DELPHI – International conferences are no longer to be found without a substantial security presence and insecurity about the future of the globe, but at the Fourth Delphi Economic Forum serious discussion is blended with fellowship and some of the most breathtaking vistas on Earth.
Participants awoke on the Forum’s second day to a resplendent morning on the slopes of Mt. Parnassus, imposing but polite police everywhere, and much food for thought at the numerous panel discussion and presentations.
One of Friday’s highlights was the Q&A between U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt and Kathimerini correspondent Tom Ellis. Along with panel discussions on the role of the Hellenic Diaspora in building a brighter future for the homeland, Greek-Americans and Greeks enjoyed an informative morning – and making new friends.
The discussion with Pyatt provided a fascinating overview of dramatic recent developments in the Balkans and the Eastern Mediterranean as well as positive developments in the relationship between Greece and the United States.
The Ambassador noted that to understand the geopolitics of those regions one must understand that “geography trumps philosophy” – they are indeed complex and dangerous neighborhoods requiring well-mapped out foreign policy.
Focusing on the state of U.S.-Greece ties, he said the United States and Greece, “probably see closer eye to eye than we do… with almost any other member of NATO partner,” especially “in terms of our shared interest in seeing that Turkey remains anchored in the West, and in working through the difficult issues that both of our governments have – we are in difficult moments still in the U.S.-Turkish relationship.”
There is great respect in Washington, he said, for new Greek Defense Minister Evangelos Apostolakis, and “there is also tremendous appreciation in Washington for the efforts Minister Apostolakis has made to open a clear channel of communication with Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar. At the end of the day, these are two NATO allies, and for the United States a paramount objective is to ensure that Greece and Turkey are NATO allies in fact and are able to behave as such.”
In response to questions about Turkish actions related to Cyprus’ EEZ and on the future course of energy developments in the Eastern Mediterranean, he stressed that “this is an issue that is going to unfold over numbers of years and decades, not weeks.”
He also emphasized that he believes the Prespes Agreement presents more opportunities than problems for Greece.
Pyatt is pleased that the Halki Seminary issue was addressed during Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ recent trip to Turkey, noting, “American policy has been very clear on our support for the Ecumenical Patriarch… the important role that the Church plays as part of the West. Re-opening Halki is part of the strengthening of the Ecumenical Patriarch’s hand in the existential battle that is now underway between the Church of Constantinople and the Moscow Church.”
Later on he said that, “the malign presence” of Russia in Greece and the wider region is something he devotes much time and effort to countering, but the role the United States and Greek-Americans can play in Greece’s economic development is also a priority, accented by his call on Friday for the Greek government to move forward on its own initiatives which will open doors to more foreign direct investment.
Asked about the United States’ efforts to promote investments in Greece, Pyatt emphasized that while there were specific investments he could cite, “I want to emphasize how much the atmosphere has changed,” during his tenure. He noted that when he was first appointed he organized a round table discussion on investing in Greece, invitations to which no companies accepted. Last year’s USA Pavilion at the Thessaloniki International Fair, however, was a resounding success, with numerous American firms eager to participate.
Pyatt emphasized the progress and importance of the Greek start-up and energy sectors, and the deepening and broadening of the tri-partite friendship between Greece, Cyprus, and Israel, about which the presence of “an Israeli cabinet member here last night is an important signifier.”
DIASPORA CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES
The panel titled Mobilizing Diaspora to Promote Homeland was moderated by Washington, DC attorney Emanuel Rouvelas and featured presentations and a Q&A which followed that included Jimmy Athanasatos, Chairman of Envolve Entrepreneurship, Greece, Peter Poulos, Executive Director of The Hellenic Initiative (THI), Mike Manatos, president of the Washington, DC lobbying firm of Manatos & Manatos, Effie Kyrtata, CEO and Co-Founder of Reload Greece, Nicholas Pappas, chairman of the Bank of Sydney and president of THI Australia, and Rhode Island State Senator Leonidas (Lou) Raptakis.
Each panelist provided a brief overview of their organization’s efforts to better link the Hellenic Diaspora and Greece – some, like Manatos, offered their perspective on the challenges and opportunities, concerns and hopes for the Diaspora communities themselves and for their ties to the homeland that were informative for participants from Greece.
Emphasis was placed on what has been and what more can be done to promote investment in Greece – especially in support of young entrepreneurs – and to strengthen ties between Greece and the countries they live in.
Raptakis highlighted recent progress the Greek-American community is making in getting Hellenes elected to public office and the increase that has followed in its impact on non-Greek policymakers regarding Greece, Cyprus, and the Orthodox Church and the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
PM TSIPRAS AND ND PRESIDENT MITSOTAKIS TO ADDRESS FORUM
Participants in the well-thought out and well-run conference – guests were impressed events were starting and ending on time – were looking forward to that afternoon’s presentation by Kyriakos Mitsotakis, leader of the official opposition New Democracy Party. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will also address the Forum Friday evening.
The Delphi Economic Forum, which gathered 500 speakers from 24 countries addressing 95 different thematic subjects, 2,500 participants and more than 150 journalists to its 4th annual conference, is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization working in close cooperation with civil society, public organizations, businesses and individuals. It engages business, political, academic, and other top experts in an effort to address emerging challenges, influence the national and regional agendas and promote sustainable and socially responsible growth policies for Greece, Europe and the wider Eastern Mediterranean region.