WASHINGTON (November 17, 2016) -- The American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (Order of AHEPA), the largest and oldest membership-based association for the nation's millions of American citizens of Greek heritage and Philhellenes, issued the following statement on President Barack Obama's visit to Greece, November 15 and 16, 2016:
"AHEPA lauds the visit of President Barack Obama to Greece as it demonstrated a heightened level of commitment the United States has with its alliance with the Hellenic Republic, a longstanding NATO ally and EU nation," Supreme President Andrew C. Zachariades said. "At every opportunity, the president delivered remarks that we found to be strongly supportive of Greece and its people for what they have endured during two unprecedented crises. Also, President Obama's remarks demonstrated the strong ties and shared history between the two nations and a genuine appreciation for Greece's myriad of contributions to Western Civilization, and above all, Democracy.
All throughout his visit, and the series of meetings held with Greek government officials, President Obama struck the proper tone on debt relief and sustainability and economic growth for Greece, on Greece's contributions to our mutual security interests, and the humane way in which Greece has handled the refugee crisis. However, President Obama did not comment publicly on issues confronting Greece's sovereignty in the Aegean Sea and the open questioning of the Treaty of Lausanne, and other neighborly relations, which were raised by President Prokopis Pavlopoulos."
Zachariades added, "In the waning days of the Obama Administration, and in the transition to President-elect Trump's Administration, and going forward, we must ensure the United States' high-level engagement and commitment to Greece remains steadfast and true to resolve the challenges Greece faces."
On the Issues
On security, AHEPA vigorously applauds President Obama's commendation of Greece's commitment to NATO, stating at his joint press conference with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras: "I want to take this opportunity to commend Greece for being one of the five NATO allies that spends 2 percent of GDP of defense -- a goal that we have consistently set, but not everybody has met. Greece has done this even during difficult economic times. If Greece can meet this NATO commitment, all our allies should be able to do so."
AHEPA welcomes the president's message on austerity and debt relief for Greece. At the joint press conference with Prime Minister Tsipras, President Obama said, "At the same time, I've been clear from the beginning of this crisis that in order to make reforms sustainable, the Greek economy needs the space to return to growth and start creating jobs again. We cannot simply look to austerity as a strategy. And it is incredibly important that the Greek people see improvements in their daily lives, so that they can carry with them the hope that their lives will get better.
"And in this context, as Greece continues reform, the IMF has said that debt relief is crucial. I will continue to urge creditors to take the steps needed to put Greece on a path towards a durable economic recovery, because it is in all of our interests that Greece succeeds."
AHEPA also welcomes President Obama acknowledgement of the "extraordinary pain" the people of Greece have felt at the hands of austerity and that the United States intends "to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the Greek people throughout this process" as Greece strives to achieve economic growth. In his speech to the people of Greece at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center, President Obama said, "At the same time, I will continue to urge creditors to take the steps needed to put Greece on a path towards sustained economic rec
overy. As Greece continues to implement reforms, the IMF has said that debt relief will be crucial to get Greece back to growth. They are right. It is important because if reforms here are going to be sustained, people need to see hope, and they need to see progress. And the young people who are in attendance here today and all across the country need to know there is a future -- there is an education and jobs that are worthy of your incredible potential. You don't have to travel overseas, you can put roots right here in your home, in Greece, and succeed."
Finally, in the same speech, President Obama commended Greek Americans who have "worn the uniform to keep our country free," who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and in an example of the shared spirt of resilience, cited how Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, once in ruins, is rising again."
WATCH: Video of President Obama's speech to the people of Greece
Supreme President Attended Events in Athens, Headed to Brussels Supreme President Andrew C. Zachariades attended events surrounding the visit of President Barack Obama to Athens, Greece, to meet with Greece's leaders. Notably, he represented AHEPA at the State Dinner hosted for President Obama by President of Greece Prokopis Pavlopoulos, Nov. 15. "It was truly an honor for AHEPA to be represented at such a historical event," he said. "On behalf of our international membership, I was grateful for the opportunity to attend." Supreme President Zachariades, who is the CFO for FBE Limited LLC, also attended a business-oriented event with the goal of introducing young Greek entrepreneurs to members of the broader business community - including members of the diaspora business community. The U.S. Embassy organized the event, which was held Nov. 14. U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt attended. "It is critical for the diaspora, and organizations such as AHEPA, to be a resource for Greek entrepreneurs who are aiming to revitalize Greece and its economy following a crippling economic crisis," Zachariades said. Zachariades left Athens for Brussels for a series of meetings with European Union officials and members of AHEPA's European chapters.