AHI’s Annual Trip to Greece, Cyprus Proves Fruitful
Substantive Talks Held with High-Ranking Government Officials on Foreign Policy, Tourism, Investment in Region
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 two-week overseas trip aimed to strengthen relations with both countries, and to work on issues of mutual concern, occurred May 22 to June 2, 2011.
We had a very productive series of high-visibility meetings in Greece and Cyprus," said President Nick Larigakis. "We accomplished the objectives we set out to achieve, and we received insightful briefings on issues of importance to the Greek American community."
Cyprus: Delegation Briefed on Negotiations Status; U.S. Investment in Cyprus Strengthens
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 past advocacy and current steadfast 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 26, 2011, the delegation met with: American Ambassador to Cyprus Frank Urbancic, Minister of Foreign Affairs Markos Kyprianou, Minister of Defense Costas Papacostas, Minister of Commerce, Industry and Tourism Antonis Paschalides, Presidential Commissioner George Iacovou, Director of the Presidential Diplomatic Office Ambassador Leonidas Pantelidis, Chief of the National Guard Lt. Gen. Petros Tsalikidis, and Advisor to the Mayor of Nicosia Katia Apegitou. In addition, the delegation met with His Beatitude Archbishop Chrysostomos II and Governor of the Central Bank Athanasios Orphanides.
Defense Minister Papacostas commended AHI for its work to enact the embargo on Turkey by stating, "AHI was the first gift we got from the Greek community abroad."
"Our meetings provided us with a very candid assessment of the current status of negotiations for a Cyprus solution," said Larigakis. "It is clearly evident that negotiations since Mr. Eroglu assumed his position a little more than a year ago have arguably regressed."
He added, "AHI continues to call for the United States to play a constructive role in this process as a member of the UN Security Council and to exercise its influence on Turkey to advance positions that support the rule of law and international law."
In contrast, Larigakis said that there were positive discussions about United States investment in Cyprus, which is the largest of any foreign country, due in large part to gas exploration and these economic ties between the U.S. and Cyprus are expected to strengthen. Similarly, Israeli-Cypriot economic ties remain strong. There is also significant investment taking place to upgrade Cyprus’s infrastructure by Cypriots.
"Businesses are beginning to realize that Cyprus is a hub that can lead to expansion into regional emerging markets," said Larigakis. "In addition, Cyprus remains a popular tourist destination, and we welcome news that the country is fully booked for the summer. We also encourage efforts to attract more American tourists through travel packages that include Israel and possibly Greece."
Also in Cyprus, the AHI delegation was hosted to a luncheon by Miltos Miltiadou, senior press and information officer, Press and Information Office of the Republic of Cyprus, on May 23; and hosted to a dinner by Ambassador Andreas Kakouris, director, Office of the Foreign Minister, and Mrs. Androula Lanitis, director of the press and information division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on May 25.
Athens: AHI President Honored with the Medal of Hellenic Parliament
Extensive meetings with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Defense, and a presentation to AHI President Nick Larigakis of the Medal of Hellenic Parliament by the President of the Hellenic Parliament Phillipos Petsalnikos, were highlights of the delegation’s busy itinerary in Greece from May 27 to June 3, 2011. The itinerary also included an event hosted at the Institute of International Relations of Panteion University to screen the documentary "Cyprus Still Divided: A U.S. Foreign Policy Failure" on May 30 and the 7th Annual AHI Athens Dinner at the Grand Bretagne Hotel on June 1
"Our meetings covered a broad range of issue topics, including Greece’s economic crisis, the Cyprus issue, and Greece’s relations in the Balkans and with Turkey," said Larigakis. "We also explored ways in which the Greek American community can strengthen cooperation and enhance relations between Greece and the United States."
He added, "I was deeply touched and honored to receive the Medal of Hellenic Parliament from its president, Mr. Petsalnikos. I pledge to continue to work ceaselessly on behalf of the American Hellenic Institute to strengthen the partnership between the United States and Greece."
In Athens, AHI met with: American Ambassador to Greece Daniel B. Smith, President of the Hellenic Parliament Phillipos Petsalnikos, Deputy Ministers of Foreign Affairs Spyros Kouvelis and Dimitris Dollis, Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on National Defense, Foreign Affairs, and Greeks Abroad Konstantinos Vrettos, and Director General of the General Secretariat for Greeks Abroad Petros Panagiotopoulos. Moreover, the delegation met with several directorates of the ministry of Foreign Affairs who are responsible for Cyprus, Turkey, FYROM, and North America; and several directorates at the Ministry of Defense, including Major General Christos Vaitsis, director, Strategy and Policy Division, Hellenic National Defense General Staff.
