Athens Mayor's Honor To AHI Highlights Successful Inaugural Delegation Trip To Greece And Cyprus
The AHI capped off its successful inaugural delegation trip to Greece and Cyprus with a ceremony at City Hall in Athens where Athens Mayor Dimitrios Avramopoulos presented the Institute with the Medal of the City in recognition of its "efforts to strengthen U.S.-Greek relations and for the advancement of the national issues."
The delegation, which started its trip in Nicosia, Cyprus on November 26, also traveled to Thessaloniki and Athens, where they held substantive talks with government officials, diplomats, academics, and businessmen. The delegation left Greece for the United States on December 9, concluding what AHI Executive Director Nick Larigakis termed, "a highly informative and successful series of meetings between our members and Greek and Cypriot leaders in the public and private sectors." Mr. Larigakis said that the trip "was important in helping to project AHI's goals and objectives in Greece and Cyprus," a fact which, he believes, will lead to new opportunities for close cooperation between the U.S. and these two countries.
The AHI delegation consisted of approximately twenty members and was led by AHI founder Gene Rossides. Other members comprising the delegations included, AHIPAC Chairman Nicholas Chimicles, Philadelphia, PA, AHI Legal Counsel Nick Karambelas, Washington, DC, Costas Alexakis, Northern Virginia, Gus Andy, Miami, FL, Professor Van Coufoudakis and Marion Coufoudakis, Ft. Wayne, IN, Helen Coufoudakis, Chicago, IL, Mark Karas, California, Paul Kotrotsios, Philadelphia, PA, Metaxia Kousoumbos, New Jersey, Dr. Ted Lyras, New Jersey, George Mermelas, Clearwater, FL, Mr. and Mrs. Alkis Panagoulias , Northern Virginia, Peter C. Pappas, Esq., Washington, D.C., Mr. and Mrs. Timoleon Pappas, Athens, Greece, Prof. George Tsetsekos, Philadelphia, PA, Stavros Veletsis, Northern Virginia, Mr. and Mrs. Timos Zavatsianos, Miami, FL, and AHI Executive Director Nick Larigakis.
The AHI delegation arrived in Nicosia at the tail end of a record dry spell on the island. By the time the delegation left on November 30, the island had endured one of the wettest three-day periods on record. Despite the inclement weather, the delegation met with leaders of government, business and the Orthodox Church.
Among the many highlights of the whirlwind trip were the productive meetings with President Glafcos Clerides, Nicosia Mayor Lellos Demetriades, Minister of Commerce, Industry and Tourism, Nicos Rolandis, American Ambassador Donald Bandler, Afxentis Afxentiou, Governor of the Central Bank of Cyprus, Tassos Papadopoulos, President of the Democratic Party and Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Foreign & European Affairs, Amb. Michalis Attalides, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Vassos Lyssarides, President of the Social Democratic Movement, Panayiotis Demetriou, President of the Democratic Rally Party, and with the Rector of the University of Cyprus. In addition to the meetings, the Delegation was hosted to luncheons by the Central Bank of Cyprus and by the Cyprus Foreign Ministry. Also, two wonderful receptions were hosted in honor of the Delegation- by American Ambassador Donald Bandler at his residence and by longtime AHI member and benefactor George Paraskevaides of Joannou & Paraskevaides, at the Cyprus Hilton. All events were very well attended and offered the AHI delegates an opportunity to meet and greet members of Cyprus' political, financial and cultural establishment.
President Clerides met with the delegation for over an hour to discuss key political issues such as EU accession and the latest round of proximity talks and the role the U.S. can play to foster a solution to the island's division. Mr. Rossides called the meeting "very productive" and added that the issue of Turkey's incasion of Cyprus, the AHI's founding issue, remained a most important topic throughout their meetings with other government officials and private sector individuals. An issue that AHI delegates repeatedly touched on in their meetings with Cypriot officials, and later with Greek officials, was the foreign policy process in the United States and the specific roles the legislative and executive branches of government play in affecting the process.
AHI delegates also had a very productive meeting with Mr. Nicos Rolandis, Minister of Commerce, Industry and Tourism. The delegation, which included prominent Greek American businessmen, had a very engaging meeting with the minister, in which they discussed possible ways to expand U.S. and Cypriot trade and tourism.
The AHI also had a very informative briefing by American Ambassador Donald Bandler and his country team on all issues of political and economic importance to the United States and Cyprus. Following the briefing the Ambassador hosted a reception for the delegates at his residence. The day after the briefing, the U.S. military attaché took the delegation on a poignant and emotional tour of the buffer zone, which included a visit at the old Nicosia Airport. "There was complete silence among our group as we drove onto the tarmac and witnessed the terminal building and realized that this was a place where time has stood still for 26 years! No sign of life and that eerie sight of an airplane permanently parked for 26 years in the same spot, its war damaged fuselage, another permanent reminder of a Cyprus solution not yet resolved." said Larigakis. The event struck a resonating chord with all delegates, who reaffirmed AHI's commitment that the division of Cyprus has gone on far too long and that the time for an end to the occupation is now!
Before departing to Thessaloniki the delegation had the opportunity to meet with His Beatitude Archbishop Chryssostomos, who graciously gave a personal tour to the delegates of the grounds of the Archdiocese.
Arriving in Greece's northern capital, Thessaloniki, AHI members hit the ground running. Upon arrival, the AHI delegation met with U.S. Consul General John Koenig, with whom they discussed a number of issues including Greek and U.S. Balkan reconstruction efforts and relations with FYROM.
Among the other highlights of the three-day visit to this bustling, commercial city were the delegations meetings with a number of trade associations such as Helexpo, the Exporters' Association of Northern Greece (S.E.V.E), and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Thessaloniki.
