Greece’s Alternate Interior Minister: ‘We stand by the diaspora in Australia’

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By Ilias Karagiannis.

Ahead of his upcoming first visit to Australia, Greece’s Alternate Interior Minister Theodoros Livanios gave an exclusive interview to The Greek Herald.

Mr Livanios will be in Melbourne, Victoria from March 21 to 23, and in Sydney, NSW from March 24 to 27, to represent the government in the celebration of Greek Independence Day on March 25.

In his interview, the Alternate Interior Minister spoke about his visit as well as the participation of Australia’s Greek diaspora in the European elections on June 9. When asked about the low participation of Greeks in Australia in the national elections of 2023 (only 123 people voted), Mr Livanios said he was optimistic this number would be higher for the European elections due to the recent introduction of postal voting.

“The good news is that, as of Saturday, March 9, more than 140 Greeks living in Australia have already registered on the platform epistoliki.ypes.gov.gr to vote in the upcoming European elections in June,” Mr Livanios said.

“So far, this number has already exceeded the 123 people who voted in the national elections of 2023. And every passing day, it grows. This, combined with the convenience provided by postal voting, makes us optimistic for even greater participation.

“Postal voting, which is being implemented for the first time in Greece, is an institutional tool that the state provides to voters, especially those residing outside of Greece, to give them the opportunity to vote in the European elections from their homes, without long journeys, as we saw last summer, and with greater flexibility.

“This time, one won’t need to travel to Melbourne or Sydney. They will be able to register online on the postal voting platform, no later than April 29, at midnight Greece time, either by yourself or by visiting the Greek consulate.

“What does one need to register? No documentation is required anymore, as we have already abolished them since July 2023, except for a valid identification document. Even if someone doesn’t have a Greek Tax Identification Number or a valid Greek passport, they can visit the Embassy or Consulate and register by presenting their Australian passport or identity card or driver’s license.

“However, it must be clarified that in order to cast their vote, if someone who has registered on the platform doesn’t have a Greek Tax Identification Number, they will need to have a Greek document, such as the one they would show if they appeared at a polling station in Greece on election day, that is, an identity card or passport or driver’s license, whether it is valid or not.”

Livanios
Mr Livanios is optimistic about the participation in the European elections on June 9 in Australia. Photo: Supplied.

‘To strengthen Greece’s voice’

One of challenges highlighted by the government is for Greeks abroad to be informed about their right to vote through postal voting. We asked the Alternate Interior Minister if this is the biggest challenge for the government.

“The New Democracy government is the first to recognise the challenges faced by Greeks abroad in their efforts to participate in our country’s elections,” Mr Livanios said.

“From 2019 until today, we have been working systematically to eliminate them and we have acted on what we committed to regarding facilitating the exercise of electoral rights. Initially, in 2019, we introduced the possibility for Greeks outside Greece to vote, with specific conditions, in order to achieve the necessary majority for the law’s passage.

“In July 2023, we took the next step, removing the requirements of previous residence and submission of a tax return in Greece to facilitate even more Greeks to participate in elections. And two months ago, we legislated for postal voting for the European elections and referendums.

“And from the very next day, we started its implementation. So that one doesn’t even need to travel on a specific day, to a specific place to vote. I consider this to be the biggest challenge for Greeks abroad, as the recent election experience showed.

“Now, what remains is for as many people as possible to be informed about this possibility, to register on the platform, and especially for those who live so far from Greece, like the Greeks in Australia, to immediately mail back the postal vote, without delay, in order for it to be received in time.

“That is, it should have reached Greece no later than the eve of the European elections, at 5 pm on June 8, Greek time. Of course, there will also be a relevant campaign, to make the electoral process known and clear to everyone.

“At the same time, both the Minister of Interior Niki Kerameus and I, with our visits to cities where the heart of Hellenism beats all over the world, want to spread this message. We call on all of you to vote in the June European elections, to shape together the present and future of our country, to make Greece’s voice stronger in Europe and the world.”

Livanios
It will be Mr Livanios’ first-time visiting Australia. Photo: Supplied.

‘We want your opinion on the future of the country’

As Mr Livanios will represent the Greek government at the 25th of March celebrations in Australia, we asked him if this was his first visit to the country.

“It is indeed my first time visiting Australia, and I don’t hide from you that I find it moving, especially for such a purpose, which is not limited to the presentation of the postal voting platform. The reasoning behind this initiative is even more interesting. The establishment of postal voting is a move that shows all Greeks living far from Greece… that Greece is beside them. 

“Greece moves, strives, works to bring the diaspora closer. And, above all, to listen to them. It wants their opinion, their vote, their choice for the future of the country. This is the message I want to convey on this trip, to as many Greeks as possible.”

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