Many of Washington’s Balkans policymakers, over 65 in number, gathered in the U.S. Capitol building on January 25 to learn about Greece’s leadership in that area from the Ambassador of Greece to the United States, Alexandros Mallias. “This unusually high number of opinion leaders will significantly improve the understanding of the importance of Greece to the region and to the United States,” said Andy Manatos, President of the National Coordinated Effort of Hellenes (CEH), which hosted the event.
“This presentation by Ambassador Mallias, the third in a series of such briefings, was attended by Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s European Affairs Subcommittee, who welcomed the Ambassador and the participants to the U.S. Senate, Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), a subcommittee Chairman and member of the Senate Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee, and Congressman John Sarbanes (D-MD). White House official and National Security Council Director for Europe, Matt Palmer, and U.S. State Department Director for South Central European Affairs, Christopher Hoh, also participated in the discussion following the Ambassador’s remarks, that involved a videotape presentation.”
Also attending the briefing were individuals who handle foreign policy for numerous U.S. Senators and Members of Congress who hold key positions on Capitol Hill, including: the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Presidential candidate, Senator Joe Biden (D-DE); the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s European Affairs Subcommittee and Presidential candidate, Senator Barack Obama (D-IL); Senate Foreign Relations Committee member and Presidential candidate, Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT); Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV); Senate Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee Members Arlen Specter (R-PA) and Tim Johnson (D-SD), as well as Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME).
Key Members of Congress represented included: Congressman Robert Wexler (D-FL), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Europe Subcommittee; Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), the Ranking Member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee; several members of the leadership of the House of Representatives including, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), House Majority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen (D-MD); leaders for Hellenic issues on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Congressmen Eliot Engel (D-NY) and Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI); as well as Greek-Americans Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) and Zack Space (D-OH) and Hellenic Caucus Co-Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-NY).
Others attending included top Balkan experts from several of Washington’s prominent think tanks and other institutions such as: the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the International Strategic Studies Association, the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the Congressional Research Service, the Delegation of the European Commission to the U.S. and the World Bank. As well, Washington media that cover southeastern Europe attended.
Ambassador Mallias highlighted Greece’s consistent support of the European aspirations of Balkan countries, including Bulgarian and Romanian accession to the European Union. He stated that EU–US strategic cooperation in the region is of fundamental importance for achieving peace, stability, and prosperity. He also highlighted Greece’s leading role in the Balkans specifically in the energy field and more generally with regional economic and political integration.
The Ambassador stressed that there should be no humiliation or triumph in connection with Kosovo’s final status. Neither annexation nor partition is conceivable, the Greek ambassador stated. Present solutions must not leave the problem unresolved for future generations, he said.
His remarks focused extensively on the provocative and hostile propaganda of the Government of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). This included a power point presentation showing expansionist maps used in FYROM schools and by FYROM’s military academy, as well as television interviews which showed the use of the name of Alexander the Great for Skopje’s airport As part of irredentist and political propaganda.