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15th AHI Athens Award Dinner: Honoring those who Strengthen US-Greek Cooperation

NO. 19

May 9 2019, Athens, Greece

Strengthening US cooperation with Greece and Cyprus is one of the main pillars of the American Hellenic Institute (AHI).  For the past 15 years, the AHI Athens Awards Dinner has served as an effective platform towards this end highlighting AHI’s work and honoring individuals and organizations which have been instrumental in strengthening Greek-American cooperation.  The event takes place every May at the Grand Bretagne Hotel in Syntagma Square.  Every year AHI has the pleasure and honor to host over 300 guests including representatives of the Greek government, key officials, members of Parliament, leaders of Greece’s main opposition democratic political parties, Ambassadors and Embassy officials of nations friends and allies of Greece and the United States, Greek business community, renown academics, AHI sponsors, friends and supporters.
 The 15th Anniversary of the Athens Awards Dinner, took place on May 9, 2019. AHI Board Member and attorney Dr. Athina Balta was the Master of Ceremonies.  Presiding over the event, Dr. Balta introduced the three distinguished honorees of the evening, Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt, the American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce, represented by Simos Anastasopoulos, and AHI Greece Honorary President Emeritus, Ilias Malevitis well as the speakers of the evening, Athens Chapter President George Economou and AHI President Nick Larigakis, who on May 6, 2019 was awarded the Medal of Honor and Valour for his work to strengthen US-Greek defense cooperation by the Minister of National Defense, Evangelos Apostolakis. 

 Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt was honored for his exceptional work to strengthen cooperation between Greece and the United States by receiving the “AHI Hellenic Heritage Public Service Award.”  Ambassador Pyatt’s notable contributions towards this goal include: making the United States the honored country at the Thessaloniki International Fair, brining US investments in Greece and his tireless work leading to the US-Greece Strategic Dialogue launched in December of 2018 in Washington, DC. In his remarks after accepting the award Ambassador Pyatt highlighted AHI’s work under the Leadership of President Larigakis.  “AHI has been advocating for Greeks and Greek-Americans for almost half a century, promoting Greek public policy issues and highlighting the contributions of individuals and institutions to their communities.” “I also want to recognize in particular AHI’s and Nick’s leadership in highlighting the defense and security aspects of our relationship, including their essential advocacy to support our IMET and security assistance programs, and the open door that AHI has offered to Greek military leaders visiting Washington.”  “Thank you, Nick for all that you do to strengthen the ties between the United States and Greece and to bring our peoples closer together.”  

 The American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce, represented by Simos Anastasopoulos, received the “AHI Hellenic Heritage Public Service Award” for its efforts to strengthen ties between the business communities of the United States and Greece.  “AmCham, said President Larigakis, “is an indispensable resource for those involved in business, a driving force behind solidifying Greece’s position as an integral commercial and political ally of the United States.”

 AHI Greece Honorary President Emeritus, Ilias Malevitis, received the “AHI Hellenic Heritage Appreciation Award” for his service to AHI. “Malevitis,” said Larigakis, is an “author and public servant who has demonstrated a lifetime of commitment to promoting Hellenism.” “This event”, President Larigakis said, helps to honor Hellenism, because it is more than an ideal, it is a living, breathing spirit whose vitality and impact is measured by achievements and contributions of individuals and organizations in our communities and societies, and the three outstanding honorees tonight personify these attributes.”

Key individuals and stakeholders honored AHI with their presence including: Minister of Foreign Affairs Georgos Katrougalos; Minister of National Defense Evangelos Apostolakis; George Koumoutsakos, Shadow Minister of Foreign Affairs and Member of Parliament with New Democracy;  Giannis Maniatis, Member of Parliament with PASOK/Kinal(Movement of Change);  Gen. Christos Christodoulou, Chief of the General Staff; Lt. Gen. Georgios Kampas; Chief of the Hellenic Army Staff; Vice Adm. Stylianos Petrakis, Commander in Chief of Hellenic Fleet/on behalf of the Chief of the Hellenic Navy; Major Gen. Ioannis Gontikoulis; Deputy Chief of the Hellenic Air Force General Staff/on behalf of the Chief of the Hellenic Air Force General Staff; Irit Ban Abba, Ambassador of Israel to the Hellenic Republic, Aliki Paschali Zinon, representing the Ambassador of Cyprus in Greece, Ambassador Elisavet Fotiadou, A7 Directorate of North America of the Hellenic Ministry of Foreign Affairs; an AHEPA delegation led by Supreme President George Loukas and Executive Director Basil Mossaides,  Dr. Stamatis Krimizis, renowned Greek scientist in space exploration, Movie Producer George Elias Stephanopoulos.

