Athens.- A nine-person AJC leadership delegation just concluded a two-day visit to Greece’s capital, on March 19.
The group, led by AJC President Stanley Bergman and CEO David Harris, was joined by leaders of the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece, a longstanding AJC partner organization, and Andrew Manatos, a prominent leader of the Greek-American community.
The mission included a two-hour dinner conversation with Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias.
The visit was also highlighted by discussions with Leader of the Opposition and President of New Democracy Kyriakos Mitsotakis; Israeli Ambassador to Greece Irit Ben-Abba; U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission in Athens and Charge d’Affaires Suzanne Lawrence and five of her embassy colleagues; Mayor of Athens Giorgos Kaminis; and former Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, a long-time friend of AJC.
Additionally, the group met with eight members of the Greece-Israel Parliamentary Friendship Group, which included parliamentarians from the Syriza, New Democacy, and Potami political parties.
Among the principal topics of discussion in the sessions were: (i) the deepening strategic triangle among Greece, Cyprus, and Israel; (ii) the migration crisis in Europe and its direct impact on Greece; (iii) Greece’s ongoing and deeply-rooted economic challenges; and (iv) Greek-U.S. biltateral ties.
“AJC first began to engage with Greece well over 30 years ago, when attitudes toward Israel in Athens were decidedly chilly,” said Harris. “In our meetings on this visit, we heard warm appreciation for the deepening and widening links between Greece and Israel from across the political spectrum—an historic transformation that AJC welcomes. Indeed, both Greek and Cypriot officials have referred to AJC’s role in conceptualizing and advocating for the links among Cyprus, Greece, and Israel as visionary.”
During the visit, the University of Piraeus and its Department of International and European Studies awarded Harris an honorary doctorate in a formal academic ceremony. The most recent recipient of the same honor was Minister of Foreign Affairs of Germany Frank Walter-Steinmeier, who received the distinction in October 2015.
“Friendships are tested in difficult times, and today is indeed a difficult time for Greece,” said Professor Aristotle Tziampiris, who presented the award and is the author of the first comprehensive book on Greek-Israeli relations, The Emergence of Israeli-Greek Cooperation. “David Harris has proven to be a true friend of Greece.”
Moreover, the mission featured a ceremony at which the Mayor of Athens joined AJC’s Mayors United Against Anti-Semitism campaign. The initiative, which is the most far-reaching statement against anti-Semitism in history, has now garnered signatures from over 300 U.S. and 60 European mayors, representing more than 130 million people worldwide.
“I chose to sign because it is my conviction that the first value in civilized society is human dignity,” said Kaminis at the signing ceremony. “The question of joining those mayors who have signed in support of this initiative is, centrally, a question of the protection of human dignity.”