Panepirotic Leaders Press US on Albania Treatment of Greeks

The leaders of the Panepirotic Federation of America met on Dec. 2 with top State Department officials responsible for relations with Albania to urge them to press Tirana to improve the treatment of the ethnic Greek minority in the country.

The meeting was prompted by the Senate approval of the new Ambassador to Albania, Donald Lu, who will be moving to Tirana next month to take on his duties as America’s top diplomat in the country.

“For the past 20 years, we have met with almost every new Ambassador assigned to Albania to discuss our concerns about the treatment of the ethnic Greek minority in the country,” said Nicholas Gage, the President of the Federation. “Those discussions helped produce considerable improvements for the minority, but much more needs to be done.”

Gage was accompanied on the visit to the State Department by Menelaos Tzelios, the Vice President of the Federation, and George Nanis, its treasurer.

They met for an hour with Ambassador Lu, a seasoned diplomat who previously served in senior positions in India and Azerbaijan; with Thoma K. Yazdgerdi, the Director of South Central European Affairs, and Benjamin P. Rinaker, the Albanian Desk Officer.

The Federation leaders presented a list of the major problems confronted by minorities in the country and examined ways to address them. They would not provide specific details of the discussions but said that all the recommendations they made are measures that Albanian authorities have promised the European Union for over a decade.

“We hope that with strong American encouragement, they will act on their commitments to the EU to provide full rights to minorities in their country,” Tzelios said.

Nanis said his organization was gratified that the State Department was sending an experienced diplomat with a strong human rights record to Tirana and was hopeful that he will help improve conditions for all minorities in Albania.