The evening was made possible due to the generous support of AHI’s sponsors. The Grand Benefactors of the event were, Mrs. Katerina Panagopoulos, Ambassador Ad Honore, Special Advisor to the Prime Minister of Greece for Hellenic Diaspora, Mr. Dimitris Kontominas and Alpha TV as well as Mohegan Gaming and Entertainment.  Mr. & Mrs. Isidoros Garifalakis and Family of Vancouver, WA as well as Lokheed Martin were Benefactors of the event.  The President’s Circle comprised of G.C. Economou and Associates, Athens, Greece, James H. Lagos, Springfield, OH, Jim and Ted Pedas of Washington, DC, and The Emirates Group. The Chairman’s Circle entailed EFA Group, Greek Dream Inc., Constantine and Sophia Galanis of Mexico City, Tsakos Group of Companies, and Navios Maritime. The American College of Greece, Hotel Grande Bretagne of Athens, Greece, Kapotas SA, K. Arvanitis S.A., and Trikalinos Co rounded out the list of sponsors.

AHI’s is grateful to the Athens Chapter members for their work and service: President George Economou, Vice Admiral Vassilios Kyriazis, Administrator Sylvia Gavalla, and Board Members Katerina Papathanassiou and George Mermelas as well as AHI Board Member Kostas Alexakis who also attended the event. Special gratitude to the international soprano, Anastasia Zanis who performed the musical interlude during the event.  

Greek MOD Awards President Larigakis Medal of Honor and Valour for Strengthening US-Greek Defense Cooperation

NO. 18

May 6, 2019, Pentagon, Athens, Greece

On May 6, 2019, the Greek Minister of National Defense, Admiral Evangelos Apostolakis, awarded President Larigakis Medal of Honor and Valour for his work to strengthen US-Greek defense cooperation.  The ceremony took place at the Pentagon in Athens in the presence of the Alternate Minister of National Defence Panos Rigas, the Chief of Hellenic National Defense General Staff, General Christos Christodoulou, the Chief of Hellenic Navy General Staff, Vice Admiral Nikolaos Tsounis, the Chief of Hellenic Army General Staff, Lt General Georgios Kampas, the Chief of Hellenic Air Force General Staff Lt General Georgios Blioumis, AHI Board Members, Dr. Athina Balta, Kostas Alexakis and Leon Andris, AHI Athens Chapter President George Economou, Vice President Vasilis Kyriazis, George Mermelas, and Katerina Papathanasiou.


“This award, has special importance for me because of where it came from,” said President Larigakis.  “It was awarded by an exceptional and inspired leader, Minister Apostolakis, in the presence of the Hellenic Armed Forces Leadership, constituted by individuals of unique talent, effectiveness and determination, ready, willing and able, under the guidance of General Christodoulou, to maintain and strengthen Greece’s leadership in preserving peace, security and stability in the Balkans and wider Mediterranean region, a vital US foreign policy and security interest.”


During his 30 years of service at AHI, Larigakis has maintained close personal contact with key Greek Defense officials including past and present Ministers of Defense, the Leadership of the Hellenic Armed Forces, the Defense Attache Mission in the United States, Ambassador of Greece to the United States, Haris Lalacos and his predecessors as well as key US policy makers, enabling him to receive high level briefings during officials’ visits to the Hellenic House and Larigakis’ multiple annual trips to Greece. During the past year Minister Apostolakis, Lt. General Nikolaos Manouris, Deputy Chief of the Hellenic Army General Staff (HAGS), and former Minister of Defense Panos Kammenos, visited the Hellenic House in Washington, DC, commending AHI initiatives under Larigakis’ leadership.


Larigakis’ key contacts have enabled him not only to have an in-depth knowledge of the defense capabilities and activities of the two countries and potentials for US-Greek Defense Cooperation, but to also organize strategic private meetings and defense events in Washington and Athens for high-ranking Greek and U.S. government officials.  Many of these events have brought together Greece’s top military officials with key representatives of the defense industry and think tanks such as the private roundtable discussion AHI facilitated for Admiral Apostolakis at the Atlantic Council in October of 2018.

