ASTORIA – Greek-American Congressman Gus Bilirakis, the U.S. Representative for Florida’s 12th congressional district, voiced his commitment to continue to strongly support Greek national issues during a fundraiser organized by PSEKA (The International Coordinating Committee Justice for Cyprus), at Dionysos Restaurant in Astoria on October 15.
PSEKA President Philip Christopher introduced Rep. Bilirakis praising his work and pointing out that the Greek community should support Greek-American and Philhellene candidates, regardless of their party origin.
“I cannot hear that ‘I do not support him because he is conservative, I do not support the other because he is liberal.’ Our priority must be the Greek national issues. We had in our area, from the Democratic Party, Joe Crowley, who supported Greece. However, he lost the Democratic primary [to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez] essentially Astoria. Hellenism, which he so supported, did not vote for him. This is something that should not happen again,” said Christopher.
Taking the floor, Rep. Bilirakis referred to his efforts over the years during his term for issues such as the Cyprus problem, Macedonia, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Halki Seminary, and Turkish provocations. Indeed, he revealed an incident that had taken place during his brief stay in Turkey on a political trip, where he spoke in a strong tone to the country’s Foreign Minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, in a private conversation.
About U.S. President Donald Trump, he spoke positively, noting that “his government is the first, Republican or Democratic, who listens to us seriously,” adding that he is the only Greek-American candidate for Congress from the Republican Party.
“I have contact with President Donald Trump. You know Mr. Trump’s attitude towards Turkey. His is the first U.S. government, Republican or Democratic, who listens to us. I cannot promise things, but I will continue to fight. If the battle is lost, we will no longer have this opportunity,” Bilirakis said.
Shortly afterwards, speaking to The National Herald, the congressman expressed his concern about the fact that there are fewer Greek candidates running for office, noting that younger Greek-Americans prefer professional careers rather than politics.
“Unfortunately, politics today is not so attractive because it is not as clean as it used to be. Nevertheless, when we win in November, we should try to attract as many Greek-Americans as we can. ”
“The Greek-American Lobby is Not Supported”
On the issue of the need for Greek-Americans in positions of power, PSEKA President, Philip Christopher, condemned the criticism that the Greek-American and Greek-Cypriot lobbies have received for years on its influence on U.S. policy on national issues. While congratulating AHEPA on its activity, Christopher noted that there was no support.
“While Turkey spends $100 million annually on public relations here, Greece and Cyprus together spend less than what we are spending together in this room. There are some who say ‘why don’t you do something.’ The Greek-American lobby is fighting and things would be much worse if it was not in the trenches,” Christopher said, concluding that “the time has come, apart from other things, for the U.S. political leadership to understand that Turkey is an unreliable ally, besides being a fundamentalist Islamic country.”
AHEPA Supreme Vice President Jimmy Kokotas was also present and noted that the younger Greek-Americans should be more politically active.