Washington, D.C.- Following action by Reps. Carolyn B. Maloney (D, NY-14) and Gus Bilirakis (R, FL-9), co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus on Hellenic Issues, UMB Bank decided to discontinue a credit card it issued on behalf of the “United Macedonian Diaspora” featuring an image of the Star of Vergina. UMB Bank and its co-partner, CardPartner, Inc. stated that they will no longer permit flags, maps, or political symbols of any kind on the cards they issue.
Maloney, Bilirakis, and their colleagues in the Hellenic Caucus have long been concerned about efforts by the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and its diaspora to adopt symbols and images significant to Greece as part of a propaganda campaign.
“We are grateful that UMB Bank discontinued this credit card and stated that it will not issue similar cards in the future,” Maloney said. “I would also like to thank Visa for working with its credit card issuers to address our concerns. I urge the FYROM to cease using Greek symbols and images for propaganda purposes, and work with Greece to find a mutually acceptable name for itself.”
“This situation further underscores the seriousness of the FYROMʼs efforts to adopt symbols and images significant to Greece as part of a propaganda campaign,” said Bilirakis. “I am pleased and appreciative that UMB Bank, CardPartner, and Visa have addressed our concerns regarding the misuse of the Star of Vergina.”
A December 22, 2008 letter from Visa Inc. to Reps. Maloney and Bilirakis states:
“In short, the Star of Vergina will no longer appear on the card or the website promoting the card.”
AHEPA applauded the efforts of Hellenic Caucus Co-Chairs Carolyn Maloney and Gus M. Bilirakis.
“We commend the effective leadership of Hellenic Caucus Co-Chairs Maloney and Bilirakis that lead to a proper resolution of this issue,” said Supreme President Ike Gulas. “We thank Visa Inc. for working with Representatives Maloney and Bilirakis and for understanding the sensitivities of the issue to the Hellenic American community. We also appreciate the understanding of UMB Bank, and its co-brand partner, CardPartner, Inc.”
Gulas added, “This incident proves why we must remain vigilant. This is another example of how Greeceʼs cultural and historical identity is threatened by those who aspire to steal it and make it their own.”
In their letter, Congressmen Bilirakis and Maloney state:
Dear Mr. Saunders,
As co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus on Hellenic Issues and the congressional Representatives for large Greek-American constituencies, we are writing to express our strong concern about a Visa card portraying the Star of Vergina to be issued by UMB Bank on behalf of the “United Macedonian Diaspora.”
We have long been concerned about efforts by the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and its Diaspora to adopt symbols and images significant to Greece as part of a propaganda campaign. We believe that the “United Macedonian Diaspora’s” efforts regarding this credit card may be yet another example.
The Star of Vergina, unearthed in the 1970s during archaeological excavations in the Greek province of Macedonia, is copyrighted exclusively by Greece and protected by the Paris Convention for the Protection of State Emblems, and Names, Abbreviations and Emblems of International Intergovernmental Organizations under the WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization). All historical and archaeological evidence demonstrates that the ancient Macedonians were Greek. Macedonia is a Greek name that has designated the northern area of Greece for 2,500 years.
Therefore, we would strongly urge Visa, Inc., to reconsider issuing this credit card with the Star of Vergina on it, and to work with Greek-Americans to ensure that this type of situation does not occur in the future.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
Member of Congress
CAROLYN B. MALONEY
Member of Congress
GUS M. BILIRAKIS