Daily Archives: February 11, 2014

New election law sharpens political climate


An intensifying pre-election climate sharpened further following the government’s announcement to change the way members of the European Parliament are elected.

An intensifying pre-election climate sharpened further following the government’s announcement to change the way members of the European Parliament are elected during the elections in May in order to boost citizen involvement and voter turnout.

Leftist SYRIZA and other opposition parties issued angry statements after the government revealed that it wants MEPs to be elected according to how many votes each wins rather than where they are placed on each party’s electoral list.

For more than three decades, each party has had to provide a list of candidates in numerical order. Then, based on the percentage of the vote each party gets, the top name or names on the list were elected as MEPs.

According to the new proposed system, MEPs will be elected based on the party’s share of the vote but also on how many votes each candidates get, known as preferential voting. This means that voters in the European Parliament elections on May 25 will be given a list of candidates in alphabetical order and will have to put a cross next to one of the 42 candidates they want to vote for from the party of their choice.

The government insists this system is more democratic and will give voters more control over determining who represents them on the European decision-making level.

The new system will also relieve political leaders of pressures from within their parties to choose specific candidates. It will be useful for PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos, who has backed a new center-left initiative known as the “Movement of the 58” but will not be obliged to choose a leader for the party’s ticket in elections.

The drawbacks of the new system include the fact that it puts incumbent MEPs on a level playing field with new candidates. Some, notably former PASOK ministers Yiannis Ragousis and Anna Diamantopoulou, argued that the new system would benefit wealthier candidates.

Opposition parties focused neither on the particular benefits or drawbacks of the change, taking the opportunity instead to lash out at the government. SYRIZA referred to “another hopeless attempt by the two-party government to avoid electoral disaster” while former coalition partner Democratic Left (DIMAR) spoke of “unacceptable politicking.”

Source: Kathimerini

Cyprus’ future on the table


Looking forward: Michael Christodoulou AM, president of the Federation of Cyprus Communities of Australia and NZ. Photo supplied.

Communities down-under gather as peace talks set to resume.

As a resumption of UN-led peace talks on Cyprus gets closer, Cypriot communities in Australia and New Zealand will meet in Melbourne next week to discuss their most pressing priorities, as well as the role they can play in promoting a just solution for the island. The Federation of Cyprus Communities of Australia and NZ annual conference – which takes place between February 14 and 16 – will see delegates from every Australian state (bar Tasmania) and from New Zealand, discuss how a stronger voice can emerge to articulate ‘the Cyprus issue’, and closer to home, how the communities can increase their young people’s involvement in community affairs. Federation President Michael Christodoulou AM told Neos Kosmos that one of the most vital issues for the conference was how ties to each community’s youth could be reinforced – in order to pass the torch to a new generation – a generation who too often see their traditional community organisations as peripheral to their own ambitions. “The theme this year is how we are to engage young people. We’re failing with the youth,” said Mr Christodoulou, who sits as a commissioner for the NSW government’s Community Relations Commission. “It’s a universal problem. Younger people today have different ideas. The long-term aim is to make sure they take over the reins [of the Communities]. Unless they participate today in the community’s life, they will never come back later on.” Aged care provision and the challenges faced by new models of support for culturally-appropriate care will be another major topic on the conference agenda. The Federation’s annual conference said Mr Christodoulou was the ideal environment to share ideas and forge new approaches. “It’s very important for us to keep in touch with one another, and to work together.” On the international front, assisting Cyprus as it continues to struggle with the effects of its own economic crisis is also uppermost as the kind of new interventions Christodoulou would like to see Cyprus communities in Australia and NZ develop. “There have been major issues in Cyprus in 2013, and I’ll be bringing to the table a suggestion we should raise money to send back to Cyprus, to help needy people,” said Mr Christodoulou.

“Here in Sydney we’re looking at collecting clothes and sending a full container later this year.”

Developments in relation to ‘the Cyprus issue’ are due to be discussed at length during Saturday’s conference sessions.

PASEKA President Constantinos Procopiou told Neos Kosmos that a continuing challenge was to improve the effectiveness of communities’ activities “to make the people of Australia [and NZ] aware that the injustice the people of Cyprus suffered in 1974 is still continuing, regardless of the numerous resolutions of the UN Security Council and the requirements of the EU.

