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United States

Panepirotic Federation on the Issue of the Greek Minority in Albania

ASTORIA – The Panepirotic Federation of America held its 41st Conference in New York at the ‘Epirotiko Spiti’ in Astoria on February 24-26. On the agenda was the decision to intensify pressure on the Albanian government for the rights of the Greek minority, but also to promote the issue even more dynamically to both the American and Greek governments.

With the program including a significant number of representatives from the Greek minority, such as Drs. Nikos Kouris (Member of Parliament), Dimitris Tolis (Mayor of Dropolis), Vasilis Kalios (President of Omonia), and Konstantina Beziani (head of the State Committee for Minorities in the Albanian Parliament), the Federation members had an important opportunity to delve into the issues of the Greek minority, as Federation President John Katsimbaris told The National Herald.

“This representation has helped us to re-understand where the minority problems are, to be able to reorganize in terms of how we as the Panepirotic Federation are trying to help, seeking to communicate these problems to the American government and representatives, but also to the Greek government,” said Katsimbaris.

Nicholas Gage, renowned author and previous president of the Panepirotic Federation of America at the organization’s conference in Astoria. (Photo: TNH/ Christodoulos Athanasatos)

At the same time, the conference agenda included issues related to the youth, the Study Abroad program at the University of Ioannina, but also the opportunity given to young people with roots in Epirus to visit the region and get to know the land of their ancestors, creating new ties with the homeland.

“It is significant that we had also had young people who participated in this program in the past and analyzed how important a role it played in their future lives. They made friends, got to know their grandparents’ region, and now they continue to visit Epirus,” added Katsimbaris.

Increasing the youth participation was also discussed, as well as the current legislation on the vote for Greeks living abroad, which mainly concerns younger immigrants from Greece.

The vote was also held for the new Board of Directors with Katsimbaris unanimously re-elected, for his first full term, since he assumed his duties after previous president Nicholas Gage (Gatzoyiannis) stepped down.

Also elected were George Nanis as Vice President, Olga Fotos as General Secretary, Niki Pallas as Assistant Secretary, Chrysoula Zikopoulos as Treasurer, Eva Kantlis as Assistant Treasurer, and Demetra Varsami, Petros Giakoureas, Aleka Kaloudelis, Konstantinos Lekkas, and Stavros Zhongas, as members of the Board of Directors.

The Federation’s former president Nicholas Gage, now holds the title of honorary president, and welcomed the younger generations to the Board of Directors. He told TNH “it is important that new, young people joined the Board. We older adults need to take a step back. Board members are 50 years old and younger, with many new young people. Attracting young people is also difficult for all [Greek-American] organizations. The new youth are informed and engaged, just like us. We are leaving the spotlight with the hope that the fight we carried out – and we had many successes – will be continued.”

Of the conference, Gage said: “I am very happy not only that the conference went well and we discussed the issues, but I think we made the right decisions. Our great issue has always been for the ethnic minority in Northern Epirus and we made decisions to pressure the government of Albania for new laws, which will ensure the rights that other minorities have. I think it was a very good conference.”

Katsimbaris thanked the Panepirotic members for his unanimous election and pledged that the organization will move in the right direction, implementing all its priorities. He noted that “the first time, I was elected Vice President and then became president after the resignation of Nicholas Gage, who attended and gave his advice, as did Menelaos Tzelios, a historic executive of Panepirotic.”

During the Gala Dinner Dance at the Cretan House Omonoia in Astoria on February 25, Tzelios was honored while attendees enjoyed live Epirote music and a performance by dancers in traditional costume.

Dancers in traditional costume performed at the Panepirotic Federation Gala Dinner Dance on February 25. (Photo: TNH/ Christodoulos Athanasatos)

On February 26, the conference delegates attended the Divine Liturgy, Artoklasia, and Doxology at St. Demetrios Cathedral in Astoria for the 210th anniversary of the liberation of Ioannina and the 209th anniversary of the declaration of independence of Northern Epirus, followed by the swearing-in of the new Board.


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