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.
Larigakis commended Greece’s government officials for maintaining a positive outlook with regard to Greece’s economic crisis and amid other challenges, such as illegal immigration.
"The Greek government is studying ways to encourage an increase of investment opportunities in Greece and attract investors in addition to working diligently to promote Greece as an all-year-round tourist destination," said Larigakis. "The Greek American community certainly has a role here and can help in this regard."
He added, "The Greek government has also cut defense spending at a time when Turkey remains assertive on the Aegean."
Amid economic restructuring due to the crisis, Greece spends 2.22% of its GDP on defense, which is a decrease of .06% from the previous year. However, Larigakis added Greece ranks third in this expenditure among NATO countries in this area largely due to its need to safeguard against Turkish violations of Greek airspace and sovereignty.
Larigakis also commended the work of American Ambassador Smith and welcomed the ambassador’s perspective on issues of importance in the region to the Greek American community.
Panteion University Hosts Screening of Cyprus Documentary
During the Athens visit, the AHI documentary "Cyprus Still Divided: A U.S. Foreign Policy Failure" was screened before an audience of members of Parliament, academics, and students at the Institute of International Relations of Panteion University, on May 30. The screening was followed by a forum titled "AHI and the Lobbying Efforts of Greek Americans" where the work of AHI was highlighted as "the most important organization of Greek presence in the United States," especially on matters of foreign policy, by Dr. Dimitris Keridis, associate professor of International Relations, Department of Balkan, Slavic and Oriental Studies, University of Macedonia.; The event was organized with the help of Athanasios Grammenos, a Ph.D. candidate at Panteion University.
AHI Hosts Gala Affair in Athens, Honors UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador
The Seventh Annual AHI-Athens Hellenic Heritage Achievement and Public Service Awards Dinner was held on June 1. More than 220 AHI friends and supporters attended the dinner at The Grande Bretagne despite the civil unrest that occurred that evening in Syntagma Square.
"We are pleased that this special event, now in its seventh year, continues to grow," said Larigakis. "We would like to thank AHI-Greece President Ilias Malevitis and the AHI-Athens Chapter, and its president, George Economou, for their hard work."
Unfortunately, the civil unrest in the square prevented the evening’s honoree, Marianna V. Vardinoyannis, who is a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador and president of the Marianna V. Vardinoyannis-ELPIDA Hospital, from attending.
However, an opportunity to present Mrs. Vardinoyannis with the AHI Hellenic Heritage Public Service Award availed itself at a scheduled meeting at the Vardioyannis-ELPIDA Hospital with her and hospital officials on June 2.
"We were proud to honor Mrs. Vardinoyannis for her outstanding work to the community in which she serves," said Larigakis. "We truly admire her ambitious work with the hospital and her contributions to society."
Mrs. Vardinoyannis has spent more than 20 years dedicated to helping children with cancer. The hospital which bears her name is a complex of five buildings that serve as clinics to treat various forms of cancer.
Mrs. Vardinoyannis congratulated AHI for its longstanding mission and work in promoting U.S relations with Greece and Cyprus. Furthermore, she stressed the importance of supporting the mission of AHI among the Diaspora.
The delegation also received a tour of the Pediatric Oncology Unit of the hospital from Mrs. Vardinoyannis and Mr. Emmanouil Papasavvas, who is the director of the hospital. Hospital officials honored AHI’s collaboration when they inducted the organization into the hospital’s "Heaven of Children" program. President Larigakis pledged to assist the hospital and its mission.
AHI Delegation Participants
In Greece, AHI President Nick Larigakis was accompanied by: Kostas Alexakis, member, AHI Board of Directors; Costas G. Alexandrides, professor emeritus, Georgia State University; Demetra Atsaloglou, AHI director of media relations and research analyst; Theodore G. Spyropoulos, World Council of Hellenes (SAE-USA) president, and his wife, Mrs. Erika Wilhelmine Knickmann Spyropoulos; and Stavros K. Veletsis, AHI member. In Cyprus, AHI Member Leon Andris joined Larigakis, Alexakis, Atsaloglou, and Veletsis, to comprise the delegation.
The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) is a non-profit Greek American think-tank and public policy center that works to strengthen relations between the United States and Greece and Cyprus, and within the Greek American community.
For additional information, please contact Demetra Atsaloglou at (202) 785-8430 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. For general information about the activities of AHI, please see our website at http://www.ahiworld.org.
AHI’s Annual Trip to Greece, Cyprus Proves Fruitful