Fundamental in AHI’s strategy for raising awareness of Greece’s importance for US strategic interests was the release of two white papers. “U.S. Policy and the Strategic Relationship of Greece, Cyprus, and Israel: Power Shifts in the Eastern Mediterranean” written in cooperation with Hudson Institute, was fundamental for drawing the attention of US policy makers and the Greek-American Lobby on Greece’s role within the context of the value the eastern Mediterranean possesses to energy security.   “Souda Bay: NATO’s Military Gem in the Eastern Mediterranean,” which provided an in depth understanding of the Strategic importance of Souda Bay for the US and NATO, was presented on Capitol Hill in cooperation with Lexington Institute in February of 2016, in the presence of the Greek Minister of Defense at the time, Panos Kammenos.  


AHI regularly publishes updated fact sheets of Greece’s Contributions to joint U.S./NATO missions, the latest of which was released in March 14, 2019.  Furthermore, President Larigakis’ contribution to the annual Hellenic Armed Forces Day Celebration in Washington, DC (for which he was honored ) has enabled the Hellenic Armed Forces to create an additional platform raising awareness of Greece’s strategic importance to other NATO and US friends and allies.

On the Hill, AHI’s strong advocacy is reflected in President Larigakis’ annual Congressional Testimony to the Appropriations Committee.  In 2018 AHI’s advocacy efforts for NSA Souda Bay’s geostrategic importance to the national security interests of the United States came to fruition with the enactment of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2019 (NDAA). The Act authorized $47.85 million in military construction funding for NSA Souda Bay.  Due to AHI’s efforts, Congress appropriated a significant increase to Greece’s IMET expenditures (Military education for the Hellenic Armed Forces), the main program the State Department finances for Greece. For FY18, Congress provided $1 million for the program. Recognizing AHI’s successful advocacy on the Hill the Co-chairs of the Congressional Hellenic Caucus, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), and Congressman Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) recently stated: “From the hands of legendary Gene Rossides to Nick Larigakis’ leadership today, AHI continues to set the standard of passionate, reasoned education and advocacy. For the 20-plus years of our Caucus’ existence, AHI has been a principal contributor and advisor that has significantly helped shape the Eastern Mediterranean geopolitical landscape.”

The Medal awarded today well reflects President Larigakis’ decades of hard work which has contributed to increased engagement between the US and Greek military, higher US investment for continued modernization of the Hellenic Armed Forces and improved US access to bases and facilities in order to enhance interoperability with the US/NATO. On the private sector side, President Larigakis has facilitated market access opportunities for the US defense industry in Greece as well as opportunities for Greek companies interested in sourcing US products or services.    

In the words of Geoffrey Pyatt, US Ambassador to Greece: “I want to recognize in particular AHI’s and Nick’s leadership in highlighting the defense and security aspects of our relationship, including their essential advocacy to support our IMET and security assistance programs, and the open door that AHI has offered to Greek military leaders visiting Washington.” “Nick and the team put together tremendous programs for Admiral Apostolakis, General Stefanis, Admiral Tsounis, all of our key partners… But these are examples of AHI’s truly unique role as a facilitator of the strategic relationship between the United States and Greece.”  “Congrats to Nick Larigakis on the award from the Hellenic MOD recognizing his leadership in supporting our defense ties.”

Recent AHI Initiatives under Leadership of President Larigakis Strengthening US-Greek Defense Cooperation

AHI Lobbying the US Government: Advocacy Objectives Achieved

AHI White Papers and Reports Promoting Strategic Importance of Greece

Strengthening US-Greek Defense Cooperation Efforts at the Hellenic House

AHI Meetings with key Defense Officials in Greece

The heart of Hellenism Beats Strongly but the Struggle Continues

NO. 18

Every year, the heart of Hellenism beats strongly all over the United States as Hellenes and Philhellenes celebrate the anniversary of Greece’s 1821 War of Independence from Ottoman rule. The example of our ancestors expresses the true Hellenic values of heroism, duty, and self- sacrifice. It is therefore the duty of the American Hellenic Institute (AHI) to support the nationwide efforts of organizations and communities working hard to keep the tradition of celebrating Greek Independence alive and with that the spirit of our ancestors to helping us strengthen Greece’s role as a stable, credible power of peace and safety in the Balkans and in the wider region of the southeastern Mediterranean.


