23 June, 2007
The 15th annual Samothrace Journalists Conference began on Friday with a panel discussion on an issue of major local but also wider-ranging internatinal repercussions, namely, construction and operation of the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline agreed by Greece, Bulgaria and Russia.
Evros Prefect Nikos Zabounidis and other local officials stressed that the local community should not be "excluded" from any phase in the planning, construction and operation of the pipeline, while also emphasising the need to strictly impose precautions for protecting the environment and guarding against possible accidents. Among others, Evros prefecture is home to Greece's most important wetlands, the Evros Delta and also includes the verdant island of Samothrace, which lies directly on a sea route tankers would use for the pipeline.
There followed a greeting sent by Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas, who was originally scheduled to address the conference in person but was ordered to remain in Athens by the premier in order to ensure the optimal operation of the power grid in light of the soaring temperatures. Sioufas' portfolio includes jurisdiction over the state-run Public Power Corp. (PPC).
Sioufas said the government had already promised to give part of oil transit fees for developmental projects in Evros, while also pointing to the hundreds of jobs that would be created by the pipeline, both directly and indirectly. Evros officials pointed to a minimum figure of US$35 million in transit fees for Greece in the initial phase, a figure they deemed as low.
Other speakers were former EU Commissioner for energy issues and subsequent PASOK minister Christos Papoutsis, who emphasised that a handful of crucial points, such as transfer of ownership by the consortium partners, must be clarified in upcoming negotiations.
There followed an afternoon session chaired by Athens Journalists' Union (ESIEA) President Panos Sombolos dealing with a growing practice in Greece of individuals and organisations filing lawsuits to gag the press and other attacks on press freedoms.
Source: Athens News Agency