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Panepirotic Federation Reelects Gage

PHOENIX – Author and film maker Nicholas Gage was re-elected President of The Panepirotic Federation of America at its 39th biennial convention which was held in Phoenix, AZ from October 30 to November 1. The Board that now leads the organization consists of a blend of veterans and newcomers.

“At this convention in the heart of the West, we were able to build a bridge that allows the Panepirotic Federation to be governed both by veterans who were born in Epiros and younger members born in America but with strong feelings for the homeland and traditions of their parents,” Gage said, who added “Such generational consensus often creates difficulties for many organizations but we were able to accomplish it with great ease and cohesion.”

“We need the strength that comes from such unity to fulfill our dual mission to help both ethnic Greeks living in Northern Epiros under considerable pressure from Albanian authorities and our compatriots in Greece who have seen jobs disappear, austerity measures soar and their disposable income slashed almost in half in the past seven years,” Gage said.

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Convention delegates voted to hold future conventions every three years instead of biennially  to give Federation leaders ample time to make progress on important matters.

The guests of honor attending the convention included Pyrros Dimas, the Northern Epirote who won three Olympic gold medals and one bronze in weightlifting for Greece in Olympic Games; Konstantina Beziani, the head of Albania’s State Committee for Minorities, and Leonidas Pappas, the president of Omonia, the primary organization advocating for basic rights for ethnic Greeks in Albania.

Gage, who was elected by acclamation to take another term as president, his fourth in the past 20 years, will serve with George Nanis of Worcester as vice president; Aleka Kaloudelis, president of the Washington chapter, as secretary general; Olga Fotos of Worcester as treasurer, and Niki Pallas of Phoenix, one of the organizers of the convention, as assistant secretary.

Six board members and three alternates were also elected, including Eva Kantlis, Fotios Galitsis, Charalambos Mellos, and Stavros Zhongas, all of New York; Dimitris Karapanos of San Francisco, and John Katsimbaris of Detroit. The three alternates are Athena Xinogalos and Efthimios Pappas of New York and Alex Pallas of Phoenix, the co-chair with his daughter Niki of the convention organizing committee.

The gala dinner dance was held in the community hall of Holy Trinity Church. Gage, Dimas, Beziani, and Pappas all spoke about the need to press the Albanian government to end discrimination of ethnic Greeks in the country and grant them the rights due them under international agreements signed by Albania but never implemented.

Gage said that can only be accomplished if the U.S. government and the European Union bring effective pressure to bear on Tirana and he promised the Federation will do everything in its power to see that it happens.

It is a convention tradition to honored past presidents for their service and in Phoenix former president Demitris Tsoumbanos was cited. He was not able to attend, but a plaque honoring his contributions will be presented to him by Gage in Boston.

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 its international obligations to ethnic Greeks in Northern Epiros and throughout Albania.

The resolution also 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 the harassment of the Patriarchate and re-open the School of Halki, and to press FYROM to stop expropriating the name Macedonia, which has been identified with Greece throughout its history.

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The new members of the Panepirotic Federation’s board are, seated L-R: George Nanis, Aleka Kaloudelis, Nicholas Gage, and Olga Fotos. Standing L-R: Charalambos Mellos, Fotios Galitsis, Eva Kantlis, Dimitris Karapanos, Athena Xinogalos, Niki Pallas, Stavros Zhongas, Alex Pallas, John Katsimbaris, and Efthimios Pappas.

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