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AHI Hosts Congressional Salute to Greek Independence Day
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: CHRYSOULA ECONOMOPOULOS
April 7, 2003 No. 18 (202) 785-8430

AHI Hosts Congressional Salute to Greek Independence Day

WASHINGTON, DC—On March 26, 2003, the American Hellenic Institute hosted "A Congressional Salute to Greek Independence Day" at the Rayburn Building on Capitol Hill to celebrate the 182nd Anniversary of Greek Independence and the common democratic ideals held by Greece and the United States. The event was held in cooperation with the Congressional Hellenic Caucus's co-sponsors, Representative Michael Bilirakis (R-FL) and Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY).

AHI Executive Director Nick Larigakis welcomed the guests and thanked Rep. Bilirakis and Rep. Maloney for their support in organizing the reception, and for their ongoing efforts in promoting Hellenic American issues in the U.S. Congress.

AHI's Chairman James Marketos conveyed his greetings and stressed the symbolic importance of Greek Independence Day. He stated, "Each year, we commemorate Greece's 19th century struggle for independence by sponsoring this Congressional Salute on Capitol Hill. We do this to remind ourselves of the important values that our two nations share, the mutual friendship that has existed between us for so many years, and the joint responsibility we have to stand as beacons of liberty and democracy in a world where these values are not universally accepted."

Greek Ambassador George Savvaides and Cypriot Ambassador Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis offered their remarks regarding the impact of the Greece's struggle for independence. According to Ambassador Kozakou-Marcoullis, "The Greek Revolution was an inspiration for many peoples around the world that wanted to free themselves from the bonds of slavery. But it is also a reminder that there are peoples, that there are countries that still remain under occupation….[Cyprus has] been partly under occupation since 1974, and unfortunately…these recent efforts [at reunification] have not succeeded despite the fact that not only the United Nations, but the international community and in particular [U.S. Special Coordinator for Cyprus] Ambassador Tom Weston" worked tirelessly to resolve the issue.

Echoing Ambassador Kozakou-Marcoullis' words, Ambassador Savvaides added that, "I wish to express our deepest gratitude and appreciation to all members of Congress and friends in Congress for what they are doing for years now for issues that are of utmost importance to Greece and to Cyprus and also to ask them…to continue their very active interest in these matters."

Members of Congress attending the reception and addressing the audience included (in order of appearance): Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Rep. Charles Norwood (R-GA), Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ), Senator Paul Sarbanes (D-MD), Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Rep. Donald Payne (D-NJ), Rep. James Langevin (D-RI), and Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY). Also attending the reception was U.S. Special Coordinator for Cyprus Ambassador Thomas G. Weston.

Each of the speakers emphasized their admiration for the Hellenic culture and for the valiant and inspiring struggle for Greek independence, achieved nearly 200 years ago. They also expressed disappointment in the failure of U.N.-sponsored reunification talks, but reaffirmed their commitment to finding a just and permanent solution to the Cyprus problem based on UN resolutions and democratic principles.

Below are excerpted remarks from several of the Representatives:

Rep. Ros-Lehtinen: "Some 2,500 years ago, ancient Greek city states helped to plant the seeds of democracy and democratic thought among mankind. The admiration that our Founding Fathers had for those very ideals are evident in our own Constitution….Our nation has also greatly benefited from the contributions of Greek immigrants…who have significantly contributed to our culture, our prosperity, and our security."

Rep. Maloney: "We are also very thoughtful about the peace negotiations that have been taking place between Cyprus and Turkey, and very distressed, really, that Mr. Denktash did not cooperate and basically walked away from an opportunity to bring peace and justice in this important region. Along with Mr. Bilirakis, we've been working with Chairman Bereuter and others on a resolution to put before Congress urging the Turkish government to really cooperate in the peace negotiations."

Rep. Holt: " It's hard not to think on long time scales when you think about Greece. And I know in Cyprus, it's been a long time coming. I know the fight against terrorists has been a long time coming. But Greece has this tradition of sticking with it….It is a standard that we can all look to. A standard of how, over the long-term, you can achieve real democracy, real independence and real benefits for all people. And that's why we celebrate this time of year."

Rep. Pallone: "I think the most important thing we can do is make sure this administration and any administration, but particularly right now, that we send the message to President Bush that he has to do more to try to see if we can still put some pressure on the Turkish government to come to a settlement, a fair settlement in Cyprus."

Rep. Van Hollen: "Greece has grown tremendously in its stature within the European community. It's leadership [of the EU presidency is now in its] fourth time, as [Ambassador Savvaides] mentioned. I think we've made great strides in many things. Greece has become a major player in the Balkans in trying to bring peace to that area. But one thing that has not changed, obviously, is the situation on Cyprus. Try as we might, and despite Ambassador Weston's efforts, and others efforts, we have not seen a resolution to the problem. I do think we all believe that Cyprus' admission to the European Union will be a catalyst for bringing about changes."

Rep. Payne: "It's good to be American, but it's also good to be Greek American so that your culture, which is so rich in the world, can continue to be manifested….I think it's great that the Olympics are going back to Greece….I do believe we need to keep the pressure on Turkey as it relates to Cyprus….Finally, I still will be pushing for the return of the Parthenon Marbles. Everyone believes that they should be returned to Greece, they should be returned to the Acropolis."

Rep. Langevin: "I'm just so proud to join you in recognition of the 182nd anniversary of Greek Independence since this special day for Greece commemorates a return to its democratic roots. The political philosophies of both the United States and Greece have faced many challenges over the years, but both nations are proudly defending their right to self-government. I hope these same principles will help unite Cyprus."

Rep. Lowey: "I just want to assure you that you do have many friends in this Congress, and the [Hellenic] Caucus has been very active and many of us are strong supporters of the Greek-United States relationship. I have a pretty sizeable Greek community in my district and I look forward to working with you….So thank you for coming here. We'll continue to fight the battles together."

Downloadable photographs from AHI's "Congressional Salute to Greek Independence Day" are available on AHI's Web site at http://www.ahiworld.org/photos/html/index.html or by contacting Chrysoula Economopoulos at (202) 785-8430 or [email protected]. For general information on AHI, please visit our Web site at http://www.ahiworld.org.

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The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) and its affiliate organizations, the American Hellenic Institute Public Affairs Committee (AHIPAC), the American Hellenic Institute Foundation (AHIF), and the AHI Business Network, a division of the AHI, are working together under one roof, to provide a joint program for strengthening United States relations with Greece and Cyprus and within the American Hellenic community.