By Maddy Constantine.
In his first ever live stream conference to the Australian people last Tuesday, Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, addressed the urgent need for the emergence of a stronger Greece.
The conference was hosted by The Hellenic Initiative’s Australia branch, an organization dedicated to mobilizing the Greek diaspora around the globe. Moderated by Andrew N Liveris AO, Global Chairman of The Hellenic Initiative, this event gave any member of the public the chance to gain some insight into the role the Greek diaspora in Australia might play in shaping the Greece of the future.
This event provided a fantastic opportunity for Mitsotakis to formally introduce himself to the Greek-Australian community since taking office in July of 2019. Speaking directly to participants, it became evident that this is a leader who firmly believes he is not only responsible for the citizens of Greece, but also for the wellbeing of the Greek community around the world.
Mitsotakis’s eloquence was not lost on the participants of the call as he conversed with Mr. Liveris in fluent English. To a young member of the Greek-Australian community such as myself, this was a refreshing change compared to official Greek events I have attended in the past spoken in Greek, which can be harder to understand and relate to.
It is clear that in Mitsotakis we have a leader who understands that for Greece to succeed, all members of the Greek diaspora, young and old, need to feel closer to its shores, despite the physical distance.
With that comes perhaps Mr. Mitsotakis’s greatest challenge; to re-introduce Greece to the world as a hub of modernity and vibrancy, without resting on the laurels of the past.
‘2021 will be a really important year for Greece,’ says Mitsotakis. 200 years has passed since Greece declared independence in 1821 and now it is the Prime Minister’s view that his country can celebrate the fact that is the most dynamic and ‘strongest’ economy in the Balkans.
The celebrations however come at an incredibly challenging point in European history, and Greece could not be more central to this. Antagonizing forces in the East continue to threaten to destabilize the peace of the region. Ironically, Greece finds itself once again acting as the defender of freedom and democracy against the Turkish, as it did in 1821. This time however, the Greek government is adamant in using diplomacy to achieve peace as opposed to military force.
This of course, is where we the members of the Greek diaspora come in. Central to his foreign policy is the forging and strengthening of international alliances with countries that share the values of liberal democracy, such as Australia. By appealing to our own leaders to stand with Greece on the international stage, we can make the case for our spiritual homeland domestically.
Supporting Greece politically is one thing, but the best way we as a diaspora can strengthen Greece is by investing in it. At the heart of Mitsotakis’s plan for a Greek revival is making the country incredibly appealing to foreign investors.
‘There is no reason Greece cannot be the digital hub of Europe,’ says Mitsotakis. ‘We have earned the right to be more confident’.
Early signs of a digital revolution in Greece have indeed emerged in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. A national rollout of 5G technology and the recent announcement of Microsoft’s intention to establish a ‘datacenter’ in Greece is only just the beginning, promises Mitsotakis.
‘We can use this pandemic to enable dramatic, positive, economic and social change in Greece,’ says Mitsotakis. The shift to a new virtual reality born out of necessity has indeed allowed us to transcend physical borders, and perhaps become more in touch as a diaspora with the homeland.
Most promising of all that was discussed in the call was Mitsotakis’s pledge to us that he would commit to breaking down traditional barriers to investment in Greece. This includes but is not limited to challenging bureaucratic systems in Greek banks and land council offices, allowing Greek citizens in Australia to vote in upcoming Greek elections, the roll-out of property packages for those wishing to buy property in Greece and also the installation of elected members of the diaspora in the halls of Greek Parliament.
These developments symbolize a new era in the relationship Greece has with its large diaspora worldwide. One of bold changes, where we actually may have the opportunity to have a more concrete say in what goes on in the country we love so much.
It is in partnership with Greece that we as a diaspora work hard, as we always have, to make sure that in the words of Mr. Liveris Greece does not become the ‘greatest story never told.’