Greek Foreign Minister to diaspora: ‘By voting you show your interest in Greece’

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By Kostas Mastorakis.

Greek Foreign Minister, Nikos Dendias, spoke openly to Greek Australians about Turkey and the importance of the diaspora to Greece at The Hellenic Initiative Australia‘s 5th Digital Conversation Series live webinar on Thursday night.

The digital event was moderated by Associate Professor Nicholas Doumanis from the University of New South Wales (UNSW), and was also attended by Greece’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Andreas Katsaniotis, and the Secretary General for Greeks Abroad, John Chrysoulakis.

The Minister discussed current topics of interest for Greece including relations with Turkey, which he paralleled with those between Australia and China; the role of the diaspora in maintaining connections between Greece and Australia; as well as the participation of expatriates in the upcoming elections in Greece.

The Foreign Minister also confirmed he will be visiting Australia in spring (Autumn for the northern hemisphere) this year.

Greece’s relations with Turkey:

During the event, Dendias first touched on the current issues facing Greece with regards to its NATO ally and neighbour, Turkey.

“Unfortunately, I cannot enlighten you about the intentions of the other side of the Aegean,” Dendias said.

“We would like Turkey to be as close as possible to Europe and become a member of the European Union but instead, we see a Neo-Ottoman agenda raised as a front by its leadership, which not only promotes the “Blue Homeland” narrative unsupported by international law of the sea, but maintains the “casus belli” against Greece where we want to exercise our inalienable right to increase… our territorial waters to 12 nautical miles.

“We want Turkey to abide by the rules of good neighbourliness and open channels of communication, but they must also want it…”

‘The Greek diaspora can make a difference’

Regarding the Greek diaspora in Australia and their role in maintaining relations between Greece and Australia, the Foreign Minister said that “the Greek diaspora can make a difference.”

“You are not only advocates of our demands but also our ambassadors of Greece in the countries you live in,” he said.

“You, Australia’s Greek diaspora, can let the public opinion and the decision-makers there understand that not only do we have the same problems with Turkey that the Australians have with China in the South China Sea, but also that we have a common argument based on international law.

“You are not only our advocates there. You are our image. You are the tangible proof of what a Greek is and what they can achieve,” he said.

“Greece was slandered in the previous 10 years. We need to start rebuilding our image. We have a country with a stable democracy and a growing economy. We respect international law and your role in this is crucial.”

Greek Australian investment in Greece

The Greek Foreign Minister then spoke about the role of the expatriates in the upcoming elections in Greece.

“The importance of the diaspora for the national centre is evident. It is now proven by the fact that those who wish to do so are given the right to reconnect with the motherland by having an active role in its political processes through participation in elections and the nomination of representatives,” Dendias said.

“However, we do not stop here. We move on to everyday life. We introduce, with the help of technology, ways that will bring expatriates closer to their roots by eliminating the bureaucracy that characterised their requests that had to be submitted to consulates and embassies, with time-consuming processes…

“In the context of reconnection, it is not only the frequent references of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis to Hellenism abroad, but also my planned trip to Australia in spring.”

Dendias is set to visit Australia next year.

The question about the facilitation of investments from expatriates in the homeland could not be missed, with the Foreign Minister returning to the “monster” of bureaucracy.

“In order for something like this to be implemented, we must defeat the powerful and extremely resistant ‘monster’ of bureaucracy. In this way we will help to invest the capital of expatriates back to the homeland, as well as Australians in general. Yes, we are a small market of 11 million people but we can be the gateway to the EU for Australian funds…”

‘By voting you show your are interested in Greece’

When asked for about the participation of the Hellenic diaspora in the next elections, Dendias said:

“I believe that the expatriates will vote for the successful government of Kyriakos Mitsotakis and New Democracy, but the important thing is another: By voting you show that you are interested in Greece!

“The diaspora make us strong and proud. Often, after all, there were more Greeks who lived outside the borders of the Greek state than inside and now the feeling of justice is being restored…”

Greek expatriates can vote in the upcoming elections.

As for the possible return of expatriates to the metropolitan center, Dendias emphasised:

“We are trying to facilitate the return of all Greeks to their motherland. We are working to create living conditions so that those who were displaced during the years of crisis that led to the most recent wave of immigration, can recover. Our human capital is infinitely more important than our financial capital and is necessary for our future…”

Preserving the Greek culture:

Regarding the protection and preservation of the Greek language, the Foreign Minister noted:

“Language is our soul. It is the proof of our continuity for 4000 years. Full of victories, defeats, successes and failures. We have done our best to create digital platforms to help those who want to indulge in it.

“It is not an easy language, but how can one condense 4,000 years of history? We are not a rich country. We are, however, rich in emotions and culture and we are trying with great passion and effort to cover the lack of resources…”

In conclusion, he sent a message to the Greek community in Australia:

“I am looking forward to coming to Australia to see for myself the achievements of our diaspora there. Greece is not a bridge between three continents. We are a bridge, thanks to you, to the Pacific.

“We don’t forget you. Never forget that.”

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