NEW YORK – Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, co-Chair of the Congressional Hellenic Caucus, was joined by Greek-American leaders in Manhattan on August 13, calling for the imminent lifting of capital controls in Greece as well as the restrictions to monies sent by Greek-Americans to their families and friends in Greece.
Rep. Maloney, a longstanding philhellene, contended that remittances by Greek-Americans sent to Greece exceed $800 million and not only help the crisis victims there personally, but also enhance liquidity, which is vital to Greece’s economic recovery.
Maloney (D-NY) announced that she and Caucus co-Chair Congressman Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) sent letters to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, as well as other federal officials who oversee banking and finance, impressing upon them the urgency with which they ought to lift the current restrictions.
As The National Herald has been reporting, the community was anguished by restrictions to funds they could send to Greece not only to their relatives who live there year-round, but also to those currently visiting there for the summer.
Maloney and Bilirakis also sent a letter to Elizabeth L. Littlefield, President and CEO of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), a government agency that mobilizes private investment to financially struggling countries throughout the world, calling upon OPIC to lend their support to this cause as well, namely by establishing an office and more of a presence in Greece. Maloney pointed out OPIC’s success in intervening in Portugal, another EU member nation that suffered economic peril.
OPIC’s involvement in Greece, Maloney said, not only would contribute greatly to Greece’s economic stability, but would serve American interests insofar as Greece is a strategic U.S. and NATO ally, and plays a geostrategic role in the Eastern Mediterranean.
The press conference setting, at Park Avenue and 54th Street in Midtown, had particular symbolic significance, as it is across the street from a branch of Atlantic Bank – founded in 1920 as a subsidiary of the National Bank of Greece. Maloney and the other speakers captured the attention of passersby, their words ringing with indignation toward Chancellor Angela Merkel and Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble of Germany, and the notion perpetuated by the German and European media, they said, that Greeks are lazy.
Greek-American entrepreneur and 2013 NYC mayoral candidate John Catsimatidis, who hosts the weekly radio show Cats Roundtable, also expressed his outrage. He said no bank and no government has the right to retain $800 million that Greek-Americans send to their Greek brethren. He called upon the Greek government to sign the agreement with the Troika (which Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras had approved and which, on the morning of August 14 was approved by Parliament), and said “shame on you, Mrs. Merkel, stop making our Greek brothers and sisters suffer.”
Lou Katsos, a member of the Hellenic American Chamber of Commerce’s (HACC) Board of Directors, emphasized that the current sanctions impede Greek productivity, and discussed HACC’s efforts to support businesses in Greece. “They must stop this propaganda,” he said, pointing out that the negative press affects Greeks both in the homeland and abroad. “The Greeks are not lazy; they are hardworking and have pride.”
New York Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas, who represents Astoria, described growing up Greek-American, with parents born in Greece, and how sending money back to needy relatives in the homeland is part of what the American dream is all about.
The money her parents would send to her grandparents in Greece “was a constant source of income for them. Therefore, remittances should reach their intended recipients without hindrance,” she added, and reiterated how such funds enhance Greek liquidity.
John Tsunis, Chairman and CEO of Gold Coast Bank, noted that Greeks love Greece and revealed that he performed the “Dance of Isaiah” (i.e., was married) on the island of Santorini. He added that not only Greek-Americans, but all Americans, should support Greece, as it is an ally of the United States. “By supporting Greece, we protect the interests of America itself.”
Mark Arey, Executive Director of The Hellenic Initiative (THI), spoke of the organization’s support for Greek entrepreneurship and efforts to provide relief.
Tasos Pardalis and Anthony Kammas, who serve on the Hellenic American Leadership Council’s (HALC) Board of Directors, spoke of the initiatives of the Jaharis Family Foundation and Nick Mouyaris to double every dollar donated to help the children of Greece victimized by the crisis. They emphasized that through the website Help Greece Now, they raised $100,000 within 70 hours, which was promptly doubled by the Foundation and Mouyaris, each contributing $50,000.
Banker Kimon Bakos, representing Atlantic Bank President Nancy Papaioannou (who could not attend because she is in Greece), announced that Atlantic Bank will help them any effort and initiative taken to assist the homeland.
Loula Loi Alafoyiannis Founder and President of the Euro-American Women’s Council (EAWC), also expressed her discontent for the perception that Greeks are lazy, a perception that she characterized as false.
Other attendees included Atlantic Bank VP Artie Gyftopoulos, Capital Link President Nicolas Bornozis, and Ionian Management Chairman Spiros Milonas, who congratulated Congresswoman Maloney for the initiative and for her support of Greece.