WASHINGTON, DC —A delegation from the American Hellenic Institute (AHI) successfully completed the organization’s annual leadership trip to Greece and Cyprus where it held substantive meetings with high-ranking government and religious officials and business leaders. The AHI delegation was led by AHI President Aleco Haralambides and included AHI Executive Director Nick Larigakis, AHIF Board Member Gus Andy, AHI-California President Paul Sogotis and AHI staff Vasilios Kotsatos. In Athens the delegation was joined by AHIF Board Member Theodore Spyropoulos and AHI members Dr. George Tsetsekos, Dean, LeBow College of Business, Drexel University and George Mermelas, Co-Owner of the 24/7 Radio Program in Florida, “Greek Voice Radio.” Also, in a first, AHI representatives addressed the Parliamentary Special Permanent Committee on the Diaspora, chaired by Elpida Tsouri. The two-week overseas trip aimed to strengthen relations with both countries, and to work on issues of mutual concern, occurred May 22 to June 4, 2010.
“We had a very productive series of high-visibility meetings in Greece and Cyprus where AHI was very well received,” said President Aleco Haralambides. “We accomplished the objectives we set out to achieve, and we received insightful briefings on issues of importance to the Greek American community. We were also afforded the unique opportunity to address the Diaspora Committee of the Hellenic Parliament, which we found to be a very beneficial experience.”
Cyprus: Delegation Briefed on Negotiations Status
The AHI delegation received multiple briefings from Cypriot and American officials on the status of the ongoing direct talks held under UN auspices between President of the Republic of Cyprus Demitris Christofias and Mr. Dervis Eroglu, who represents the Turkish Cypriot community. All throughout the delegation’s meetings in Cyprus, AHI was commended for its unwavering efforts to keep the Cyprus issue highly visible with key policymakers in the Obama administration and in the U.S. Congress.
During its stay in Cyprus, May 22 to 27, 2010, the delegation met with: American Ambassador to Cyprus Frank Urbancic, Director of the Presidential Diplomatic Office Leonidas Pantelidis, Deputy Mayor of Nicosia Soula Kollakidou, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ambassador Nicholas Emiliou, Director of the Permanent Secretary’s Office of Foreign Affairs, Yiorgos Christofides, Chairman of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives Averof Neophyou, and Senior Press and Information Officer, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Androulla Lanitis.
Also, Ambassador Antonis Toumazis, director, Overseas and Repatriated Cypriots, and Senior Press and Information Officer by Miltos Miltiadou each hosted their own luncheon for AHI.
In addition, the delegation met with His Beatitude Archbishop Chrysostomos II and Governor of the Central Bank Athanasios Orphanides. It also conducted a day-trip to occupied northern Cyprus to survey areas where Cyprus’ cultural and religious heritage has been vandalized or destroyed.
“No matter how many times we visit the occupied area we are always moved and saddened by the destruction of Cyprus’ rich cultural heritage in that area,” said Executive Director Nick Larigakis.
Click here to view photos of the Cyprus trip.
Athens: Papandreou Tells AHI Greece Will Overcome Crisis
Meetings with Prime Minister George Papandreou on May 31 and President of the Hellenic Republic Karolos Papoulias on June 3, and an AHI address to the Hellenic Parliament, were highlights of the delegation’s fast-paced itinerary in Greece from May 31 to June 4, 2010. The itinerary also included talks with many cabinet ministers.
“We were very encouraged with the confidence displayed by both Prime Minister Papandreou and President Papoulias in their candid discussions about the course Greece is taking to rise above the current fiscal crisis she is facing,” Haralambides said. “The economic crisis and issues of concern to the Greek American community were the topics of discussion in all our meetings.”
In addition to Prime Minister Papandreou and President Papoulias, AHI met with: Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas, Head of the Parliamentary Special Permanent Committee on Diaspora Elpida Tsouri, Minister of National Defense Evangelos Venizelos, Minister of Economy, Competitiveness and Mercantile Marine Louka Katseli, President of the Hellenic Parliament Phillipos Petsalnikos. Moreover, the delegation met with several directorates of the ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Deputy Chief of Mission of the American Embassy Deborah McCarthy. Meetings with Minister of Culture Panos Geroulanos and Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Spyros Kouvelis were held with Executive Director Larigakis. As with the delegation’s meetings in Cyprus, the appreciation for the hard work and dedication of AHI to Hellenic issues was conveyed by Greek government officials.
A First: AHI Addresses Hellenic Parliament Committee in Historic “Senate” Chamber
In a historic first, three AHI representatives addressed the Parliamentary Special Permanent Committee on the Diaspora about its perspective on United States-Greece relations and what it does on a daily basis to enhance those relations. President Haralambides, Executive Director Larigakis, and AHIF Board Member Ted Sypropoulos provided the address, which was organized and chaired by President of the Committee Elpida Tsouri. Greece’s version of “C-SPAN” carried the address live and it still continues to air, which took place in the historic old “Senate” chamber of the Greek Parliament.
“We are grateful to Member of Parliament Tsouri for her effort to make this historic event a reality,” said Larigakis. “We received positive feedback from the members in attendance and we hope there will be future opportunities to address the Hellenic Parliament.”
AHI Honors Excellence at Gala Affair in Athens
The Sixth Annual AHI-Athens Hellenic Heritage Achievement and Public Service Awards Dinner was held on June 2 to honor distinguished Hellenes Niki L. Goulandris, public servant and environmentalist; and Professor Dimitrios Pandermanlis, president, New Acropolis Museum for their excellence in public service and their professions.
“We were proud to honor two outstanding individuals who have excelled in their careers and in their personal lives,” said Larigakis. “We are also thrilled that this event, now in its sixth years, continues to flourish.”
More than 200 AHI members and supporters attended the dinner at The Grande Bretagne hotel.
Click here to view photos of the Greece trip.
The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) is an independent non-profit Greek American public policy center that works to strengthen relations between the United States and Greece and Cyprus, and within the Greek American community.