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AHI Executive Director Completes Annual Trip to Greece
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: GEORGIA ECONOMOU
December 22, 2005—No. 105 (202) 785-8430

AHI Executive Director Completes Annual Trip to Greece

Also Attends Enthronement of Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem

WASHINGTON, DC—On November 22, 2005, American Hellenic Institute (AHI) Executive Director Nick Larigakis, began his annual trip to Athens by first visiting Jerusalem at the invitation of His Beatitude Theophilos III on the occasion of his enthronement as Patriarch of Jerusalem. The ceremony took place on November 22, 2005 at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

Mr. Larigakis joined AHI member Ambassador Patrick Theros and Mrs. Theros on this trip to Jerusalem. Ambassador Theros is the Representative of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem in Washington, DC. Prior to the enthronement, the three were invited to the special receiving chamber at the Patriarchate where they had an opportunity to meet with the Patriarch and other invited dignitaries prior to the enthronement. From there, the three joined the procession from the Patriarchate to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

The day began early and ended late. Following the ceremony an event was hosted at the Patriarchate followed by a reception at the Notre Dame Hotel. Later that evening the Patriarch invited Ambassador and Mrs. Theros and Mr. Larigakis to a private dinner attended by only nine persons. During the dinner, Mr. Larigakis had the opportunity to discuss with the Patriarch the plight that he currently faces with the Israeli government, which refuses to recognize the Patriarch. Mr. Larigakis promised that the American Hellenic Institute would explore ways to raise the level of awareness and seek out ways that could benefit the Patriarch in his quest to resolve this issue.

Mr. Larigakis then traveled to Athens to begin his week of meetings. In Athens he was accompanied by AHI Advisory Board member and legal counsel,  While in Athens, the two met with Greek government officials and business leaders and discussed the organization's goals and objectives and focused on engendering new areas of mutual cooperation and development between leaders in Greece and the Greek American community.

On November 29, 2005 the AHI Athens Chapter hosted a reception at the NJV Athens Plaza Hotel, where the special guest speaker was Dr. Plutarchos Sakellaris, Chairman, Council of Economic Advisers, Greek Ministry of Economy and Finance and Professor in the Department of Economics, Athens University of Economics and Business. His presentation was on “The Greek Economy: Looking Ahead.”

The event started with a welcome address by Mr. Ilias Malevitis, President of AHI Athens Chapter and concluded with Nick Larigakis providing an overview of AHI’s activities during 2005 to the estimated 120 people who attended the event from the government, political, business and media sectors.

The reception benefactor was Mr. Athanasios Sipsas. Others who helped sponsor the event were G.C. Economou & Associates and Ted G. Spyropoulos.

To start the trip in Athens, Mr. Larigakis was invited by Theodossis Georgiou, the President of the Greek Association for Atlantic and European Cooperation to attend a dinner and conference the next day sponsored by his organization. During the dinner, Mr. Larigakis had the opportunity to have a side discussion with Defense Minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos who was the Keynote Speaker at the dinner.

During the first panel of the conference, Mr. Larigakis asked an open question to Jean Fournet, Alternate Secretary General of NATO for Public Diplomacy, regarding how NATO deals with the routine violations of Greek airspace by Turkey and what borders does NATO recognize in the Aegean? “Mr. Fournet did not fully answer the question, although he did acknowledge the importance of the question. He said that NATO does not get involved in the bilateral issues of member states and that this issue has never been on NATO’s agenda.” said Larigakis. At the conclusion of the panel, Mr. Larigakis followed-up his question with Mr. Fournet by saying, “I would think that when we are discussing ‘Stability & Cooperation in the Euro Atlantic Region-Greece in the New Era’ as is the theme of this conference, paramount to that stability is having all the NATO members respect each other’s boundaries. If not, the very essence of NATO stability is compromised.”

At the beginning of the full week in Athens, Karambelas and Larigakis, met with U.S. Ambassador to Greece Charles Ries at the U.S. Embassy where the discussion was open regarding a number of issues dealing with U.S. relations with Greece. Following the visit with Ambassador Ries, President John Bailey of the American College of Greece hosted a luncheon for Karambelas and Larigakis at his private residence at the College. “President Bailey has been a long-time supporter of our efforts and it was most gracious of him to host this luncheon,” said Larigakis.

From the Hellenic Ministry of Foreign Affairs Messrs. Karambelas and Larigakis held a meeting with Deputy Foreign Minister Takis Skandalakis to discuss issues regarding current trends in U.S.-Greece relations and also the Greek American community.

Meetings in the Foreign Ministry were with Ambassador Diana Zogarianou-Prifti, the Director of the Foreign Ministry's division on Greek American Relations, Ambassador George Poukamissas, Director of the A4 Department for Turkish Affairs, Ambassador Michael Christides,Director of the A3 Division, Southeastern Europe, and Mr. Andreas Papadakis, Counsellor of the A2 Division on Cyprus.

In other meetings, the two AHI representatives met with Ismini Kriari-Catranis, who is responsible for Intercultural Education & Greek Studies Abroad at the Ministry of Education. The meeting was beneficial to understanding programs that are available through this ministry for advancing Greek education abroad.

Meetings were also held with Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyianni and Pasok Member of Parliament, Grigoris Niotis.

As a follow-up to a September visit to AHI by Minister of National Economy, George Alogoskoufis, Karambelas and Larigakis met with Mr. Plutarchos Sakellaris to discuss specific items for possible cooperation. This, was followed-up with a meeting later in the week with John Anastosopoulos, Chairman of the Board of ELKE (Hellenic Center for Investment).

Mr. Larigakis, in a separate meeting, paid a visit to Agis Leopoulos, General Manager for International Activities at the National Bank of Greece.

The concluding meeting was an unexpected get together with former U.S. Ambassador to Greece, Thomas Miller, whom Karambelas and Larigakis ran into at the lobby of the Grand Bretagne Hotel.

After the completion of his trip, Mr. Larigakis stated: “Mr. Karambelas and I had a very busy and tiring week in Athens, but we feel that our meetings were very positive and productive. We are also very optimistic about the possibility regarding a number of specific projects that we had the opportunity to discuss during this trip that we feel would be of mutual interest between AHI and certain entities in Greece.”

Digital photographs from AHI Executive Director Nick Larigakis’ trip to Jerusalem are available at http://ahiworld.org/photos/jerusalem_trip/and the photographs from his trip to Athens are available at http://ahiworld.org/photos/athens_reception/

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For additional information, please contact Georgia Economou at (202) 785-8430 or georgia@ahiworld.org. For general information regarding the activities of AHI, please view our Web site at http://www.ahiworld.org.