Greeks of the World Unite

Foreign politicians of Greek descent gather in Athens to rally their governments for the return of the Parthenon Marbles and a solution to the Fyrom dispute

By Kathy Tzilivakis

EVEN THOUGH parliament is closed for the summer recess, its ordinarily quiet corridors were filled this week with the multicultural sights and sounds of some of the world's leading lawmakers - all the sons, daughters and grandchildren of Greek immigrants.

More than 100 foreign parliamentarians and ministers of Greek origin attended the high-profile general assembly of the World Hellenic Inter-Parliamentary Association, held between July 29 and August 2.

Coming from as far away as North America, Australia and Zimbabwe, members of this association, established in 1996, were welcomed by Greek parliamentarians, including Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, Culture Minister Antonis Samaras and main opposition Pasok MP Grigoris Niotis, a former deputy foreign minister responsible for issues concerning Greeks abroad.

Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis addresses
the opening session of
the World Hellenic
Inter-Parlimentary Association's general assembly

During the general assembly's opening session on July 30, parliament became a virtual turnstile of Greek politicians paying tribute to the accomplishments of Greeks abroad and the diaspora's role in bolstering Greece's image on the world stage.

"It is with great emotion and high expectations that we receive the worthy members of the Greek community from abroad who have been elected in the parliaments of their countries," Bakoyannis said. "There is no doubt that the Greek community abroad has a major multiplier effect for Greece. There is no doubt that you have been building strong bridges of friendship and cooperation between our country and other states."

Parliamentary Speaker Dimitris Sioufas stressed the importance of fostering closer cooperation between Greece and its diaspora.

"Wherever you are, you are one of us," Sioufas said.

On behalf of the Greek government, Sioufas honoured Demetrios Giannaros, US state representative in Connecticut, for his eight years at the helm of the association.

Sioufas also congratulaed the newly elected president, John Pandazopoulos, an Australian parliamentarian, and personally pledged to mobilise more foreign politicians of Greek descent.

The next general assembly will be held in 201l.


The general assembly adopted a number of resolutions. According to Pandazopoulos, the most important concerns the return of the Parthenon Marbles.

"We decided to pursue all means to activate the governments where we live in the form of resolutions to our parliaments, letters to the British parliament and ambassadors, and to mobilise colleagues of non-Greek backgrounds who are sympathetic to the cause," Pandazopoulos told the Athens News. "My job is to make sure that we are more active on issues and result-driven..."

Other resolutions focused helping the Greek minority in Albania gain the "appropriate" recognition from the Albanian government, while another resolution focused on efforts to solve the Fyrom name issue with the help of the United Nations.

'The general assembly also called on Greece's neighbour Turkey to admit to the Pontian genocide during Ottoman rule.

"These are some of the core resolutions," Pandazopoulos said. "This is what we will be working on during the next two years."

But Pandazopoulos also hopes to bolster cooperation between his members and lawmakers in Greece.

"Our members see that discourse and discussion [with the Greek and Cypriot governments] is very important," he said. "It is very important that we have discourse and discussion Greek and Cypriot politicians. What we would also like to see is more exploratory sessions with

questions and answers rather than just hearing a speech. It's important to get our members to engage in the issues by allowing them to ask questions."

This matter was also raised by many general assembly members, including Jim Karygiannis (Canada) and Tom Katsiantonis (Australia). Karygiannis, who has attended every general assembly since the World Hellenic Inter- Parliamentary Association was founded, said there was no interaction.

(Posting Date 16 October 2009)

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