On Wednesday the Hellenic American Union in Athens, Greece, hosted a panel discussion on Greece-US relations entitled “Why the Greek American Lobby?” with large in-person attendance and online viewership.
Featured speakers included Endy Zemenides, executive director of the Hellenic American Leadership Council; Dimitris Kairides, professor of international relations at Panteion University and member of parliament for the Northern Sector of Athens; and Leonidas Foivos Koskos, the president of the Board of Directors of the Hellenic American Union. The discussion was moderated by Makis Provatas, a journalist and author.
During his speech, Zemenides spoke about the importance of the Greek-American lobby particularly in relation to Turkish aggression in the Aegean.
“[Turkish President] Erdogan is not irreplaceable,” Zemenides said. “But from the stance of the Turkish opposition on the Aegean and Cyprus, we see that if he loses the elections, things could be even worse.”
Due to its size, Zemenides said, Turkey is difficult to replace with one country. But it could be replaced by the cooperation of multiple nearby countries including Israel, Egypt and Bulgaria, all of which have collaborated with Greece and play an important role in regional geopolitics.
Zemenide said that “the Greek lobby is not us Greek-Americans, but you Greeks.” The Chicago native referred to Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and the various Greek ministers who participated in the Delphi Forum on March 14-15 in Washington DC.
Koskos, president of HAU’s Board of Directors, spoke about the history of Greek diaspora communities. As early as 800 BC and the first migration that turned the Mediterranean Sea into a Greek lake, the Greek diaspora coexisted with many cultural or ethnic groups in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea.
Koskos discussed the Greeks’ thirst for education and knowledge; immense love for freedom; entrepreneurial spirit; democratic organization; and the perception that a citizen’s “self-realization” happens by participating in city affairs.
The HAU president said that diaspora Greeks are “thirsty” to get in touch with their ancestral land and influence Greek affairs but that Greeks do not accept them and do not realize their potential.
Dimitris Kairides, referring to Greece’s relationship with its Diaspora, spoke of “Greek Kotjabasism.”
Kairides said that “the Greek state has demonstrated a ‘Kojabasism’ towards its diaspora,” meaning that Greece boasts of the diaspora’s power and prominent representatives and yet does not wish to engage with them in reality.
“At all levels, the diaspora — beyond the political role it plays abroad — is a wealth,” Kairides said. “We have to see it that way, but we need institutions.”
The Hellenic American Union and the Hellenic American University were founded and operate to enable two-way communication between diaspora Greeks and those living in Greece.
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