61st Pan-Macedonian Convention Elects New Board,
Reasserts Position on Name Dispute with FYROM

By Dimitri Soultogiannis
Special to the National Herald

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Pan­Macedonian Association of America's 61st annual convention which was held at the Radisson Hotel in Baltimore, Maryland from June 26 through July 1 concluded with the election of the Association's new board.

Nina Gatzoulis, previously vice president of the organization, was unanimously elected president, while Anthony Papadopoulos was elected vice president. Kostas Hatzistephanides was elected treasurer, and Demetris Tassopoulos was elected assistant treasurer. Theodoros Vasilakis remains the organization's legal advisor, and Maria Hatzinakos will be the organization's new secretary-general. Regional governors were also elected in parts of the country where expatriate Macedonians are most active.

The organization's thematic committees discussed their work, while members of the Supreme Executive Committee, Mrs. Gatzoulis and Past President Panos Spiliakos, talked about referred to what was accomplished in 2006-07.

In his address, Mr. Spiliakos reiterated the organization's objectives and presented in detail the work done during the last year: to unite all Macedonians and all other Hellenes and Phil-Hellenes; to protect the Hellenic origin of the name, history and culture of Macedonia; to counter falsifications and distortions of history; to promote Hellenic history and culture; and to strengthen the educational and cultural ties between the United States and Greece.


(L-R) Panos Spiliakos, past president, Pan-
Macedonian Association of America; Congress-
woman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL); SAE U.S.
Regional-Coordinator and President of HANC
Theodore Spyropoulos; AHI Executive Director
Nick Larigakis; Nina Gatzoulis, newly-elected
president of PMA.
"For us, the world stopped on November 4,2004 (when the Bush Administration announced it was officially recognizing FYROM as the 'Republic of Macedonia'). From then on, we have been working exclusively and hard for our national issue, knowingly neglecting other sectors. Last year was the truthfully the hardest year I had spent as a member of the Pan- Macedonian Association during the last 30 years," said Mr. Spiliakos, who praised his cooperation with Mrs. Gatzoulis and the rest of the board, describing them a "dream team."



During Mr. Spiliakos' term, the organization submitted proposals for the restructuring and reorganization of its youth programs and the consonance of its charter with that of the Pan-Macedonian Association. A report prepared by Mrs. Gatzoulis and her husband Vasilis, which presented to American officials was another important initiative.

"It briefs its readers on the merciless and multidimensional propaganda of Skopje with unquestionably diachronic and expansionist objectives against our Macedonia," Mrs. Gatzoulis pointed out.

That initiative, along with resolutions about Macedonia in various American state legislatures, has been promoted fairly effectively, Mr. Spiliakos said.


In her report, Mrs. Gatzoulis referred specifically to Skopje's propaganda report in the academic, ecclesiastical and political arenas, as well as on the Internet, which was also distributed to various government and diplomatic bodies in Greece. The same report was translated in English, and was distributed to American officials, including United Nations FYROM Mediator Matthew Nimitz.

The unexpected recognition of Skopje as "Republic of Macedonia" by the U.S. Government almost three years ago resulted in the organization's immediate mobilization. Its presidium held meetings with various bodies, such as the Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE) and the Hellenic American National Council, as well as with several Hellenic federations and the Macedonian Associations in Boston and New York on the issue.


Ms. Gatzoulis also briefed the participants of the convention on the global campaign in progress for the collection of signatures which the Hellenic Electronic Center is coordinating.

"In addition to the signatures that continue to be collected, an academic forum has been established, in which approximately 650 Greek academics from all over the world are participating, and whose objective is to increase the awareness of our national issues," she said. "Through this body, a letter was sent to the President of the Hellenic Republic, Karolos Papoulias, which presented our views on our issues. The letter was also distributed to other political bodies."

Mr. Spiliakos rebuffed criticisms of, idleness; defeatism and incompetence launched against the Association after the Bush Administrations decision to recognize FYROM as "Macedonia," saying that the accusations were unjust since expatriate Macedonians had been ringing the alarm bell for decades.

"But no'one was listening. In response to those accusations, two years ago, we made a ten-day visit to Greece; held a series of meetings with government officials; appeared before the Parliamentary Special Standing Committee on Hellenes Abroad; and participated in two densely attended public meetings, one in Athens and the other in Thessaloniki," he said.

HANDS OFF THE AMERICAN FLAG

The Greek Government must finally clearly state its position on the Skopia (Skopje) issue, he added, and not ignore the Association's efforts regarding the name dispute with FYROM. He was also angry about anti-American sentiments in Greece which are becoming more and more rampant in the Hellenic Press.

"Those brainless Greek demonstrators should keep their hands off the American flag," he said. "They should at least realize that each of its stars also represents the Hellenic community of respective American state. When they burn the American flag, they bum a part of our heart."

From now on, Mr. Spiliakos said, Macedonians all over the world should remain united and alert.

"They should promote the transfer, of their Hellenic heritage and language, and do so in cooperation with the Church and all bodies to create programs for the participation of our youth that will facilitate and accelerate this transfer," he said, calling upon the political parties in Greece to withdraw "their colorful cafes from the Diaspora. Abroad we are few, and our Mediterranean temperament does not need any additional reasons for division. All the above moves should begin from the Diaspora, and not from the Hellenic National Center. If we are not willing to support our church, schools and traditions, then we are not worthy of the great blessing that comes from above."

More than 60 representatives of Macedonian Associations from New York, Boston, Washington, Baltimore, Texas, Chicago and Ontario presented their organizations' work and cited the problems they were facing, the most common of which Was lack of new members to infuse the Pan-Macedonian Assocition with new blood. Most spoke highly of Mr. Spiliakos, describing their interaction and cooperation with him over the past year typically as efficient and smooth.



(Posting date 10 July 2007)

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