Foreign Affairs Committee Passage of Bill a Victory
Calls for House Passage, Senate Inclusion upon their Return in SeptemberWASHINGTON, DC — The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) applauds passage of a bill by the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs that included provisions on Cyprus, FYROM, and the Ecumenical Patriarchate in addition to an amendment that urges the Government of Turkey to end religious discrimination, cease all restrictions on gatherings for religious prayer and education, and return illegally confiscate church property. The bill titled, “Foreign Relations Authorization Act, FY2012,” passed 23 to 20 in the committee on July 20, 2011.
“We applaud the bill’s passage in committee, and we view it as a victory for the community,” said AHI President Nick Larigakis. “We thank House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen for seeing the bill through the committee, and we appreciate Congressman Gus Bilirakis’ hard work on the provisions pertaining to Cyprus, FYROM, and the Ecumenical Patriarchate. We call on the House to pass the bill when it reconvenes in September and furthermore urge the senate to include these provisions in its version of the bill.”
Summary of ProvisionsThe provisions pertaining to Cyprus, FYROM, and the Ecumenical Patriarchate are found under Title VIII of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, FY2012. A summary of these provisions as presented by Chairman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) are as follows:
Sec.806. Measures supporting the reunification of Cyprus“This section establishes that it shall be the policy of the United States to support measures aimed at reunification of Cyprus. It also calls on the President to consult with the Government of the Republic of Cyprus on the provision of U.S. assistance to Cyprus. Finally, this section modifies statutory reporting and requires the State Department to provide Congress with a detailed description of all assistance programs and activities that are funded by the U.S. to help the reunifications efforts.”
AHI’s Take: The provision addresses the concern stated by AHI in its testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee that “…aid has not been tied exclusively to joint Greek and Turkish Cypriot communal projects and we are gravely concerned that funds used for programs on Cyprus have been obligated without appropriate advanced consultation with the government of the Republic of Cyprus.” AHI welcomes this provision.
Sec.807. Limitation on assistance to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia“This section conditions the provision of United States assistance to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia upon that government’s willingness to engage in meaningful discussions with the government of Greece to resolve the ongoing dispute over what shall be its official name. This section also prohibits the use of U.S. funding for any activities which support any hostile activities or propaganda by either the FYROM government or private entities, including educational materials that promote inaccuracies regarding the history and geography of Greece and FYROM.”
AHI’s Take: AHI welcomes this provision as it addresses the concern AHI has raised in its testimony before the Committee, “We [AHI] strongly oppose the $23.3 million in aid as long as it is not tied in to FYROM’s commitment to negotiate in good faith with Greece to find a solution to the continuing unresolved issue between Greece and FYROM over the name of the latter.”
Sec.808. Statement of policy regarding the Ecumenical Patriarchate“This section states that the United States calls upon the Republic of Turkey to eliminate all forms of discrimination, particularly with regard to religion, and to immediately grant the Ecumenical Patriarchate appropriate recognition which will allow it to perform its essential church functions, such as: the right to ecclesiastic succession without interference, the ability to train clergy, and the opportunity to manage church finances and property.”
AHI’s Take: AHI welcomes this provision as it addresses the core issues affecting the Ecumenical Patriarchate as presented in AHI’s 2011 Policy Statements.
The American Hellenic Institute is a non-profit Greek American public policy center that works to strengthen relations between the United States and Greece and Cyprus, and within the Greek American community.