An Australian politician, former minister John Pandazopoulos was recently elected to the prestigious office of President of the World Hellenic Inter-Parliamentary Association (PADEE), the body that represents parliamentarians of Greek ancestry from around the globe.

Mr Pandazopoulos was elected to the honorary position during the 7th General Assembly of the Association in Athens last month to succeed Mr Dimitris Giannaros, an accomplished congressman from Connecticut USA, who served the Association for eight years.

The World Hellenic Inter-Parliamentary Association was formed in 1996 and in 2005 was incorporated in Greece to become a legal entity representing Greek parliamentarians around the globe.

It numbers 250 members and its main function is lobbying foreign governments on issues pertaining Greece, Cyprus and their respective communities abroad.

In defining the aims of PADEE John Pandazopoulos told Neos Kosmos that the prime aim of the Association is to become “a strong advocate” for the causes of Greece and Cyprus as well as for the promotion and maintenance of Greek language and culture across the four corners of the world.

On his return to Australia from Greece Mr Pandazopoulos said to NKEE: “I am honoured to have been trusted with the presidency of such a prestigious world body.”

He added, “We in the Association all aim individually, and collectively at creating a network that will enable the building of greater understanding of issues pertaining to Greece and Cyprus as well as, Greek language and culture maintenance and promotion.”

When asked by Neos Kosmos to prioritise the most immediate aims of the Association he underscored, “We are seeking to build better relations between the governments and the political parties we belong with Greece and Cyprus; and urge our non-Greek colleagues to visit Greece and Cyprus. We are convincing our non-Greek colleagues to become advocates for issues of interest to Greece and Cyprus.”

The newly elected president further added, “We are submitting to the presidium of the Greek Parliament activities proposals to be funded by the Greek parliament.”

At community level the Association has a number of suggestions, which will strengthen the relationships of Greek Australian politicians with the broader community that will maximise the results of community lobbying of Australian politicians. Top on the list of priorities are:

– Liaising with SAE (Council of Greeks Abroad) and other community organisations in promoting community and national issues.

– Create mechanisms that will facilitate the direct involvement of politicians of Greek ancestry in community organisations of strategic importance.

– Identify and groom Australians of Greek ancestry at different levels of politics (Federal, State and Local Government).

– Mentor people who abstain form community affairs and activities.

Mr Pandazopoulos enthusiastically highlighted that, “Over the years we have achieved a great deal.”

And added, “The changing needs off our community, however, necessitate a new approach to lobbying at the highest level by the best qualified Greek-Australians. We, politicians of Greek origin, can play a key role in facilitating this process”.

At the same Assembly in Greece, another Greek Australian politician, former NSW Nationals’ Leader, George Souris was elected treasurer of the Association.