At the beginning of the summer, now almost three months ago, Canadian Ambassador Robert Peck invited 14 individuals along with their family members and friends to a special ceremony at the new Chancery of the Canadian Embassy in Greece in Halandri, north of Athens. On the occasion of Canada Day, July 1st, the Embassy of Canada honoured on June 29th individuals who had made important contributions to Canada-Greece relations. Ambassador Robert Peck awarded “Maple Leaf Citations” and a special West Coast aboriginal (Haida) silver-plated ladle in a handcrafted red cedar box to each honoree drawn from the world of business, academia, education, the arts and the Canadian expatriate community (https://business.facebook.com/CanadainGreece/posts/391718757705143).
Five of those recognized have had close relationships with the Institute through our Athens Friends Association. They are Constantine Katsigiannis, Don Matthews, Ian Miller, Efthalia Constantinides and the late Ion Vorres. They were part of the group which kept the Institute going in the dark months in the mid-1990s and provided funds for the purchase of our first apartment on the third floor at Dionysiou Aiginitou 7. We have worked with Professor Mary Koutsoudaki (University of Athens) and with Kathryn Lukey-Coutsocostas (Friends of Canada) to create events for our Friends Association. Further, Chris McClinton is a regular attendee at our lectures and events. Vassilis Sakellaris (TourGreece and the Official Representative for Air Transat) donated my transatlantic airline tickets for my first lecture tour in Ontario and Quebec two years ago. And finally, I too was recognized for the Institute’s programs and archaeological research in Greece over almost four decades.
The ceremony concluded with Ambassador Peck announcing officially that his posting to Athens will end this fall. While expected after four years as ambassador Jonathan and I as well as the Institute are saddened at his imminent departure. Robert Peck has been an active, enthusiastic and strong supporter of our mission in Greece and our activities. Much of what we have accomplished in public outreach over the past four years – both here in Greece and in Canada – has been facilitated by his active lobbying, skillful diplomacy and financial support. Sas efharistoume therma!!!
At the reception afterwards, the honorees and their friends told stories and remembered those not present who had made significant contributions to bringing Canada and Greece closer and to fostering close relationships with individuals from both countries. It was an appropriate way to celebrate Canada Day in advance!
New Canadian Embassy in Halandri
In late June the Chancery of the Canadian Embassy in Athens moved from its familiar location at Gennadiou 4 in Kolonaki to Ethnikis Antistaseos 48 in «lower» Halandri, an inner suburb of Athens. It is next to the Embassy of Japan. The new Embassy is accessible by various bus and trolley routes from central Athens. What I saw of the new premises was impressive! By going to the Embassy’s website, www.greece.gc.ca, you can learn how to get there and how to contact the various departments.
A New Government
Life in Greece for the past three months has been dominated by the prolonged and tense negotiations of the previous leftist Sy.Riz.A. government with the so-called “institutions” over what became the third Memorandum of Understanding, the imposition of the asphyxiating “Capital Controls” in early July, the Referendum that followed on to “Grexit” or not, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ last minute signing of the new Memorandum, the mutiny of the “Left Platform” of his party over this abandonment of their “Thessaloniki Program” from last September which ensured their election on January 25th, and, finally, the calling of the snap national election which was held on September 20th with Sy.Riz.A. coming out on top over Nea Demokratia and seven other smaller parties but not with a majority in the Parliament. The previous coalition of Sy.Riz.A. with the right wing Anexartitoi Ellines party was immediately renewed to create a slim ruling majority of 155 seats out of 300. Given that they coalition is the same, as well as most of the ministers and deputy ministers (some in different ministries), many in the social media have called this new government just a government shuffle by election. All of this has been the “Amphipolis of 2015”, at least from a TV programming point of view! The Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sport has been separated once again from Education and Religious Affairs as it was in the previous government. The new Minister of Culture is Aristeidis Baltas. He was the Minister of Education before this shuffle. We look forward to working with him and his team in the Ministry.
While all of these political and economic developments were happening the Greek islands in the eastern Aegean were increasingly overwhelmed by refugees and economic immigrants coming from Turkey by any means possible (too frequently with tragic results) to escape the fighting and terror in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Later the various squares and parks in central Athens have become a temporary, crowded open-air way station on their intended journey to northern Europe and a hoped-for new life.
After a difficult winter, spring and summer, the consensus here is that what Greece needs now is mature leadership, stability, the implementation of the mandated reforms, development and optimism.