Voting, language, digitisation: Greece’s Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs talks with diaspora

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The Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs for Diaspora Greeks, Konstantinos Vlasis, has addressed the Australian Hellenic community in a special online dialogue series tonight to discuss the digitisation of Consulates, voting rights, the Greek language and a ‘Day of the Geek Diaspora.’

The event, which was organised by Paul Nicolaou, Director, Business Leaders Council, Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and Christos Karras, the Consul General of Greece in Sydney, was attended digitally by over 100 people from across Australia.

This included, but is not limited to, Mr George Papacostas, the Ambassador of Greece in Australia, Ms Katia Gkikiza, the Trade Commissioner of Greece in Sydney, Ms Georgia Karasiotou, the Consul of Greece in Perth, Mr George Psiachas, the Consul of Greece in Adelaide, other prominent members of Greek community organisations, and distinguished guests.

Mr Bill Papastergiadis, the President of the Greek Community of Melbourne, was also in attendance and was given a special mention by Mr Vlasis for his active work in the Australian Hellenic community.

Diaspora voting:

One of the first topics Mr Vlasis touched on during the online talk was ‘diaspora voting,’ which he described as one of his top priorities.

“We consider Greeks abroad an important part of our nation and we want them to be politically aware… and to have a say by voting in national elections,” the Deputy Minister stressed.

READ MORE: Greece vows to abolish all voting restrictions for Greek diaspora.

Over 100 people attended the event. Photo: Argyro Vourdoumpa / The Greek Herald.

Mr Vlasis went on to say that although the Greek government faced push back from the Opposition when trying to abolish all voting restrictions of the Greek diaspora, he still hopes all eligible people will vote in the next national election.

As it stands, all Greek citizens living abroad have the right to vote if they can prove that they have lived continuously in Greece for two years in the last 35 years.

“I encourage you all to participate massively,” Mr Vlasis said.

Digitisation of Consulates in Australia:

The Deputy Minister continued his enlightening discussion by touching on his second priority as a Minister – that is, the digitisation of Greek Consulates globally.

Mr Vlasis stressed that in Australia, the digitisation of the Greek Consulates in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide and Perth is all underway with the help of a new digital platform called, myConsulLive.

This program offers diaspora a fast and easy way to communicate with officials and apply online for documents and certificates.

READ MORE: Greek Consulate in Perth begins digitisation as part of new Greek pilot program.

“People can get their birth certificates within a few weeks and not a few months, like it is now,” Mr Vlasis said. “We want to cut the red tape… in order to gain citizens’ trust.”

From there, Mr Vlasis went on to say that the Greek government is also working on enabling Consulate staff to physically visit citizens in need.

“[Our staff] will do outreach visits to collect passport applications in remote areas… this shows we remain close to our diaspora in practice,” he said.

The Greek Language and Diaspora Day:

The third and final priority which Mr Vlasis discussed with attendees was the Greek language and how the Greek government is implementing initiatives to maintain it.

Three initiatives described by the Deputy Minister were: (1) the Sta Ellinika app, which is a free digital platform for Greeks abroad to learn about the Greek language, mythology and culture from home, (2) ‘Nostos- The Return’ initiative, where Greek and Cypriot diaspora will visit Egypt to learn about the local expatriate communities, and (3) new university courses which can be studied in Greece in the English language.

Konstantinos Vlasis.

“Many young members of the diaspora would like to study in Greece but can’t because they can’t speak Greek,” Mr Vlasis explained.

“But we are more than willing to facilitate the young diaspora of your communities… get in touch with their Greek language.”

On this, Mr Vlasis went on to stress the importance of the youth and, more generally, the Greek diaspora in contributing to the success of Greece and that’s why the government wants to create a ‘Day of the Geek Diaspora’ and is asking people to make submissions on a date.

This day would recognise and honour, on an annual basis, the historical role and valuable contribution of the Greek diaspora in Greece, Mr Vlasis said.

“We have had a huge amount of submissions so far… Greeks can boast of having ingenious ideas once again,” he said.

Mr Vlasis, who was celebrating his birthday, concluded the talk by stressing to the Greek diaspora that “we want you back.” The over 100 participants then finished up the event by singing him happy birthday.

READ MORE: Greek government calls for public submissions on date for Greek Diaspora Day.

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