As soon as news of the cancellation of Prokopis Pavlopoulos’ visit to Australia broke, the Greek Australian social mediasphere caught fire – here are a few comments gathered from the Neos Kosmos Facebook page:
“He cancelled because he knows what they will do to him!”
“Good! Thank the heavens from above. The only trip suitable for Prokopis Pavlopoulos is to Hades.”
“Do not show your face here in Australia, TRAITORS are not welcomed.”
“Let him come,” another reader (?) wrote, “he will be egged,” to which another suggested that the eggs used should be bad, while another had a better proposition – instead of eggs, the president of the Hellenic democracy should be met with kicks and fists.
So far, there has been no official reaction from the Pan-Macedonian Association of Melbourne and Victoria (PMAMV), which had sent a message to the president, saying: “Mr Pavlopoulos you are unwanted; if you visit Melbourne, we, the Greek diaspora officials will not welcome you.”
It is unclear what makes the PMAMV, or any association or club, think that it represents ‘the Greek diaspora’ – a community which is vast, diverse, and rather elusive – but such arrogance is forgiven, due to the emotional impact that the deal between Greece and FYROM on the latter’s name has had on the organisations representing those among us who come from Macedonia.
But for the sake of argument, let’s agree, let’s say that indeed, the Greek diaspora officials would not welcome the Greek head of state. Would they egg him?
That’s highly unlikely. Would they condone kicks and fists and people shouting “traitor” at him? That’s also unlikely. In probability, this would mean that Prokopis Pavlopoulos would just be shunned and isolated, having to attend only events hosted by the Hellenic diplomatic mission, or the federal and state governments.
Most likely, other organisations would have a better – and most civilised – attitude towards him. The Greek Community of Melbourne, for instance, which is probably the biggest and most significant organisation of our community, has refrained from such heated rhetoric and has never said that they consider the president as ‘persona non grata’ in Australia.
In all probability, should he make the scheduled antipodean trip, the Greek president would not even notice that he’s being shunned by some hot-headed, emotional community leaders, some of whom have already gone to such lengths as to announce that they don’t recognise the Greek Government, and believe that Greece is under a dictatorship.
These hot-headed people may be right in associating the cancellation of the trip with the Macedonian issue – by all accounts, September will be a critical month; the parliament of FYROM will have probably ratified the deal, the country’s people will be called to decide whether to accept the name suggested, in exchange with a much-needed EU and NATO membership, and the Greek government will be bracing for a heated parliamentary debate to ratify the deal, facing a defection of the junior coalition partner and an opposition already capitalising on the wrath of nationalists. So yes, the Greek head of state is already facing a lot of headaches at home, to even notice any noise coming from overseas.
To presume that he’s afraid of the backlash coming from the Greek diaspora is really far-fetched, verging to comical. It’s irresponsible to respond to serious issues of diplomacy and international relations with the attitude of a spoiled child.
The president is an elected official. He represents the Hellenic Republic. He should be met with respect, particularly by people declaring themselves as community leaders. If they really want to represent any part of the community, any fragment of the diaspora, they should first listen to all the voices within the community, and use diplomacy, when they’re lobbying for any cause. Unless they’re ready to use this bellicose rhetoric and speak of ‘traitors’ and ‘sellouts’ when the government of their own country – that is Australia, in case anyone forgot – is called to officially recognise FYROM under the name suggested in the deal.