AHI officials also had an insightful meeting with Thessaloniki Mayor Vasilios Papageorgopoulos, who expounded on the city's economic future and position as a cultural capital of Europe. At the end of the meeting the mayor made a proposal to establish an AHI chapter in Thessaloniki, which all AHI delegates agreed to pursue at the earliest date. The Mayor's office also hosted the delegation to a dinner the first night at a local eatery.
While in Thessaloniki long-time AHI member and former law professor of Ohio State University, John Kozyris, arranged for AHI delegates Gene Rossides, Nick Larigakis and Costas Alexakis to appear with him on ERT 3 TV, a news program equivalent to "Larry King Live." On the program the members discussed the current state of U.S. relations with Greece, the Presidential elections and the future of U.S. policy in the Balkans. The program has a large audience every Friday evening and is shown live throughout Greece.
An added highlight in Thessaloniki was a visit to Anatolia College where the Delegation received a briefing and tour of the very impressive campus by the new president, Richard Jackson.
On the final evening of the delegation's visit to Thessaloniki, the Center for Greek American Relations & Greek American Friendship hosted a reception in honor of the AHI-Delegation at the prestigious Mediterranean Palace Hotel. Approximately 150 people were in attendance as the Center's President Mr. Lakis Ioannidis presented AHI founder Eugene Rossides with an award for his tireless efforts in promoting Hellenism and for his contributions to American-Greek friendship.
The AHI wishes especially to thank AHI delegate Alkis Panagoulias, former Greek National soccer coach for his critical role in organizing the Thessaloniki visit along with Mrs. Fotini Gidimopoulou..
The delegation rounded out its visit to Greece and Cyprus in Athens. The packed itinerary in Greece's capital city included meetings with President Constantine Stephanopoulos, Foreign Minister George Papandreou, Deputy Foreign Minister Gregory Niotis, Olympic Committee President Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, President of the Greek Parliament, Apostolos Kaklamanis, Governor of the National Bank of Greece, Theodore Karatzas, U.S. Ambassador Nick Burns, and Athens Mayor Dimitri Avramopoulos. As they had done in prior cities, the delegation also met with leading academics, business leaders, trade organizations and think tanks.
To start off the week in Athens, on Monday, December 4, the AHI held a reception at the Athens Plaza hotel in honor of its Greek members. Among the guests at the reception was AHEPA Supreme President Johnny Economy, who gave warm remarks on the close relationship between AHI and AHEPA. Both AHI and AHEPA reiterated their commitment to continue to work together in the future. Also offering greetings were AHIPAC Chairman Nick Chimicles and Ambassador Nick Burns. Ambassador Burns was especially profuse in his statements regarding the role that the AHI has played over the years in helping to strengthen U.S.-Greece relations.
The delegation also greatly enjoyed its candid meetings with President Stephanopoulos, Foreign Minister Papandreou, and Greek Parliament President Kaklamanis, with whom they discussed prospects for Greek-Turkish rapprochement, Balkan policy, the Cyprus issue and U.S.-Greece relations generally.
One of the highlights for the Delegates was the privilege to get a briefing from Mrs. Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, who gave the group a first-hand account on Greece's preparations for the Athens 2004 Olympics. The questions and answers were candid. "Everyone leaving the meeting left with no doubts that Mrs. Daskalaki is doing a terrific job and is exceptionally well suited to handle this very daunting task of organizing the summer Olympic Games in 2004," said AHIPAC Chairman Nick Chimicles.
The United States envoy to Greece, Ambassador Nicholas Burns graciously hosted the delegation. During a visit to the U.S. embassy in Athens, Ambassador Burns and his country team briefed the AHI officials on all issues relating to the status of U.S. relations with Greece. Prior to the briefing the delegation was escorted on a private tour of the embassy grounds where delegates visited the newly unveiled George Marshall statue, which the AHI provided a small donation to help build, and an extensive picture display in the embassy lobby dedicated to the long history of U.S.-Greek friendship. Completing the tour, the AHI delegation felt humbled to lay a wreath at the monument dedicated to the "Philhellenes" which is adjacent to the Ambassador's residence. The monument is dedicated to those philhellenes who fought in the Greek war of Indepedence.
After the events at the embassy, the Ambassador and Mrs. Burns held a wonderful reception at their residence for the visiting delegation. Over two hundred and fifty of the Athens establishment came and enjoyed the evening with the delegation. In remarks at the reception, Ambassador Burns spoke highly of the AHI, stressing its importance in strengthening U.S.-Greek relations and its successes in "building bridges" between the two long-time allies. He went on to thank Gene Rossides personally for his tireless efforts over the years in helping to preserve and to continue facilitating a strong U.S.-Greece friendship.
In addition, while in Athens Gene Rossides and AHIPAC Chairman Nicholas Chimicles gave well-received remarks at the Panteion Institute of International Relations. The presentations, which were carried by Athens media, focused on the current presidential elections and what they mean for the future of U.S.-Greek relations and also highlighted some of the activities that the AHI is engaged in helping to foster this relationship. After the presentations, the Institute hosted a reception for the delegation.
One of the great highlights of the trip to Athens was the ceremony hosted at City Hall by Athens Mayor Dimitri Avramopoulos. Reciprocating the visit of the mayor to Hellenic House last spring, AHI members met with the Mayor to exchange ideas of mutual interest after which approximately one hundred people attended the ceremony in which Mayor Avramopoulos bestowed on AHI the Medal of the City. AHI founder Gene Rossides accepted the award on behalf of the AHI and all its members.
The two-week AHI inaugural delegation trip concluded on Saturday, December 9, with the delegation returning to the U.S. for a well-earned rest.
Athens Mayor's Honor To AHI Highlights Successful Inaugural Delegation Trip To Greece And Cyprus