Five members of the World Hellenic Interparliamentary Association (WHIA), with Rhode Island State Senator Leonidas Raptakis as head of the group, at the Port Authority of Alexandroupolis during their visit to Evros on January 12-13. Photo: Courtesy of PADEE-WHIA
ATHENS – Five members of the World Hellenic Interparliamentary Association (WHIA), with Rhode Island State Senator Leonidas Raptakis as head of the group, visited Evros on January 12-13. Senator Raptakis was accompanied by Wyoming State Senator Stephan Pappas, Pennsylvania State Senator Maria Tzanakis-Collett, Senator/The Senate H.K. of Jordan Dr. Audeh Quawas, and Member of Parliament of Sweden Vasiliki Tsouplaki.
The first stop of the trip was the Alexandroupolis Port Authority, where they were welcomed by the President of the Organization Konstantinos Chatzimichail and CEO Konstantinos Hadjikonstantinou and were briefed on the port of Alexandroupolis, in advance of discussion concerning the facility’s geopolitical role and international imprint.
After the Port, the group met with the Deputy Governor of Evros Dimitrios Petrovic, who elaborated on the comparative assets of the border region, that consists of an entrance point to the Balkans and inland Europe. He asked for the participation and support of PADEE-WHIA in bringing investments to the area. Such investments will reinforce the developmental planning of the government and local authorities, while at the same time contributing to keeping young people in the countryside and most importantly near the borders.
Petrovic highlighted that “during the last years, history and geography have been rewarding Evros, that since a few decades ago, due to the distance from bigger urban centers, it was seen as a place of exile. Nowadays, with pipelines of natural gas and projects in the fields of energy, the reinforcement of the transport infrastructure, and the interest in investments for the Port of Alexandroupolis, the tables seem to turn, as the area acquires added value. With a strong primary sector and important places of tourist value, such as the island of Samothraki as a frontispiece, efforts are made to construct the terms of a dynamic, sustainable, and at the same time, even development, with private initiatives at the forefront.
“Nevertheless, whereas the southern part of Evros is developing, at the inland and northern part of the ‘triangle’ (border of Greece-Bulgaria-Turkey), despite the fertile land, the population is declining, and consequences occur as one would imagine. While Alexandroupolis, with the presence of the American factor, can develop into an energy hub and a potential center for interconnected transports, the total development of the border-region of Evros is a common goal. At this instance, we need the aid of WHIA for the introduction of new investments, which will create and enforce the conditions for an even development of our land. As Regional Government, we are helpers and will make every additional effort to promote and implement investments in our area.”
Later, they met with Alexandroupolis Mayor Ioannis Zampoukis. The focus of discussion was Alexandroupolis and its prospect of economic development as well as its capability to attract investment funds and act a force of growth for the region of Evros and the broader region of Thrace.
A meeting at the Chamber of Commerce of Evros followed, specifically with its President Christodoulos Topsidis. During the meeting, which included the participation of the President of the Chamber’s Tourist Department Apostolos Palakidis and the Chamber coworkers Thanos Pantazis (Economic Advisor) and Leonidas Skerletopoulos (head of the Organization “Light Hub” of the Chamber), subjects of common interest for both sides were analyzed. More specifically, they discussed ways of attracting foreign investment interest in Evros and Alexandroupolis with the aid of the Senators, as well as the growth of foreign tourist interest given the conditions that exist in the area.
Different forms of alternative tourism dominate global trends, and Evros, Alexandroupolis, and Thrace fulfill the corresponding conditions, that given the right acts and synergies can benefit in the sector.
As far as interest in investments is concerned, the new geostrategic power that Alexandroupolis, and, as a result, Evros is developing, constitutes an attractive asset for perspective investors, but one that needs to be combined with the appropriate conditions to implement entrepreneurial ideas.
“Our area has accumulated a plethora of options and conditions for growth and prosperity, and we are satisfied that this will now become apparent in the international community. According to our well-established view as a Chamber, we presented all these prospects to the Senators and discussed in a friendly atmosphere, which we are expecting to bear fruit in the future,” stated Chamber President Topsidis who also hosted a luncheon for the delegation.
