CARDIN, HASTINGS AMONG FIRST TO MEET NEW GREEK PRIME MINISTER
Greek visit focuses on climate change, international cooperation, minority rights
The Co-Chairmen visited Athens for the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Fall Meeting. On the sidelines of the meeting, they met Sunday with Prime Minister George Papandreou, who also serves as the Greek Foreign Minister. The U.S. delegation, which also included Senator George V. Voinovich (R-OH) and Congressman Mike McIntyre (D-NC), are among the first foreign officials to visit the Papandreou government in Athens since the Oct. 4 election. The delegation met on Saturday with Greek Deputy Prime Minister Theodoros Pangalos.
"We had a very positive meeting with Prime Minister Papandreou. He was generous with his time and thoughts. The new government has a real chance to take advantage of this moment in history to have a lasting legacy resolving ongoing discussions between the governments in Athens and Skopje, and improving Greece’s relationship with Cyprus and Turkey," said Sen. Cardin. "I look forward to the great friendship between the U.S. and Greece growing stronger under this new administration. The government's early outreach to Turkey is a welcome sign that the Prime Minister is serious about regional cooperation. Considering Greece's role as the 2009 Chair-in-Office of the OSCE, I pledge the full cooperation of the U.S. to help the December ministerial meeting meet reasonable expectations."
"Greece has a critical role to play in the Mediterranean region. I look forward to continued cooperation between the U.S. and our Greek friends to help migrants and all people throughout this global intersection," Congressman Hastings said. "I encourage the Greek government to promote and defend human rights of all people--domestic and foreign-- to ensure minorities are treated fairly, refugees are taken care of properly and governments across the Mediterranean work together to protect all lawful flows of people."
"Greece can and should play a constructive role in increasing regional stability through resolving the name issue with the Republic of Macedonia, and ensuring that country's membership in the NATO alliance," Senator Voinovich said. "I look forward to the governments in Athens and Skopje reaching a compromise that satisfies both nations."
Friday, Senator Cardin, as vice president of the Parliamentary Assembly, delivered a keynote address on climate change, before the 200 gathered parliamentarians from 49 OSCE participating States. (LINK) Congressman Hastings, a past president of the Assembly and now its Special Representative on Mediterranean Affairs, led a discussion Sunday on how the OSCE could more effectively involve Mediterranean Partner countries. (LINK)
The delegation also received a high level briefing from U.S. Ambassador to Greece Daniel V. Speckhard and visited a Roma village to see firsthand the conditions in which members of this minority group live in Greece. After discussing the need for greater access to education and health care with local Roma residents and touring a few makeshift homes, the delegation donated needed clothing and health supplies to about 40 children and their families.
Photos are available at www.flickr.com/photos/helsinkicommission.