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FT: The stakes are high as Tsipras’ government faces no-confidence vote

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Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ government faces a vote of no-confidence after coalition partner left the government over Macedonia name deal.

But, according to Financial Times, the stakes are high for Skopje, the Balkan region and the EU, as well as for Tsipras. “The bilateral accord sealed in principle last year for Greece’s neighbor to rebrand itself the Republic of Northern Macedonia would end a near three decade-old dispute and would also help open the way for Skopje to join NATO and the EU,” FT says.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said Sunday he will ask for a vote of confidence this week after the country’s defense minister, who leads the coalition government’s junior party, resigned over the Macedonia name deal.

Panos Kammenos announced his resignation and said his right-wing Independent Greeks party is quitting the government after meeting with Tsipras.

Tsipras appeared confident when speaking to the press Sunday that he would be able to find the needed 151 votes and survive both the confidence vote and the Macedonia name change vote, since the group led by Kammenos had only seven seats.

Greece and Macedonia agreed in June 2018 to a deal that would change the name of Greece’s northern neighbor to North Macedonia. In exchange, Greece would lift its objections to the country joining NATO. The deal ended a dispute that had been going on since the early 1990s but it is opposed by critics in both countries, who feel their government gave away too many concessions.

Macedonia’s parliament ratified the deal last Friday. Now Tsipras needs a majority in the 300-seat Greek parliament to ratify the accord.
In a press conference that followed his resignation, Kammenos made it clear that he and his party will vote against the government confidence motion, as well as the Macedonia name deal, when it comes up for ratification.

In the Macedonian capital, Skopje, Macedonian Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov told a press conference Sunday that he has been assured by a Greek government official that Athens remains strongly committed to completing its part of the name change deal.

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Skiathos island authorities charging up to EUR1.000 fine for taking rare beach pebbles

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Tourists could be fined up to 1.000 euros for taking pebbles as souvenirs from a Greek beach.

Lalaria Beach on the island of Skiathos, accessible only by boat, is extremely popular with holidaymakers, who have been known to fill their pockets with unique pebbles as free souvenirs.

But officials on the Greek island are worried that too many of the stones have been taken leading to a dramatic change in the landscape of the shoreline in the past 10 years.

And now the port authorities have introduced fines of between EUR400 and EUR1.000 for people who take pebbles without permission.

Signs have been placed around the Lalaria beach telling tourists: ‘Take pictures, not pebbles.’ Posters have also been given to boat operators and fishermen in the area so the message can be spread across Greece.

In cooperation with the port authorities, the Cultural Association of Skiathos launched a campaign entitled:  “Take a Picture, not a Pebble – Save Lalaria Beach!”

“The alteration of the landscape has been noticeable in the last ten years and is up to a certain degree irreversible,” the cultural association says on its website. The protection of the beach is necessary to maintain at least the present condition without further deterioration, the association said.

The beach in the north-east of Skiathos is accessible only by boat.

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Panagiotopoulos: Honoring Prespa accord will bring better future

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Greek Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos said on Wednesday the mutual respect for the Prespa Agreement without concessions would yield positive result and contribute to a better future.

Earlier in the day, Panagiotopoulos told the Economist Conference in Athens that he does not challenge the intent of the agreement. We are all aware of the concept of good faith, the purpose of the agreement is to strengthen the stability in the region and geopolitical foundations.

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Greek Foreign Minister meets U.S. State Secretary

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Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikos Dendias will meet with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Washington July 17. The two will discuss topics of bilateral, regional and international interest.

During his two-day stay in Washington, Dendias will meet with White House national security advisor John Bolton, Senator Bob Menendez, and will participate in ministerial meeting on religious freedom.

Secretary Pompeo will host the second Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, in Washington on July 16-18. The Ministerial will reaffirm international commitments to promote religious freedom for all and focus on concrete outcomes that produce durable, positive change. A broad range of stakeholders, including senior government representatives, international organization representatives, religious leaders, and civil society activists will convene to discuss challenges, identify concrete ways to combat religious persecution and discrimination, and ensure greater respect for freedom of religion or belief.

This year’s Ministerial seeks to further conversations from last year’s event and recent regional conferences. Representatives of up to 1000 civil society and religious community from every corner of the world are exected to participate.

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