“We’ll try to find ways to persuade the international community – including Australia – to exert pressure on Turkey to withdraw their troops from Cyprus and let all Cypriots to live in peace and harmony as they had done for so many years,” said Mr Procopiou.

Last month UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that he was hopeful of a resumption of UN-brokered negotiations on Cyprus in the near future. The United Nations has been working on the wording of a ‘joint statement’ to restart negotiations which broke off in mid-2012.

In a televised address in Cyprus on Thursday, President Nicos Anastasiades said there were “serious prospects” that the long-stalled talks to reunify the island could resume between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities, and that from the Cyprus government’s side – the wording of the joint communiqué had been finalised.

President Anastasiades travelled to Athens to brief the Greek government on the joint communiqué yesterday.

The opening ceremony and reception of the 42nd Annual Conference of the Federation of Cyprus Communities of Australia and New Zealand takes place on Friday 14th February at 7.00 pm at the Cyprus Village Community Centre. 100 Forrest Street, Ardeer, VIC 3022.

Registration of delegates will take place at the same venue between 8.30-9.00 am on Saturday 15 February. Conference sessions will run from 9.00 am until 5.00 pm. For further information contact Chris Christofourou on 0418 177912.

source: Neos Kosmos

Changing landscape for Greek



With the traditional blessing, the new Advanced Greek School of The Greek Orthodox Community of Melbourne and Victoria welcomed its first students on Tuesday afternoon, in its East Malvern campus. Photo Supplied

New era for the teaching of Modern Greek, as it adapts to changing demographics.

This year will see brand new developments in the teaching of Modern Greek in Australia. After years in the development stage, the Modern Greek language program for the national curriculum will be ready for approval in May and ready for implementation in July. Uniquely it will be marketed to students with a Greek background and to students completely new to the language, a first for the language program nationally. It is no news that student numbers in Modern Greek have been dwindling for some time, so it is some comfort to see the language open to all schools that want it. Two programs have been created, one that runs from foundation to year 10, and one that starts from year seven. Both programs will include a lot of Greek Australian history, while involving an in-depth oral program. Also enhancing the teaching of Greek is the way schools are adapting to the changing landscape of the Greek community in Australia. New Greek schools opening this year are catering to advanced students of the language, primarily those newly arrived. The Greek Community of Melbourne and Victoria started their first Advanced Greek Language School (AGLS) on Tuesday and welcomed around 70 students to classes this week. Despite there being many Greek schools in Australia, the syllabus has remained targeted to local students that are second and third generation speakers, and is inadequate for students that know Greek as their mother tongue. “All these new Greeks in Australia have created some new circumstance, new needs – both cultural and educational,” AGLS school coordinator Maria Bakalidou told Neos Kosmos.

The curriculum at the school will be based on textbooks currently being taught in Greece, and many of the teachers have all had some experience working the Greek education system.

This initiative is one that might be reactionary, but stands alone in creating new options for a changing demographic.

The fate of Modern Greek has been hindered by the lack of unity and interest by schools and the community to keep it alive.

Professor Vrasidas Karalis says there needs to be a concerted effort to make studying Greek relevant to more people, not just students with a Greek background.

“All sectors involved in teaching Modern Greek must sit around a table, unify their strategies and coordinate their efforts,” he tells Neos Kosmos.

“The promotion of Greek is both a matter of studying our culture but also of making it relevant to what happens in this society now.”

“We must stop seeing it as a community, ethnic language: it is a language of national significance and has to be promoted as such.”

More community involvement is also a point the Consul of Education Affairs in Melbourne Mr Vasileios Gkokas wants to herald.

“We have the largest number of ethnic schools across Melbourne, about 40,” he told Neos Kosmos.

“The Chinese have almost 13 to 14.

“These schools do their job, whether religious, private, or community they do their job, but we need to coordinate our actions”.

The Ambassador of Greece to Australia Mr Haris Dafaranos plans to call a collective meeting with all the Greek language stakeholders in the country to discuss how – as a unit – the group can fund and help the language ferry the next few years.

The support of Greece will be there too, Mr Gkokas says.

The number of Greek teachers from Greece becoming available to teach Greek to the Greek Colleges to the Universities, the State School system or to the recognised afternoon Greek schools, might have declined, due to the crisis, however, Greece continues and will continue to support the teaching of the Greek language in the Antipodes, he said.

source:  Neos Kosmos