CLEARWATER, FL – The Panepirotic Federation of America held its 40th biennial convention in Clearwater, FL from February 21-24 and re-elected renowned author Nicholas Gage and a board of veterans and newcomers to lead the organization for the next three years.
“Our fortieth convention was one of the most successful in our 77-year history with delegates from all over the country and some 480 guests attending our gala dinner,” Mr. Gage said. “We elected a board of both veterans who were born in Epiros and younger members born in America, but with strong feelings for the homeland and traditions of their parents.”
“Such strength will help us support both ethnic Greeks living in Northern Epiros under pressure from Albanian authorities and our compatriots in Greece living under the severe economic restraints the country has been experiencing in recent years,” Gage said.
Special guests of honor at the convention were Pyrros Dimas, the Northern Epirote who won three Olympic gold medals and one bronze in weightlifting for Greece in Olympic Games; Rep. Gus Bilirakis, head of the Hellenic Caucus in the U. S. Congress; Konstantina Beziani, the head of Albania’s State Committee for Minorities, and two mayors from Northern Epiros, Achileas Desikas and Leonidas Christou.
Gage, who was elected by acclamation to serve another term as president, will be supported by John Katsimbadis, a business executive from Detroit, as vice president; Aleka Kaloudelis, president of the Washington chapter, as general secretary; Olga Fotos of Worcester as treasurer, and Niki Pallas of Phoenix as recording secretary.
Six board members and three alternates were also elected. The board members include Eva Kantlis, Kostas Tsiouris, Charalambos Melos, and Anna Notis, all of New York; George Nanis of Worcester and Stacy Koumbis of Chicago. Two alternates, Chrysoula Zikopoulos of New York and Menelaos Sotiris of Boston, were also elected.
The highlight of the convention was a gala dinner dance held in the community hall of Holy Trinity Church in Clearwater where Gage, Dimas, Rep. Bilirakis, and Beziani all spoke of the need to enhance the basic rights of ethnic Greeks in Albania. That can only be accomplished, they agreed, if the U. S. government, the Greek government, and the European Union bring effective pressure to bear on Tirana, and the Federation will do everything in its power to see that it happens, Gage emphasized.
The convention adopted a resolution unanimously that called on the Albanian government to provide ethnic Greeks in the country all educational, religious, political, linguistic, and cultural rights due them under international agreements and urged the European Union to freeze negotiations for admission of Albania until its parliament adopts all EU principles on minority rights. It also called on the United States, the European Union, the United Nations, and the Greek government to press Albania to fulfill all of its international obligations to ethnic Greeks in Northern Epiros and throughout Albania.
Beyond Albania, the resolution called on the United States to do everything in its power to end the occupation of Northern Cyprus by Turkish troops; to urge the Turkish government to end their harassment of the Patriarchate and to re-open the Halki Seminary, and to press FYROM to stop expropriating the name Macedonia, which has been identified with Greece throughout its history.