Greek Community of Melbourne (GCM) President Bill Papastergiadis had the opportunity to present the work and the progress of the Greek-Australian diaspora, in a meeting held last Friday afternoon with the Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in Athens, as part of a series of meetings with government officials during his short stay in Greece.
“I am very pleased with the outcome. The prime minister, who was already briefed on the progress of the Greek Community in Melbourne, greeted me very warmly and really took the time to listen and understand the history of our ‘παροικία’ as well as the important issues concerning the diaspora,” Mr Papastergiadis said, adding that the 40-minute meeting with Mr Mitsotakis focused on the history and the key activities of the Greek Centre in Melbourne (such as the Greek Lonsdale Street Festival that welcomes more than 120,000 visitors in the heart of Melbourne every year), as well as the construction of the 15-storey new community building in central Melbourne, which houses the Greek Centre for Contemporary Culture, the largest of the Greek diaspora, that hosts lectures, seminars, exhibitions, modern Greek and ancient Greek language courses.
“Us Greeks can learn a lot from the Greeks in Australia. We feel proud for everything you have achieved and it is our honour to have you here,” Prime Minister Mitsotakis said, while also expressing his admiration for the achievements of Greek Australians. He revealed his intention to push hard in Greek parliament for the right of vote for the Greeks abroad.
Mr Papastergiadis welcomed the proposal, noting that the diaspora is not particularly interested in the form or the voting process as this is ultimately a matter of the Greek parliament.
“I told the Prime Minister that the best way to develop economic, cultural and social ties between Greece and Greek Australians is when each party is properly valued. Being granted the right to vote and knowing that our vote is valued in Greece, will have a profound impact on how the diaspora perceives their homeland and how Greece also perceives the diaspora. In my humble opinion, that’s the cracks of how we can build better relationships and strengthen those ties,” Mr Papastergiadis said.
During the meeting, the two men, who were also joined by Greek Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister for Expatriate Greeks Antonis Diamataris and Minister of Internal Affairs Takis Theodorikakos, also discussed the tourist working visa agreement between Greece and Australia whilst the President of the Greek Community of Melbourne also proposed hosting an EOT office and an Enterprise Greece office in Melbourne.
“We are prepared to offer space free of charge to the Greek Government for those offices to be set up in our Greek centre which would give people the opportunity to become involved and open the channels of communication between the two countries,” revealed Mr Papastergiadis who proceeded to extend a formal invitation to Mr Mitsotakis and his two ministers to visit Australia in the near future.
“We realise the power of Greek Australian and their ability to influence and we are keen to work together in the future,” said the Prime Minister.
“I felt really proud to be able to represent Greek Australians and happy that the Greek government seemed so keen to listen and invest time on us. Exciting times ahead,” concluded Mr Papastergiadis, who also met with the President of the Hellenic Republic Prokopis Pavlopoulos, earlier on Friday.