A rich platform of bilateral agreements and cultural programs formed the basis of the meeting between the President of the Greek Community of Melbourne (GCM), Bill Papastergiadis OAM, and Greece’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Giorgos Kotsiras.
The Deputy Foreign Minister also pledged to visit Australia in the very near future.
In one of his first meetings with representatives of the diaspora after being sworn in as a Minister, Mr Papastergiadis raised a number of issues with Mr Kotsiras as formulated by the GCM Board. Also in attendance was the General Secretary for Greeks Abroad, John Chrysoulakis.
Key issues that were discussed included the finalisation of bilateral agreements, cultural and sporting exchanges, as well as educational programs for students and the teaching cohort.
In particular, reference was made for the need for a bilateral Health Agreement. It was noted that this Agreement will need significant pressure from Greece given the current reticence of the Australian Government on this matter. On the issue of Agreements, it was emphasised that the Double Taxation Agreement should also be finalised in the next few months.
Mr Papastergiadis noted that the recent University agreement facilitated by the GCM at the recent Hellenic Medical Conference hosted at the Greek Centre in Melbourne has produced great results. At the conference, the Universities of Melbourne and Athens and Patras executed an agreement for the facilitation of medical student and professorial exchanges of the medical faculties.
In a conversation with the Dean of the Medical Faculty of Patras University, Professor Antoniadis confirmed that medical students from Australia would soon be attending Patras Medical School. Mr Papastergiadis then suggested that this Agreement now needs to be expanded into other faculties particularly the Humanities Faculties.
Mr Chrysoulakis noted how the current student cultural tour of Greece funded by the GCM and the Greek Foreign Ministry was a resounding success, and it was agreed that this would be pursued into the years to come.
Other issues discussed was the need for more staff at the consulate, a continuation of art exchanges between the two countries with a particular focus on residencies for artists.
On the issue of the vote for the diaspora, the abolition of the current restrictions was raised, as well as the need for the postal vote given the distances in the diaspora for citizens to vote at the consulate offices.
It was agreed that these matters would be confirmed by the GCM Board in writing and would be followed up.