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SAE President addresses the joint session of parliamentary committees Athens12.03.2009

World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE) President Stefanos P. Tamvakis addressed the joint session at the Greek Parliament of the committees on Public Administration, Public Order and Justice and Greeks Abroad held to discuss the interior ministry-sponsored draft law on the Greek expatriates’ right to vote in general elections in Greece from their country of residence.

“The World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE), its Board, the Coordinating Councils and Regional Conventions, displaying responsibility toward their role which is guaranteed by the Constitution and Law No. 3480/06, have focused on developments unfolding in the past two years concerning the passing of a law by the Greek Parliament on the expatriates’ right to vote in national elections in Greece from their country of residence.

The Constitution calls for the consensus of the majority of political forces in the country in order for such a law to be passed.

Our strategic goal is to create the preconditions that will allow the Greek expatriates to vote from their country of residence by ballot box and mail vote giving the opportunity to the members of the omogeneia to elect their own representatives in the Greek Parliament through the establishment of one or more electoral districts.

SAE being an institutional body of the omogeneia has been in favor of passing the relative law with the consent of the majority of the political forces in Greece. We have repeatedly called for consultations on the draft plans and the establishment of a committee comprising representatives of the government, the political parties and SAE to process a common position; however, this proposal never materialized.

According to my opinion, the Greek expatriate voting rights should not be the cause for political party confrontation considering that if materialized will institutionally upgrade our democracy, homeland and the Greeks abroad.

We believe that the highest moment will be when the Greek expatriates will finally elect their own representatives to the national parliament who will share and express the concerns of the omogeneia.

SAE, exercising its consultative and advisory role to the Greek State on Greek expatriate issues and following consultations between its board members and its elected bodies, has studied carefully the draft law on the right of the Greeks abroad to vote in national elections in Greece from their country of residence.

We have established that the present draft law has taken under consideration the positions of SAE as expressed in the decisions of its regional conventions, only in its explanatory report, putting off their implementation to a later stage.

We are not the ones who legislate, the parliament is the only legislative body of the Greek State and this is the reason we are addressing it.

SAE expresses the positions of the organized omogeneia and calls on the parliamentary political parties and the Parliament to decide.

We realize and feel that we live historical moments with the tabling of the present draft law. With a measure of historical responsibility toward a major and serious issue we declare the following:

A)We cannot overlook the fact that the draft law gives us the right to vote from our country of residence and for this reason we say that we accept the vote we are being given. Besides, voting from our country of residence by ballot box was an old demand of the omogeneia.

B)We request that the vote by mail become also an option, as it is clearly stated in the Constitution

C)We call on the political parties to guarantee that our declared positions on the establishment of expatriate electoral districts will materialize within a specific timeframe

D)Regardless of the fate of the draft law, we wish that the registration of the Greek expatriates in eligible voters’ lists should proceed immediately per city and country allowing us to have a complete picture of the current situation before presenting our positions on how the voting right will be exercised and the expatriates’ representation in Parliament

We do not sell out our goals and positions, we are firm on them and we will continue to demand their materialization.

We call on all the political parties to reach a decision on our proposals in a united, supportive and dynamic manner, as they have always done in the past.

Thank you”

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