It is within this Hellenic spirit and values that AHI President Nick Larigakis accepted the honor to serve as Grand Marshal at the annual Greek Independence Day Parade in Baltimore, March 31, 2019.   In his address from the grandstand, President Larigakis reminded the community that despite the heroic sacrifices and battles our ancestors have fought “the struggle continues.” These sacrifices and battles constitute the backbone of the critical duty we have as a community to continue reminding members of Congress of Turkey’s acts of aggression in the Aegean Sea, continuous occupation of the Republic of Cyprus, and suppression of the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s religious freedom, each constituting grave violations of international law and principles. President Larigakis congratulated George Stakias and the organizing committee for hosting an outstanding parade and expressed his gratitude to for honoring him with their selection.

New York

(L-R) President Nick Larigakis, Grand Marshal George Marcus, & Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, (D-NY)

(L-R) President Nick Larigakis, Grand Marshal George Marcus, & Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, (D-NY)

President Larigakis served as an Honored Guest of the Parade Committee for the April 14, 2019 Parade festivities in New York.  In his speech at the pre-parade gathering hosted by the Federation of Hellenic Societies of Greater New York, Larigakis commended the parade’s organizers and reiterated his message about the importance of the community’s engagement with Congress: “As long as the NATO army of Turkey is occupying a European Union member in Cyprus, Turkey stifles the religious freedom of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and violates Greece’s sovereignty in the Aegean, the struggle continues.”

 During his speech at the April 13 Parade Dinner Larigakis reminded the audience that as the leading parade in the United States, we are not only honoring the 198 years of Greek Independence, but we also honor the great achievements and successes of the Greek American community.  “No one embodies that more than the parade’s Grand Marshal, George Marcus,” Larigakis emphasized.


Strong AHI support was present in the Philadelphia Parade Festivities as well, whereAHI Member Georgia Halakos serves as President of the Federation of Hellenic American Societies of Philadelphia and Greater Delaware Valley, the organization responsible for hosting the Parade on April 7 and the annual Eleftheria Banquet, on March 30, 2019.  Community leader, Dr.  Spiro Spireas, a Board of Directors Member of AHI Foundation and Former President of AHIF has been a major benefactor for many years to the Philadelphia Parade.  Georgia Halakos and Dr. Spiro Spireas were joined by President Larigakis, AHI Board Member Demitrios Halakos and fellow members of the Order of Saint Andrew the Apostle – Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  The Parade was headed by the Consul General of Greece in New York, Konstantinos Koutras who served as the Grand Marshal.


At festivities held for the Greek Independence Day Parade in Tarpon Springs, Fla., March 31, 2019, AHI Member George Mermelas was honored by the parade’s organizing committee for 30 years of service and support to the annual event.    

 Washington, DC

In the heart of Washington, DC, President Larigakis, and AHI Board Members Dr. Athina Balta and Demitrios Halakos, celebrated Greek Independence Day at the White House attending the ceremony officiated by President Donald J. Trump and His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, Geron of America on March 18, 2019. President Trump emphasized the “robust” partnership between Greece and the United States and the momentum it has gained steadily during the past year. 

 —President Trump’s Proclamation and President Trump’s Speech in commemoration of Greek Independence Day in the United States.—


No Foreign Aid to Turkey says AHI to Senate Appropriations Subcommittee

NO. 17 

WASHINGTON, DC — The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) wrote to the heads of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs ahead of its April 10 hearing with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on the State Department’s FY2020 budget justification   

Larigakis Testimony 3 copy.jpg

In the letter Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-VT), President Nick Larigakis stated AHI’s opposition to the Trump administration’s proposed $550,000 budget request for Greece’s International Military Education and Training (IMET). Instead, AHI recommended a $1.2 million funding level for Greece’s IMET program, a $200,000 increase above the FY2019 enacted level, as in the best interests of the United States. 

President Larigakis opposed any foreign assistance to Turkey the Administration will request based upon: Turkey’s illegal occupation of the Republic of Cyprus, its acts of aggression in the Aegean, Turkey’s threat to U.S. security interests via its purchase of Russian-made S-400 missiles, and its suppression of religious freedom of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

AHI recommended appropriations language on two policy issues to be considered by the Subcommittee: ensuring the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus can fully implement its mandates and holding Turkey accountable for its purchase of the S-400s.