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Greece Aiming for More Blue Flag Awards in 2019

Tourism Minister Elena Kountoura with Christina Tetradi, Laganas Hotel Association President; Stavros Kontonis, former Justice Minister, and Theodoros Galiatsatos Governor of the Ionian Islands Region at the Blue Flag National Operators Meeting.

Greece has plans to increase the number of beaches awarded the special Blue Flag eco-label that certifies quality, safety, environmental education and information, services and environmental management criteria are met, said Tourism Minister Elena Kountoura during the Blue Flag National Operators Meeting held at the Zante Park Resort & Spa on Zakynthos.

“Greece is actively involved in and supports the Blue Flag program and is home to 519 award-winning coasts and 15 certified marinas, maintaining its 2nd place world ranking on the Blue Flag quality award list,” said Minister Kountoura.

This year’s Blue Flag National Operators meeting gathered more than 60 participants from 43 countries to discuss and exchange ideas about the technicalities of the program, the strategy, best practices and the challenges.

In her inaugural address on Sunday, the minister referred to the significance of the event for Zakynthos, an island making efforts to protect the natural  environment. Indicatively, the Zakynthos Marine Park, located in the Bay of Laganas – a Natura 2000 site – aims to protect the loggerhead sea turtle Caretta caretta as well as the flora and fauna unique to the region.

“We are seeking to maintain our high ranking, making sure that we meet the criteria every year, restoring Blue Flags, and committing to working hard so that in 2019 more Greek beaches gain Blue Flag status,” said Minister Kountoura.

In the meantime, it should be noted that a number of beaches in Zakynthos were among 38 in Greece that lost their coveted Blue Flags and were dropped from the 2018 list after Greek and international evaluators made unannounced visits.

The Blue Flag is a voluntary eco-label awarded to beaches across the globe and run by the Copenhagen-based non-profit Foundation for Environmental Education. The  Hellenic Society for the Protection of Nature (EEPF) is the program’s coordinator for Greece.

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