July 9, 2021 — Athens, Greece
An American Jewish Committee (AJC) delegation, led by CEO David Harris, has concluded a four-day visit to Greece. The group met with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and other senior government officials, and Harris addressed a major policy conference. Leaders of the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece, a longtime AJC partner organization, joined in many of the meetings.
“The constant strengthening of Greece’s relations with the United States and with Israel in many spheres is clearly evident,” said AJC CEO David Harris, who has visited Greece dozens of times over the past nearly 40 years. In April, he wrote an oped in The Times of Israel, “The Remarkable Trajectory of Greece-Israel Ties.”
In the 70-minute meeting with Prime Minister Mitsotakis, several current issues were discussed, including Greece-U.S. and Greece-Israel relations; recent developments in the Eastern Mediterranean region; the tripartite cooperation among Greece, Cyprus, and Israel; and rising antisemitism worldwide. Prime Minister Mitsotakis addressed the AJC Global Forum in 2020, as well as in 2018.
The AJC group also met with Defense Minister Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos, and Education and Religious Affairs Minister Niki Kerameus, who was accompanied by Secretary General for Religious Affairs George Kalantzis.
Ambassador Christodoulos Lazaris, current chair of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), updated the AJC group on his efforts to prioritize Holocaust education during Greece’s presidency of the organization. AJC has been encouraging governments across Europe and around the world to endorse the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism. To date, more than 30 governments, including the United States, have done so.
Antonis Samaras, who served as Prime Minister of Greece from 2012 to 2015, met with the AJC delegation for a three-hour dinner. In October 2013, Samaras told an AJC gathering in New York that the neo-Nazi, antisemitic Golden Dawn Party must be eliminated, and he took decisive action to do so.
Samaras was foreign minister in the government of Prime Minister Konstantinos Mitsotakis, father of the current prime minister. The elder Mitsotakis, together with Samaras, established full diplomatic relations with Israel in 1990, after previous governments had refused to do so.
The AJC delegation also met with U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt and Member of European Parliament Anna Michelle Asimakopolou, and spoke with Israeli Ambassador Yossi Amrani.
Dimitris Avramopoulos, who has served as Greece’s Minister for Foreign Affairs (2012-13); Minister for National Defense (2013-14); and as the European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship (2014-19), met with the AJC group. He has previously addressed AJC gatherings in New York, Washington, D.C., and Brussels.
Harris addressed The Economist magazine’s 25th Roundtable with the Government of Greece, in a discussion entitled, “Effective Diplomacy in Unstable Times” with Nikos Dendias, Greece’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Averof Neofytou, President of the Democratic Rally Party of Cyprus, joining him for the conversation.
During the conversation, Dendias, who was Minister for Public Order in the Samaras government, praised Harris: “I will never forget in my life David Harris’s crucial support in my effort against the Golden Dawn Party in 2013-2014. I will always remember to thank him in public for his support.”
At a later plenary session of the Roundtable, U.S. Ambassador Pyatt lauded AJC, saying: “I’d like to acknowledge the foundational role of AJC CEO David Harris, who is here with us, in envisioning and planting the seeds of what is today the strategic triangle of Cyprus, Greece, and Israel, which is strongly supported by the United States.”
The AJC delegation also met privately at the Roundtable with Prime Minister of North Macedonia Zoran Zaev, Prime Minister of Kosovo Albin Kurti; European Commission Vice President Margiritis Schinas; Cypriot Minister of Energy Natasa Pilides; and Cypriot Minister of Defense Charalambos Petrides.