Greek president inspects restoration works at Acropolis amid protest

08:31, May 26, 2010      

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Greek President Karolos Papoulias (R) listens to Acropolis Monuments Preservation Agency director Mary Ioannidou during a tour on the Acropolis Hill in Athens, Greece, on May 25, 2010. Papoulias was informed on the spot on the course of the restoration works on the hill and marvelled at the Parthenon temple which is no longer hidden behind scaffolding and big cranes. (Xinhua/Phasma)

Greek President Karolos Papoulias inspected on Tuesday restoration works at Acropolis as dozens of workers protested at the country's most significant archaeological site against the government's policy on short- term contract employees.

Papoulias visited Acropolis to marvel at the new image of the 2, 500-year-old Parthenon temple which now stands without being surrounded by scaffolding and big cranes.

The Greek leader congratulated the archaeologists who work for years on the preservation of the monuments on the Acropolis hill, expressing his satisfaction on the course of the project which started in the 1970s. The last phase of the restoration project started nine years ago.

Over the past 35 years, it was estimated that 1,094 architectural parts of a total weight of 2,675 tons were dismantled, preserved and put back into their place. "This project makes us all proud as Greeks, but still a lot of work remains to be done. We hope that despite the difficult times our country faces, the work will continue with the same enthusiasm, " said Acropolis Monuments Preservation Agency director Mary Ioannidou who welcomed Papoulias at the site.

Papoulias was also accompanied by Greek Culture and Tourism Minister Pavlos Geroulanos, who was faced with a group of protesters. Dozens of short-term contract employees at the Ministry of Culture and Tourism surrounded the minister, chanting slogans against the slashing of their job positions and demanding back pay that reaches up to two years.

"Our needs are thrown down the cliff. We will not pay for their mistakes,"was written on the banners protesters raised.

Due to the severe economic crisis that has hit Greece in 2010, the Greek government introduced drastic cutbacks on public expenditure, including the lay-offs of thousands of short-term contract employees at the public sector. Short-term contract civil workers in Greece are used for years to cover the needs of the public sector with less wages and rights compared to full-time employees.

Geroulanos acknowledged that the protesters were right up to an extent and pledged that he will examine their demands.

The minister also stressed that apart from the economic crisis, the government will ensure that funds will be found so that the restoration project on the Acropolis hill will continue. Archaeologists estimate that they need at least 10 more years to complete the conservation works.

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