Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Greek American Community Charges U.S. Congress on Skopjeʼs Name Issue

Posted on Monday, February 11

Washington, D.C. By Apostolos Zoupaniotis

Leaders of major Greek American organizations gathered at an extraordinary meeting on Thursday, in Washington D.C. to coordinate their efforts in mobilizing the Greek American Community, in promoting the Hellenic positions regarding the name dispute with Skopje. The meeting was initiated by Theodoros Spyropoulos, Regional Coordinator of World Council of Hellenes Abroad, USA. President of the Pan-Macedonian Association of USA, Nina Gatzoulis; the President of the Hellenic American National Council, Em. Velivasakis, Executive Director of AHEPA, Bill Mossaidis; Executive Director of the American Hellenic Institute, Nick Laringakis; Coordinated Effort of Hellenes chairman Andy Manatos; the President of the American Hellenic Congress , Dr. D. Pallas; and staffers of the offices of Representatives Zack Space, Carolyn Maloney, Niki Tsongas, and Albio Sires attended the meeting that was described fruitful and positive by all.The leaders of the organization decided unanimously to intensify lobbying efforts in Congress, promoting HR-356 - proposed by Representatives Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) - and the Senate resolution SR-300, proposed by Senato Bob Menendez and supported by Senators Barack Obama and Olympia Snowe.

Furthermore, it was agreed that the Greek positions should be voiced in the American press, through advertisements, editorials and letters.

“We have ahead of us six crucial weeks, until the debate on issue of the NATO enlargement in Bucharest. If as Greek American Community we intensify our efforts and at the same time if Greece takes a decisive position, utilizing the NATO process, we can succeed” Ted Spyropoulos told the Greek News.

“There was always a converging collaborative effort between the Pan-Macedonian Association, the World Council of Hellenes Abroad (USA Region), the American Hellenic National Council, the American Hellenic Institute, and other organizations”, stated Ms. Gatzoulis. “ I am very satisfied however that we were given the opportunity for all Greek-American Associations to convene together and discuss this important issue which is not an issue that only concerns the members of the Pan-Macedonian Association, but one that is important to all Hellenes throughout the world.”

Ambassador of Greece to the United States Alexandros Mallias, briefed the participants on the Greek positions and he assured them of the Greek governmentʼs determination in the negotiations, regarding the naming of the FYROM. A pre-requisite for the integration of FYROM into NATO, is the implementation of the good neighbor policy in the process of defining a mutually accepted solution, emphasized the Greek Ambassador. Greece recognizes and expects the assistance of the Greek American Community to promote and protect the issues of national interest.

Ambassador Mallias also referred to the upcoming visit of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dora Bakoyiannis to the US on the 13th and 14th of February, 2008. Ms. Bakoyiannis will meet with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Deputy Secretary of State John Negreponte. During the meeting she will inform them, amongst other things, Athensʼ position regarding the FYROMʼs integration in NATO. The Greek Foreign Minister will also meet with members of the Congressional Hellenic Caucus.

“It was a productive meeting and a coordinated effort by all present. The goal is that the Greek Americans use their capacity as American citizens to encourage their political representatives to support the two resolutions SR300 and HR 356”, Mr. Spyropoulos emphasized. “More than 100 members of the House of Representatives, as well as Senator and Presidential hopeful, Barack Obama, Senator Olympia Snowe, and Senator Robert Menendez, are already consigners of the respective decrees. As American citizens of Greek descent we possess great strength, and we can request from our political representatives to apply pressure and appropriately intervene regarding FYROM, in order to curb their incompliance and to contribute toward a commonly accepted solution for the naming of their nation, before the upcoming NATO conference in April of 2008”.

“It is very important for the entire Greek-American community to promote the Congressional resolution HR-356, which was proposed by Representatives Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), and the Senate resolution SR-300 which was proposed by Senator Robert Menendez. These resolutions urge the FYROM leadership to bring to an end its pursuits of propaganda against Greece stemming from the governmental domain and the private sector and to focus its initiatives or endeavors in finding a mutually accepted name with Greece, for their country. Furthermore, they urge the FYROM to stop annexing the Greek legacy and history, fanaticizing the youth of their country against Greece”, stressed the Pan-Macedonian President, Ms. Nina Gatzoulis.

The President of the Hellenic American Council Emmanuel Velivasakis also expressed satisfaction, “H.A.N.C. always supports the Pan-Macedonian Association of USA and its positions on the Macedonian issue. It is now time for a coordinated effort by all Greek American organizations. H.A.N.C. will collaborate with AHEPA at the upcoming gathering which will take place some time in March 2008 to inform members of the American government about this issue. This was a very positive meeting, and I am looking forward to the next one,” added Mr. Velivassakis.


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