The noise about the vote of expatriate Greeks

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By Anastasios M. Tamis*

The first bill brought to the Greek Parliament (25.7.2023) by the government of Kyriakos Mitsotakis concerned the Vote of Expatriates (Law 4648). This is a revised version of the same proposal-bill that was finally voted in Parliament in 2019, but without being able to convince expatriate Hellenism. On the contrary, the expatriates justifiably discredited this restrained expression of care towards the Hellenic Diaspora by the government of Greece.

At the same time, the expatriates showed their disappointment with regard to the content and restrictions set by the first bill, such as, for example, only those expatriates who had lived permanently in Greece for at least two years in the last ten years had the right to vote. So, while they expected more than 300,000 expatriates to go to the polls, in the end fewer than 30,000 voted, of which the Greeks of the USA, Canada and OCEANIA did not even exceed 3,000 voters. The restrictive provisions of the law made the exercise of the right to vote almost impossible for expatriates of the new countries.

These restrictions of the law were modified by the Government when, on July 10, the Ministry of Interior consulted on the new bill, expanding the potential pool of voters to all expatriate Greek citizens registered in the electoral rolls.

The main objective of the Government and all the opposition parties that voted in favour of the bill was for the Greek metropolis to embrace the global Greek diaspora, i.e. expatriate Greeks not only of the first but also of the second and third generation, linking them inextricably with the political and social life of Greece.

One of the first and most essential steps to be taken for the interconnection of the Greek diaspora with Greece is its identification, i.e. the compilation of a list of all Greek expatriates, regardless of voting rights. With the demographic identification of expatriates, the Government believes that in this way the Greek diaspora can be transformed into a crucial factor of influence and exercise of soft power of the Greek state through cultural diplomacy.

The identification of the Hellenes residing in the diaspora is once again left to the Embassies and Greek Consulates, with the assistance of the mechanisms of new technology, even robotics! Splendid! In other words, once again, metropolitan Greece, in its effort to identify demographically the Greek Diaspora, i.e. to record all Greeks living in 190 countries of the world, entrusts the identification of the diaspora, that is the numerical and nominal registration of citizens of the Diaspora of Greek origin, to the official bodies of the Greek state.

But how are ambassadors and consuls and consular officers able to register and identify the Greeks of the Diaspora? What qualifications, methods and mechanisms do our diplomatic authorities have to undertake such a task? Have they been trained appropriately and adequately in statistical data methods, cross-tabulations of specific demographic data, do they know the social variables (language, religion, origin) that they will choose to verify their exact number?

During the last thirty years, dozens of books have appeared compiled by historians, demographers, statisticians, anthropologists, sociologists, polar scientists, referring to the identification of the Greek diaspora. These books record the presence, the immigrant experience, the social and community organisation, the identity of unions and community organisations, their demographic status. These books were published and cover almost all neighbourhoods of the world and provide abundant and sufficient information regarding the identification of expatriates at an intergenerational level.

And I ask simply without intending to personally offend any of our Excellencies diplomats. How many of these ambassadors and consuls and officials who staff embassies and consulates have read or have knowledge of the countries in which they are called to serve, before coming to assume their responsibilities? How many know the bibliography of the Greek diaspora? Who and how many, frankly, showed substantial and systematic interest in the Greeks of the Diaspora, the expatriate Greeks, so that even in 2023 they assign to them the responsibility of identifying the Hellenism of the Diaspora? How many diplomats and consular officers were interested in learning, studying, or acquiring knowledge and opinion about the data of Greeks in the countries of dispatch and responsibility?

Certainly, their opinion, their advice, their opinion is necessary and imperative. But that’s about it.

With the exception of a few of our diplomats abroad (I am in a position to know after 40 years of thorough field research throughout the Eastern Hemisphere), that the vast majority of our diplomats do not have direct contact and relationship with the diaspora. Besides, this may not even fall within their jurisdiction and responsibility. Their responsibility is essentially limited to the representation of Greece and the Greek State in their country of appointment, and not to Greeks residing in that country.

And most importantly, who do they consider “Greeks” and “Expatriates” in the Diaspora?  After the first generation of immigrants/settlers, with the percentage of inter-ethnic marriages in most countries of the world standing at 80% and 90% for Greeks of the second generation and 90% of the third generation, what “Greekness” do legislators talk about and what “Greekness” do they have in mind? There is no a specific “Greekness.” There are hundreds, maybe even thousands of “Greeknesses.” Greekness is not a measurable phenomenon, it is dynamic one. How do our technocrats and techno-politicians define it?

Dozens of historians and demographers, Greeks and foreigners, Greeks and philhellenes have referred to the demographics of expatriate Hellenism. Will we burn these books, the fruit of scientific research, mash them and go back into the unknown, even aiming at the colonisation of the Hellenism of the Diaspora?

*Professor Anastasios M. Tamis taught at Universities in Australia and abroad, was the creator and founding director of the Dardalis Archives of the Hellenic Diaspora and is currently the President of the Australian Institute of Macedonian Studies (AIMS).

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