ATHENS – After attending Pope Francis’ official visit with Patriarch Bartholomew in Constantinople, members of an AHEPA delegation traveled to Athens, where they met not only with members of the Greek government, but also with the leader of the opposition party.
Headed by AHEPA’s Supreme President Philip Frangos, the visit included a meeting with Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, as well as SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras. Accompanying Frangos were former Supreme President and Chairman of the Board Nicholas Karakostas, AHEPA Greece Supreme Commander Nicholas Papadopoulos, and AHEPA Piraeus President Pantelis Maravelias.
It was the first time, SYRIZA officials told TNH, in at least two years that AHEPA has met with the opposition party leader. Jokingly, in reference to what has been written about him the international media, Tsipras said: “you would think I have a diabolical plan” in store.
Growing more serious, Tsipras acknowledged the importance of AHEPA and the U.S. Diaspora in general, noting they are close to the decisionmakers. As for the Greek crisis, Tsipras attributes it 50-50, to Greece and to Europe, and points out the flaws in Germany’s “punitive” policies toward Greece.
“You can help change the picture,” Tsipras said to the delegation, with regards to the approach taken by the Federal Reserve to remedy an ailing economy, as opposed to the steps taken by the European Central Bank.
Tsipras described the Diaspora Greeks as the “best ambassadors of Greece,” and made special reference to the loss of Theodore Spyropoulos.
Regarding SYRIZA’s plans for governing, Tsipras emphasized fiscal balance, and declared that he does not plan to return Greece to a condition of more deficits and debt. The current problem, he said, is European-wide and should be treated as such, just as debt reduction opportunities afforded to Germany at the end of World War II.
“We have made these points known,” Frangos said, noting Paul Krugman’s recent New York Times piece criticizing Germany, and other articles in the American media calling for an easing of the austerity.
Frangos emphasized the importance of regular visits by AHEPA to Greece, to exchange views and offer proposals about the problems that exist.
Greece’s Minister of Public Order, Vassilis Kikilias, declared his personal commitment to making himself available in furtherance of those efforts. Deputy Defense Minister Fofi Genimmata echoed Tsipras’ statements about the Diaspora being the best ambassadors to Greece, as did MP Kyriakos Gerontopoulos, who described them as the “good face” of Greece. MP Christos Markogiannakis spoke about the need for Greeks within Greece to by united, nationally, particularly as they do not have strong allies immediately adjacent to their borders.