President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias and Serb President Boris Tadic on Friday jointly inaugurated Belgrade's landmark Nebojsa Tower. Recently renovated with money partially provided by Greece, the tower was the prison in which Greek independence struggle hero Rigas Velestinlis (also known as Ferraios) was put to death by Ottoman Turkish authorities in 1798.
Papoulias arrived at Nebojsa Tower accompanied by his wife May, where he was received by Tadic and his own wife Tatjana.
Following the official inauguration, the two presidential couples were shown around all four levels of the new museum that is dedicated to the struggles of the Greeks and Serbs to shake the Ottoman yoke. The second level of the tower contains exhibits on the life and work of Rigas Feraios.
In speeches at the inauguration, Papoulias stressed Feraios' role as a 'forerunner of the idea of European unification' and said its roots lay in ideas of freedom based on education, equality before the law and state, justice and peace, friendship and cooperation between countries of the Balkans and Mediterranean.
Tadic highlighted the Greek state's financial contribution toward the project, noting that the money given by Greece to restore the tower was the largest sum ever received by Serbia from abroad for a cultural project.
The two presidents then had a private meeting at the Serb presidential palace, during which Papoulias assured Tadic that Greece will not abandon efforts for Serbia's accession to the European Union, after which there was a dinner in honour of the Greek delegation that included Culture and Tourism Minister Pavlos Geroulanos and Deputy Foreign Minister Spyros Kouvelis. Wrapping up his visit to Belgrade, the president was also received by Serbian Patriarch Irinej.
The renovation of Nebojsa Tower was funded by Greece and the municipality of Belgrade and carried out over two years, at a cost 1.8 million euros. The Greek state, via the Greek foreign ministry international developmental aid service 'Hellenic Aid' has paid 1.38 million euro toward the project.
Nejbosa Tower is a medieval structure built by Hungarians on the ruins of an older Roman tower dating from the 1st century A.D. It was destroyed and rebuilt several times in its history. Rigas Feraios was imprisoned there for roughly seven months before he was put to death by Turks, becoming one of the first martyrs of Greece's struggle for independence.