The highly prestigious World Affairs Council, headquartered in Los Angeles, and whose membership consists of opinion leaders, prominent business people and academics, honored Mr. Vassilis Kaskarelis, Ambassador of Greece to the United States, with the “Diplomat of the Year” award at a special Diplomatic Dinner, held at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills on May 4, 2011.
Chairman of the World Affairs Council L.A. Board of Directors, Mr. Marvin Suomi, bestowed the Award upon the Ambassador in the presence of over 200 guests, stating that “This highly coveted, prestigious award honors the lifetime achievements of select members of the international diplomatic corps. Recipients have a history of service to their countries and accomplishment within the community of nations. This year's recipient is certainly worthy of the honor.”
Chosen among 180 of his peers serving in the United States, Ambassador Kaskarelis referred to the milestones of his long diplomatic career, including his posts as Ambassador to NATO and to the European Union, having witnessed historical events and global shifts. He spoke of the current global challenges and difficult choices that societies and countries must make, as members of a single global community. He placed particular emphasis on unfolding developments in the Middle East and North Africa region and the ensuing issue of illegal immigration, currently plaguing countries of Europe's southern flank, and which holds the potential of a major humanitarian crisis.
Ambassador Kaskarelis receiving the "Diplomat of the Year" Award in Los Angeles
The Greek Ambassador also talked about Greece's foreign policy issues, noting that Greece places particular value in good neighborly relations, having played a leading role in the consolidation of democracy and stability in the Balkan region. He emphasized the Prime Minister's relentless efforts to promote Greece's national interests, improve relations with Turkey, and support the political leadership of Cyprus in bringing about a fair and lasting solution to the occupation and division of the island. In the same context, Ambassador Kaskarelis emphasized Greece's great strides towards finding a mutually acceptable and viable solution to name issue of Greece's northern neighbor, FYROM, highlighting that country's continuous backtracking on achieving a solution.
Furthermore, he remarked on the longstanding friendship between Greece and the U.S. as trusted allies who have stood side by side in all major conflicts throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. He also remarked on Greece's important contribution to peacekeeping efforts and missions around the world, and more recently, in the evacuation of thousands of foreign citizens from Libya.
As to his tenure in Washington, the Ambassador highlighted his efforts to bring closer together the Greek American and Jewish American communities, particularly in light of the enhanced relationship between Greece and Israel. He took particular pride in initiating collaboration between Greek and American University presidents and deans, in what he believes will be a beneficial undertaking for both sides. He also pointed out that while he continues to make Greece's case to political figures and government officials, he places great emphasis in developing relationship with think-tanks and academic institutions, while at the same time advocating the importance of EU-U.S. relationship
Finally, Mr. Kaskarelis spoke of the current economic crisis in Greece, explaining its causes, and making clear the commitment of the Greek Government and the Greek people to turn a fiscal crisis into an opportunity. He set forth the significant and definitive measures and needed structural reforms undertaken by the Greek government in order to secure a bright future for Greece and its people. “Greece,” he said, “has huge untapped investment potential, from solar power to organic agriculture, tourism to high-tech infrastructure and shipping”. He also pointed out the exaggerated criticism and misconceptions propagated by the media and others, which called for Greece's and the Euro's doom, ignoring the crucial European Union political factor, let alone world market speculation.
The Ambassador concluded that “tremendous effort is expanded by all of us in the direction of securing a better future. I trust in the resilience, ingenuity, the entrepreneurship, the drive and the ambition of the Greek people, whose history has been long and full of turmoil. Yet, we persevere; we rise to the occasion, and are always the better for it”.
The evening concluded by a performance by accomplished singer, Ariana Savalas, daughter of legendary Greek-American actor Telly Savalas, introduced by Consul General of Greece in Los Angeles, Ms. Elisabeth Fotiadou.
Source: Greek Embassy in Washington, D.C.