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Aspasia Bartell and Ioannis VrailasUpdate from 2011 Ernest R. Stiefel Graduate Study Award and PSA-PBK Trustee Aspasia Bartell

This was an exciting summer! After finals I headed to Washington, D.C., where I began a student foreign-policy trip with the American Hellenic Institute Foundation, a Greek-American D.C.–based think tank. Each year AHIF selects 8 to 12 students nationwide to attend the trip, with the purpose of educating Greek-American college students on current foreign policy issues affecting the Greek-American community. In D.C., we met with officials at the Greek and Cypriot embassies. This included two meetings with Greek Deputy Chief of Mission Ioannis Vrailas, now an E.U. ambassador to the U.N. (pictured above). We also attended a briefing at the State Department.

Lefkosia/Nicosia sign

Our next stop was Nicosia (known by locals as Lefkosia), which is the capital and economically booming business center of Cyprus. Cyprus remains divided by a U.N. buffer zone, and Nicosia is the only remaining divided capital in the world. In Cyprus we met a number of politicians and diplomats. One of our most interesting meetings was with the mayor of Nicosia, Eleni Mavrou, who described what it is like to govern a divided city. She, like many Cypriots, looks forward to a resolution and reunification of the island.

Aspasia Bartell in Athens

Our next and final stop was in Athens (at right). During this leg of the trip, we saw the city during the worst economic crisis in modern Greek history. We arrived at our hotel by Syntagma Square on the day of the confidence vote for Prime Minister George Papandreou, and riots were breaking out before our eyes. In Athens, we met with diplomats, professors, Greek and Greek-American business leaders, and other officials. We were fortunate to meet with Karolos Papoulias, the president of Greece. President Papoulias utilized our visit as an opportunity to thank President Obama for his political help with the financial crisis. He ended our meeting with a powerful message that the Greek people pose an incredible amount of strength and ambition and they will emerge from this crisis.

Aspasia Bartell and Miranda Xafa

We also met with Miranda Xafa (pictured at left), alternate executive director of the board of the International Monetary Fund, who explained the economic crisis further in depth. She pointed out that Greece has taken out the largest loan in the history of humanity. She discussed how investments and exports will be key to moving forward and that Greece should take a thorough look at the size of its public sector.

One of the business leaders we met with was Dennys S. Plessas, vice president of business development initiatives for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics. He told us that Greece needs to isolate as well as focus on its comparative advantage to be moving forward. He says the country needs to concentrate on exports of certain products and expanding its education system.

Aspasia Bartell, Nick Larigakis, Andreas Kakouris

Pictured at right: Aspasia Bartell with Nick Larigakis (left), AHI president, and Andreas Kakouris (right), Minister Plenipotentiary, Director of the Office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and former Cypriot ambassador to the U.S.


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