ATHENS – Leonidas Raptakis, President and Rhode Island State Senator, United States of America, Effie Triantafilopoulos, 1st Vice President and MPP, Ontario, Canada, and Steve Georganas, 2nd Vice -President and Federal MP Australia were elected as leaders of the World Hellenic Inter-Parliamentary Association (WHIA) / ΠΑΓΚΟΣΜΙΑ ΔΙΑΚΟΙΝΟΒΟΥΛΕΥΤΙΚΗ ΕΝΩΣΗ ΕΛΛΗΝΙΣΜΟΥ (ΠΑΔΕΕ), an organization composed of elected Parliamentarians and Legislators abroad with Hellenic roots, who are working together on issues of concern between Greece and their host nations. The PADEE/WHIA consists of approximately 90 members throughout the world and mainly comprised of 43 members from the United States, 20 members from Australia, 10 members from Canada and other members from France, Germany, Israel, Romania, Albania, Kenya, South Africa, Switzerland, Zimbabwe and other nations.
The PADEE/WHIA meets as a General Assembly every two years in Athens and the 13th such conference took place in Athens July 28-30, but due to COVID-19 the Australian members and half the Canadian members were unable to make the trip. This year’s General Assembly was dedicated to the 200th Anniversary of the Greek Revolution. Thirty members of parliaments of Greek origin from seven countries (USA, Canada, France, Jordan, Albania, Kenya and Sweden) participated, with the majority coming from the United States. Three non-Greek State Representatives from South Carolina participated also as guests.
The members of the WHIA-PADEE were greeted by the Greek nation’s leadership. On July 27, the President of the Hellenic Republic, Katerina Sakellaropoulou, hosted a reception in the Presidential Mansion Gardens and highlighted the importance of elected officials’ connecting their host nations and Greece. The same evening followed the welcome dinner at the Athenaeum InterContinental in the presence of the Alternate Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Maritime Affairs and Insular Policy, the Deputy Minister of Tourism, the Deputy Minister of Health, the Presidential Commissioner for Humanitarian Affairs and Overseas Cypriots of the Republic of Cyprus, the Ambassadors of France, Jordan, Albania, Nigeria, as well as representatives from the embassies of USA, Canada, Australia, Cyprus, the Consul of Kenya to Greece and other dignitaries. Soprano Anastasia Zannis performed together with the attendees the national anthem of Greece. Dinner was hosted by Athenaeum InterContinental Hotel and Hephaestus Group.
The General Assembly took place in the Senate Hall of the Hellenic Parliament. At the kick off meeting on July 28th, greeting were given by the Prime Minister of Greece Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the President of the Hellenic Parliament Constantine Tassoulas, the President of the Republic of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades, the Leader of the Main Opposition Alexis Tsipras, the President of the “Greece 2021” Committee Gianna Aggelopoulos – Daskalaki, as well as Lieutenant Governor of California Eleni Kounalakis. The official lunch was hosted by the President of the Hellenic Parliament.
During a visit to the Ministry of National Defence on July 29th, Minister Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos and the Chief of the Hellenic National Defence General Staff Konstantinos Floros, welcomed the initiatives of the World Interparliamentary Union of Hellenism to strengthen the ties between Greeks abroad and their homeland, to promote our national interests and to raise international awareness on issues of vital importance for our country.
That evening dinner was hosted by Papapolitis & Papapolitis Law Firm at the Glyfada Golf Club with keynote Speaker the Alternate Minister of Development & Investments, in the presence of the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Deputy Minister of National Defence, the President of the American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce, the President of the Canadian-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce, the President of the Panhellenic Exporters Association and other dignitaries.
The President and the Board of Governors of the Propeller Club of the U.S. International Port of Piraeus, hosted a July 30 dinner at the Yacht Club of Greece in honor of the members of PADEE/WHIA with a focus on strengthening the cooperation between the Propeller Club and the PADEE/WHIA in support of Greek shipping.
During the 13th General Assembly, the election took place of the PADEE/WHIA Board of Directors for the term of 2021 – 2023. Leonidas Raptakis RI State Senator, United States of America was elected as President, Effie Triantafilopoulos MPP, Ontario, Canada as 1st Vice President, Steve Georganas Federal MP Australia as 2nd Vice-President, and Stephan Pappas a Wyoming State Senator from the United States as Treasurer. Additional Board of Director members that were elected were Marietta Karamanli, Member of the Federal Parliament of France, Maria Vamvakinou, Member of the Federal Parliament of Australia, Maria Tzanakis Collett, Pennsylvania State Senator from the United States of America, Emmanuela Lambropoulos, Member of the Federal Parliament of Canada and Evangelos Doules, Member of the Federal Parliament of Albania.
Seven alternate members were also elected: Nicole Klarides-Ditria (USA), John Spiros (USA), Leonidas Stavrinakis (USA), Spiros Mantzavinos (USA), Demetrios Nicolaides (Canada), Annie Koutrakis (Canada) and Esther Passaris (Kenya).
The PADEE/ WHIA Board of Directors plan to meet online more frequently to build support for financial investment, education, culture and other areas of partnerships among all our elected members the nations we represent with Greece and Cyprus.
The President of the Board of Directors, Rhode Island State Senator (US) Leonidas Raptakis, for his part, stated the following: “The Board of Directors and the members of the WHIA thank you warmly for your support of our work, you personally and the Hellenic Parliament. We have a new Board of Directors as of yesterday’s election. 5 women and 4 men were elected. For the first time there are more women than men on the Board of Directors. During our 2-year term we will support all Greece and Cyprus issues. Despite the difficulties of the coronavirus pandemic, we do not forget all the other issues. Even though we are elected in different parts of the world, our roots are Greek and we are here to work very hard for Hellenism, for Greece and for Cyprus.”
“We have an opportunity to make this organization a resource for all of its members, a vehicle for keeping Hellenes from all over the world connected to the work being done in different countries to promote issues of concern to Greece and Cyprus,” said Raptakis. “In this Information Age, we need to encourage vigorous discussions and adopt policies that will put WHIA at the forefront of the effort to build bridges between our member nations.”
“Over the years, I’ve worked on a variety of issues—from Cyprus to protection of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and other issues of concern,” said Georganas. “The PADEE/ WHIA is an important organization for disseminating information and mobilizing Greek communities all over the world.”
Raptakis said the new board will focus its energies on providing dynamic and outspoken diaspora support to Greece, as it finds itself in an increasingly tense situation with its neighbor, Turkey. The board will also endeavor to strategically aid the Hellenic Republic’s economic recovery from the pandemic by mobilizing investment and other forms of financial support for Greece. Finally, Raptakis said the board will intensify the dialogue and exchanges between WHIA, the Presidency of the Hellenic Republic, the Permanent Committee on Greeks Abroad as well as the Executive and Members of the Greek Parliament to mutually set out meaningful objectives for effective action and collaboration.
“There are a number of serious issues facing the Greek community worldwide and I want to make sure PADEE/WHIA is giving its members the information they need to get involved in resolving these matters,” said Raptakis. “I also want to make sure that when there are challenges facing the Greek community within a particular country, Hellenes worldwide are given the chance to make a difference and offer their support.”
After the completion of the General Assembly, the program included a tour to Souda Bay Crete, a Law of the Sea Conference on the island of Kastellorizo, a business forum Invest in the South Aegean, in Rhodes and a visit of the island of Symi.
More information is available online: https://padeewhia.org.