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Diaspora MPs hail Athens conference a success

The 8th General Assembly of the World Hellenic Inter-Parliamentary Association (WHIA) closed in Athens last week and was a huge success

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25 July 2011

The 8th General Assembly of the World Hellenic Inter-Parliamentary Association (WHIA) closed in Athens last week, with organisers announcing that the conference - sponsored by the Hellenic Parliament - had achieved much over its four days of meetings and workshops.

Victorian MP John Pandazopoulos, who was re-elected as president of the inter-parliamentary association, said that there had been many firsts for the conference, including: workshops with parliamentary committees from Greece and Cyprus; meetings with parliamentary friendship groups; and elections to the board of WHIA from Albania and Argentina.

"We engaged directly with 70 MPs of the Hellenic Parliament on issues of common concern to all of us. There is genuine desire to engage with the diaspora as politicians in Greece try to build a new economy and a new future. The resounding view from the general assembly is that now is the time to be a good Greek."

The conference adopted a motion calling on "the forces of Hellenism all over the world to unite in this time of need and demonstrate solidarity with Greece," and on Greeks abroad to "help and support Greece to improve its economy."

During the conference, WHIA members met with the presidents of the Parliamentary Friendship Groups of the representative countries, heard briefings on Cyprus' issues from Cypriot MPs, attended workshops with the Special Permanent Committee of the Hellenic Parliament on Greeks Abroad, the Standing Committee on National Defence and Foreign Affairs and the Standing Committee on Cultural and Educational Affairs.

The workshop sessions examined the role of the diaspora in assisting Greece across a wide range of policy areas, including: economic growth in Greece; Greece's foreign affairs agenda; and the promotion of the Greek language in diaspora communities. Resolutions agreed by the conference called on "the forces of Hellenism all over the world to unite for the enhancement, economic stability and the development of Greece - settlement of a just solution to the Cyprus issue - support for a European network of elected Greeks in local authorities abroad to form an international organisation."

Also for the Greek Parliament, "to recognise atrocities committed in the past on Greek villages both in and outside of Greece, and efforts for war reparations from Germany". The English edition of Kathimerini reported that one of the initiatives discussed at the conference was a proposal for an annual event in Greece to bring together leading businessmen and thinkers, similar to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Jorgo Chatzimarkakis, a German MP who has been very active in recent months in trying to ensure there is a balanced debate in Germany about the Greek crisis, said that the diaspora needs to help Greece make the most of what it has to offer. "Greece has a potential abroad that it does not realise sometimes," he said. "We don't see anyone in Greece trying to make something of this dynamic. We have never had so many Greek MPs show a genuine willingness to take part," said Chatzimarkakis. "This time, we had an open and honest discussion, which was something new. Despite the fact that we were open and systematic in our criticism," the MPs responded. "This suggests that Greek politicians are willing to accept a way of thinking that is beyond what they're used to. This is significant."

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