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Athens Provides AHIF Students with Insight on Greece’s Foreign Policy Direction, Military Capabilities

NO. 47

WASHINGTON, DC — The American Hellenic Institute Foundation (AHIF) College Student Foreign Policy Trip to Greece and Cyprus completed its eleventh year as 10 students from across the United States participated in the 17-day program held June 18 to July 5, 2019. The student trip visited Athens, June 27 to July 5, 2019, following two days of briefings in Washington, DC, and a five-day visit to Cyprus.

“Greece is a dependable and vital United States ally and NATO partner as well as a frontline state against terrorism,” said President Nick Larigakis. “Our itinerary in Greece aimed to educate the community’s next generation of leaders about the Greece’s geostrategic importance, which includes NSA Souda Bay, and the security challenges it confronts.”

The group arrived in Athens, June 27 and were hosted to a welcome reception by Tim Ananiades, general manager, Grande Bretagne Hotel. During their nine-day stay, the students met with several high- level government officials, including: President of the Hellenic Republic Prokopis Pavlopoulos, U.S. Ambassador to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt, and then-Diplomatic Advisor to Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, Vangelis Kalpadakis.

The students gained further insight about Greece’s policy relating to diaspora Greeks with a briefing with then-Deputy Foreign Minister Terens Quick, July 1. They also attended informative meetings that day with several directors at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, including: Ambassador Konstantinos Kollias, A2 Directorate, Cyprus Ambassador Sophia Grammata, A3 Directorate, Southeastern Europe; Nikolaos Garilidis, A4 Directorate, Turkey; and Ambassador Elisavet Fotiadou and Counsellor Konstantinos Kodellas, A7 Directorate, North America. Additionally, the students met with Dr. Thanos Dokos, general director of the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP).

“Not only do participants learn about the issues at hand, but they are also taught how to introduce these topics into ongoing American political discussions,” said Participant Alexandra Choate.

Further, on July 1, the students also enjoyed a tour of the famed Karaiskakis Stadium, home of Olympiacos F.C., which was sponsored by Olympiacos President Evangelos Marinakis. They also sponsored dinner that evening at the exclusive Vammos restaurant. Domenicos Masoulas, director, Olympiacos Corporate Social Responsibility, represented the sponsors.

In addition to a day trip to NSA Souda Bay, Crete (see news release), the students visited Salamis for a visit to the Greek Naval Fleet Headquarters, which included multiple presentations and visits to a Greek naval frigate and submarine, July 2. They met with Commander in Chief of the Hellenic Fleet Vice Admiral Stylianos Petrakis, H.N., toured a submarine simulator and took a ride on the H.S. Vosper, a fast patrol boat. Vice Admiral Petrakis graciously hosted the students for lunch at his residence. During the evening of July 2, the students received a guided tour of the Acropolis Museum and enjoyed dinner at the Acropolis Museum restaurant hosted by Deputy Foreign Minister Quick’s office.

The next day, the students continued to learn about Greece’s defense and military capabilities with a briefing with several high-ranking military officials that comprise the Hellenic National Defense General Staff, including: Vice Admiral Ioannis Paxivanakis, H.N., DCHOD; Major General Petros Demestichas, Chief of Staff; Rear Admiral Dimitrios Kavoulakos, H.N., director, D Branch; Commodore Ioannis Pattas, H.N., director, Public Relations Directorate; Lt. Colonel Christos Anastasiadis, deputy director, Public Relations Directorate; and Lt. Colonel Nikolaos Gogousis, Public Relations Directorate and overall visit coordinator.

In addition, a meeting with Chief of the Hellenic Defense General Staff General Christos Christodoulou highlighted the visit to the Ministry of Defense, who also hosted the students for lunch at the Hellenic Air Force Officers Club.

“…because of the trip that I am informed on how to productively communicate the importance of Greece and Cyprus both militarily and politically,” said Participant Emily Pandis.

The program’s itinerary provided the students with the opportunity to also learn about the significance of Greece’s shipping industry during a meeting with Marina Martinou of Eastern Mediterranean Maritime Limited. They also toured Tsakos Shipping and Trading, S.A. and were briefed by the company’s President/CEO Nikolas P. Tsakos and Nick Logan, an executive in the company’s finance department.

The group also enjoyed a Fourth of July reception held at the residence of United States Ambassador to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt. Ambassador Pyatt graciously extended invitations for this reception to accommodate all participants of the AHIF Foreign Policy Trip.

The students enjoyed downtime the weekend of June 29 and 30, which included a boat outing and dinner hosted by AHI-Athens Chapter Member, George Mermelas.

The trip concluded with a farewell dinner hosted by the American Hellenic Institute Foundation at the Grande Bretagne. Many of the officials with whom the students met, as well as AHI supporters, attended the dinner. Each student gave a brief speech reflecting on his or her experience. The students’ statements differed, but there was a common threat of gratitude toward all the AHI Foundation supporters. All students described their experiences on the foreign policy trip as immensely educational and life- changing.

Participant Vasili Ioannidis reflected, “Over the duration of the program, I was fully immersed into the complex and high-stakes world of international relations. Everything that I had been taught in lecture halls at my university suddenly came to life before my eyes in a real-world setting.”

“We are extremely grateful to our sponsors for their generous hospitality and for helping to make the students’ trip a memorable one,” Larigakis said. “Their selfless contributions to this very important AHI Foundation program are invaluable.”

About Our Participants

Alexandra Choate is a senior at Queens University of Charlotte pursuing a Political Science undergraduate degree.

Vasili Ioannidis is a junior in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts at the University of Michigan majoring in Economics with a minor in Modern Greek Language and Culture.

George P. Limperis is a sophomore who begins his studies in Business at the Hult International Business School, in the United Kingdom this fall.

Emily Pandis is a graduate of The Ohio State University, triple majored in International Relations and Diplomacy, Islamic Studies and Modern Greek with a minor in History.

Apostolos Siopsis is a sophomore at the George Washington University where he was awarded the Tuition Exchange Scholarship offered to only four applicants per year.

Basiliki Speros, a 2018-2019 EOK Hellenic Women’s Scholarship Recipient, is BA-MA candidate in International Relations and Business at New York University.

Demosthenes Theofanopoulos is a junior at Fordham University studying Classical Civilization and minoring in Orthodox Christianity.

John Tsaousis is a junior pursuing a Civil and Infrastructure Engineering degree at George Mason University.

Konstantinos Tsarouchis is a junior at American University pursing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science with a concentration in Political Theory.

Sophia Yphantides is a sophomore at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service where she plans to major in International Politics with a concentration in International Law, Institutions, and Ethics.