The great absentee, or obsolete and unexploited?
The current economic crisis in Greece, certainly does not exclusively concern our compatriots within the borders. It concerns all Greeks, dispersed throughout the five continents. A huge potential, a second Greece, since according to official figures, there are nearly 9 million Diaspora Greeks in over 140 countries. A vast resource, which unfortunately remains unexploited.
This inability on behalf of the Greek State seems strange and raises questions for us Diaspora Greeks. It is surprising that both government officials, and the opposition, did not raise the question on “Where is the Diaspora?” to the Hellenic Parliament, during this critical juncture for our country.
On our part, we made several efforts towards this end, even through personal interventions, without any success whatsoever. In recent years and since 2009 in particular, when the “tip of the iceberg” appeared, we took action with a sole purpose to once more contribute to Greece. We submitted substantial proposals, which unfortunately did not receive the required attention. Suffice it to mention the submission of our proposal on Diaspora Bonds. This integrated proposal was received with enthusiasm (truth is we received praise and accolades), and while it was supposedly underway, we never found out why it was halted at the end.
It is known that among Greeks abroad, who constitute a powerful “reserve” for Greece, there are countless distinguished and leading figures in all areas; politics, entrepreneurship, science, economics, Art and Culture, and more. Over the past two years, their representatives – through collective bodies, or individually as private parties – expressed their intention and willingness to contribute to Greece’s development, given their influence to the international community, by transferring their precious know-how and experience. They were nonetheless ignored by the competent political leadership, which merely sufficed to selective contacts of certain “resonant” names, mainly from the Diaspora in America.
The meetings were presented in the Greek Press, but the recommendations and proposals submitted by the interested Diaspora Greeks were not taken into account by the previous government. Their message was clear; strengthen Greece’s image abroad. If you want our investments, change the legal framework, shrink the public sector and bureaucracy, improve the business climate to convince the global business community, follow a stable policy, implement low taxation, act with transparency and reliability…
It should be made clear that, despite the sentiment, Greek businesspeople abroad are not going to invest in the homeland. This may sound harsh, but the Diaspora, in general, will not forget the lack of transparency in the handling of their financial contribution for the relief of fire or quake victims, which amounted to many hundred thousand dollars. As a result, it did not willingly contribute, as expected, to “National Salvation Funds”.
In short, trust is lost. Of course this started many years ago. Those of us who are active in Diaspora affairs, for decades now, stressed the reluctance of the political leadership to assign a role to the Diaspora, even in the ‘90s, when the World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE) was established. The lack of, the very much talked about, National Strategy, resulted in the establishment of SAE (December 1995), which was absolutely dependent – from a political and economic aspect – on the National Center. It established an institution for… display purposes, since the Law on SAE did not assign any substantial responsibility to the institution.
The amendment of Law 3480/2006, rather than solve problems, referred to the context of provisions on the organization, establishment and function of SAE, in presidential decrees, allowing respective Foreign Ministers to provide their own “flexible” interpretation on it.
May we at last become aware, that worldwide Hellenism, and the expression of its forces, is not a matter of shifting government policy, but of a stable and constant National Strategy.
Also, it must be made understood, that neither the Diaspora, nor the Greek state, is in need of guidance from either end. To the contrary, both parts would benefit from coordination, joint action and synergy. It is time to get over the national “we and you” attitude and act through a collective Vision.
The volatile situation, national and international, but also the immediate danger of the cultural assimilation for the younger generations of Greeks abroad, make the development of a long-term National Strategy, mutual respect, mutual utilization, and coordination of Greeks, in and out of the national borders, a historical necessity.
Under this National Strategy, SAE could have developed into a functional, coordinating body of Hellenism, adapted to meet current conditions. Only then, will Hellenism outside the borders can indeed become the best “diplomat” to our Homeland abroad.
All this should have been done yesterday!
By SAE U.S.A. Region Coordinator, Theodore G. Spyropoulos