocking of highways, and a decision from Athens to allow independence to the towns of Milatos and Vrahassi, who were never happy with forced amalgamation with the larger area of Neapolis, Lassithi.

However, in Milatos particularly, there has been a split between councilors over the direction of change, and possibly half the members of the administration insist that it would be better to stay in Neapolis. This has lead to heated exchanges and many resignations from Milatos representatives in the council. While Vrahassi has gained its independence, Milatos has been effectively separated into two areas, those who support self-determination, and those who do not. This issue is also a huge area of disagreement between PASOK and the current ruling party Nea Dimokratia, and is becoming a ‘political football’ with little sign of a clear outcome.

Rethymnon Roads; Danger Spot

On 16th March, a driver’s narrow escape at the turning toward Yerani, outside the city of Rethymnon, dramatically illustrated the need for a properly built and signposted junction in this spot. On the fast-moving National Road, a driver halted his car to make the turn. A following vehicle swerved to avoid him and instead moved into the path of oncoming traffic. Thankfully, there was no collision. This is not the first time such an incident has occurred, and people of the area are demanding construction of a junction.

Mayor of Nikiforos Fokas District, Andonis Paterakis, has also had enough of the indifference of the Government body in charge of road building, who he says are not giving money to contractors, who are in turn unable to finish important repairs.

A questionnaire carried out among tourists by the Consumers Association, announced in March, put the state of Cretan roads as a main area of concern to visitors, along with other well-known complaints; rubbish tipping spoiling beauty spots and the cleanliness of toilets.

12 Years for Marijuana Cultivation in south Crete

720 plants and one kilo of harvested marijuana has resulted in a 12-year prison sentence for a 31 year old man. The arrest a year ago took place in Grigoria, in the southern region of Messara. He was using two greenhouses for the purpose.

The man convicted was previously known to police and had served a two year sentence only 1½ years prior to the latest offence.

The Church of Greece Against New Laws for Cremation

The powerful political lobby of the Greek Orthodox Church, and the Church of Crete, has come out strongly opposed to new legislation from Athens allowing everyone the right to be cremated. The law states that anyone wishing cremation may choose this option, but the church is against legalising the practice for members of the Greek Church.

For the Church, the body is considered holy and burning it is deemed wrong, as it then will not meet the earth again and complete the circle. They have no objection to persons of other religions choosing this method.

Woman Appeals for Help

The 32 year-old Rumanian national, Iliga Singa, has spent the last six months looking after her son, now five years old. The child was viciously abused by her partner, named as Panagiotis Kalatzis, who threw the child against walls so violently that his brain was damaged.

Kalatzi was sentenced to prison. Ms. Singa expressed thanks to the hospital caring for her son, the PAGNI in Heraklion, and has appealed for help in having her son moved to Bucharest, where she and her son can be closer to their family.

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