Australia is home to one of the largest Greek communities in the world, and yet Greek Australians often complain that they are the ‘forgotten’ Greeks.

Deputy Foreign Minister for Greeks Abroad Antonis Diamataris reassures the diaspora that this is not the case, when he answered questions posed to him by Neos Kosmos ahead of his visit Down Under this week.

What is the purpose of your visit to Australia? 
I am visiting Australia for discourse with our Greek brothers: to hear about their daily lives and matters which concern them; to convey the love of their homeland and interest of the Greek state. I want to give assurances that, despite the huge distance that separates us, Greece is always near them, will consider them and love them.

There is a widely held view that you are coming to pave the way for a visit by Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in the first quarter of 2020. Is that true? 

Australia and Greek expats are always among the priorities of the Prime Minister. Kyriakos Mitsotakis hopes to visit Australia as soon as his program allows and the announcement of a relevant date is pending.

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As far as the vote for expatriates (from their place of residence) is concerned, a first step was made, but there is widespread disappointment among Greeks abroad regarding the ‘compromises’ which have resulted in the exclusion of many from the (voting) process. Are you satisfied with the bill that was passed? 

It is a very sensitive issues that affects me personally as an expat. I share the same concerns and worries as other expats. However we need to examine the matter realistically. We can’t decide on this alone. Common ground had to be found between the government and opposition parties. There needed to be a fusion of opposing viewpoints. The fact that an agreement was reached constitutes a significant victory. A solution was found to a decades-long conundrum. There was no relevant projection (for this) until now. Just promises and wishes. Now, for the first time, the Prime Minister has risen to the occasion. We must acknowledge this.

In Australia, especially Melbourne and Sydney, there is a huge problem with the operation of Consulates. Personnel is sparse and expats need to wait for months – in some cases over a year – to be served. As the relevant authority, what do you plan to do for their proper operation?

Greeks abroad are often burdened at Consulates because they face complex bureaucracy. Many of the consular processes that are being followed are outdated. We are creating working groups with the Internal Affairs Ministry and the Ministry of Administrative Reform and Electronic Governance in order to find solutions for the simplification of these processes.

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Which are the greatest challenges faced by Greeks abroad and what can they expect from the national centre? 

The preservation of the Greek language and religion, culture and our traditions are ingredients of the Greek identity and connect expatriates to their homeland. Without knowledge of the Greek language, there is the danger that the diaspora may lose its roots. The national centre is obliged to reinforce ties with expats, to support activities with all its resources and ensure the best possible conditions for the achievement of our national goals.

Greek Australians have the feeling that they don’t enjoy the same recognition from Greece as Greeks of Europe, the United States and Canada. Is this a misleading impression? 

I think it is a misleading impression. Hellenism is unified and whole. The Greek state encompasses expatriates everywhere with the same love and care. It doesn’t make distinctions.