It is encouraging that in a time of great challenges and changes for Greece, the Prime Minister, G. A. Papandreou, during his recent visit in New York, he addressed the Greek Diaspora, through a Press Conference for the Media of the Diaspora. The Prime Minister appeared well informed on issues concerning Hellenes abroad, especially in the U.S. and also the situation which the World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE) is now facing.
SAE, since the time of Andreas Papandreou, formed a vision for solidarity, synergy and coordination of the forces of Hellenism, to ensure the cultural identity of Greeks in the countries they reside, for continuous mutual support and benefit of Greeks living abroad and in Greece. It has been and still remains an excellent task, as far as intentions are concerned but a difficult one in practice, due to the differences and particularities of Hellenism by geographic region. Mainly, due to the changes which have taken place during the past two decades, in the composition, structure and culture of the Diaspora, as well as broader changes in all aspects of our lives.
During the 1980s the discussion for the establishment of SAE was based on serving the needs of immigrants, with regards to their goals and interests at the time and also the organizational structures of the Greek Diaspora. Nearly three decades later, these facts were reversed and the composition of the Diaspora has dramatically changed. The majority of the Greek Diaspora is made up of Greeks of second, third, fourth, fifth and even sixth generation, in the case of the USA, as it was correctly noted by Mr. Papandreou during his interview.
It is a common finding of all stakeholders, and also a common sense of the Greek Diaspora that SAE in its course, did not manage to achieve the desired level of penetration and influence on the basis of the Diaspora and did not manage to fulfill its roles, as described in the relevant law governing its operation. In this course it has suffered the consequences of constant changes in governments and Deputy Ministers of Foreign Affairs. All of SAE Regions have pointed out the weaknesses with regards to its functionality and have repeatedly submitted relevant proposals, as they did again after the last Parliamentary Elections in Greece.
George Papandreou, correctly noted that “the course of the World Council of Hellenes Abroad must be evaluated and examine the weaknesses of the institution, in order to truly achieve a multi-sided representation within it”. Furthermore, he acknowledged the differences and particularities of Hellenism by region and the fact that, especially in the US, the composition of the Greek Diaspora has changed.
I think we all agree that the development of a single strategy for Greeks abroad, on new bases and priorities, is now imperative, given the difficult situation that Greece is currently facing.
The initiation of a broader discussion on the issue is necessary as ever and there is no room for postponement. The force of Hellenes abroad, SAE, but also the countless Philhellenes world wide, valuable allies in the issue of Hellenism, unfortunately have not been put to use. That’s why we are making an appeal towards the Prime Minister, Mr. George Papandreou, as an initial step, to assign as soon as possible responsibility for Hellenes abroad (rather than immigrants) to the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Time is of the essence and every moment that passes is against all of us.
- Mr. T. G. Spyropoulos is the Coordinator of SAE USA Region and President of the Foundation “Plant your roots in Greece”