The Department of Political Affairs of Thrace that falls under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, hosted a private dinner with the presence of the Metropolitan Anthimos of Alexandroupolis, Lt. Gen. Angelos Choudeloudis, Police Brigadier General Paschalis Syritoudis, and the Director of the Department for Political Affairs in Thrace Symeon Tegos.
The next day, the PADEE-WHIA delegation, accompanied by the MP of Evros Anastasios Dimoschakis, visited the border station in Kastanies, Evros.
The members of the Association were welcomed by the Commander of the D’ Army Corps “Thraki” Lt. General Angelos Choudeloudis, the Commander of the XVI Mechanized Infantry Division “Didymoteicho” Lt. General Anastasios Alexiadis, and the Commander of the 3rd Mech. Brigade “RIMINI” Brigadier General Anastasios Kolezas.
The visit included a briefing on the mission of the Brigade, its deterrent actions, as well as the events that occurred between February and March 2020 in the region.
The visit consisted of a tour of the renovated spaces of the military post, where the delegation had the opportunity to speak with the staff and visit the Guard point that protects the cross-border point of entry and exit of the Greek-Turkish borders.
Commemorative gifts were exchanged and the members expressed their absolute satisfaction with the visit and thanked the military hierarchy for their service.
Later, they visited the Military Headquarters of the Infantry Division in Didymoteicho, where they met with the Commander of the XVI Mechanized Infantry Division “Didymoteicho” Lt. General Anastasios Alexiadis. The objective of the tour was for the members of WHIA to become informed on the mission and action of the Infantry Division.
It included a tour of the Headquarters and a briefing in the Hall of the Infantry Division on the history, organization, its actions to prevent migration flows, educational activities, as well as general information about the area of Northern Evros.
Commemorative gifts were also exchanged and the delegation expressed its satisfaction with the visit and thanked the Division for its service.
His Eminence Metropolitan Damaskinos of Didymoteicho, Orestiada and Soufli warmly welcomed the PADEE-WHIA delegation at the Bishopric of Didymoteicho, where he had the chance after a short welcome, to explain to the visitors the issues facing the area, mainly concern over the demographic issues, migration, and the maintenance and promotion of its monuments.
His Eminence presented Senator Raptakis an icon of the Birth of Jesus and to the rest of the members commemorative gifts.
The PADEE-WHIA delegation was accompanied by the Evros MP Anastasios Dimoschakis and Didymoteicho Mayor Romylos Chatzigiannoglou.
Before departing from Didymoteicho, the members of PADEE-WHIA visited the Metropolitan Church of Agios Athanasios, Didymoteicho Town Hall, and the Metropolitan Cathedral of Panagia Eleftherotria.
Next, they met with Soufli Mayor Panagiotis Kalakikos, who hosted lunch and presented silk gifts as Soufli is the only town in Greece involved in the production of silk.
In the evening, they were greeted by AHEPA HJ-21 “Dimokritos Alexandroupolis” Chapter President Ioannis Vavias, the Mayor of Alexandroupolis, and the members of AHEPA at the building that will soon become the first relief museum of AHEPA in Greece.
On January 14, the PADEE-WHIA delegation visited His Eminence Metropolitan Anthimos of Alexandroupolis. His Eminence welcomed them in the Holy Metropolis of Alexandroupolis, mentioning that these kinds of visits are extremely important for the boarder region. In turn, Senator Raptakis thanked His Eminence for the hospitality, emphasizing his hope to visit Alexandroupolis again soon.
Before their departure, they were informed at the airport of Alexandroupolis by the Police Brigadier General Paschalis Syritoudis on issues of border protection, management of migration flows, and the crisis that occurred in February and March 2020.
During this visit, the WHIA delegation also met with the MPs of Evros Anastasios Dimoschakis, Stavros Keletsis, Christos Dermentzoglou, the Director of the Department for Political Affairs in Thrace Symeon Tygos, the Mayors of Orestiada, Didymoteicho and Soufli, and discussed the growth prospects of Evros and potential cooperation between the two sides.
The President of PADEE-WHIA and the members of the delegation, listened carefully to the propositions made by the local authorities and entities of Evros, and showcased their intention to contribute variously from their institutional position, to inform all PADEE-WHIA members about the outcome of this visit and to come back with a delegation comprised of members, elected officials from Canada, Australia, and other countries, who could not participate at this time due to COVID restrictions.
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