The Greek government is committed to renewing its attempts to resolve the controversy over Greek identification cards that require citizens to state one’s religion, according to American Jewish leaders who met with Greek officials in Athens earlier this month.
Jewish groups as well as other minorities in Greece oppose the ID card policy, but an attempt by the government earlier this year to remove religion from the cards was rebuffed by the Greek Parliament.
“The government has committed itself to revisiting the issue,” David Harris, American Jewish Committee executive vice president, said in New York upon his return early from the trip.
But he said “there were no concrete solutions offered about how to overcome Parliament’s resistance.”
The delegation was unique in that it combined leaders from the American Jewish community — AJCommittee members — with leaders from the Greek American community — members of the United Hellenic American Congress.
The joint delegation traveled to Israel after Greece and visited Cyprus as well, before returning to America after the 14-day trip.
“They served as hosts of the trip to Greece and Cyprus and we served as hosts of the trip to Israel,” Harris said.
The delegation met in Athens with Greek Prime Minister Constantine Mitsotakis and Foreign Minister Michalis Papakostantinou, among other officials.
The joint delegation was asked by Papakostantinou to help the Greek government organize the 1 million Greeks who live in the former Soviet Union.
In order to drive his plea home, the Greek minister reminded his guests that Jews and Greeks have in common large diasporas.
The delegation was also received by the Central Jewish Board of Greece, an umbrella organization representing Greek Jewry.
The board’s president, Nissim Mais, stressed how important it was for Greek American and Jewish American organizations to join forces to help their respective countries.
Andrew Athens, head of the Hellenic Congress, said cooperation between the two groups started 25 years ago. Ever since, the two organizations meet regularly to exchange views and plan common strategy, he said.