In the post-Covid era, Greeks abroad are re-engaging and looking – in record numbers – to visit, invest, establish businesses, study and relocate to Greece. Never has there been a more critical time for the Greek Government to streamline and strengthen bureaucratic processes for Greeks abroad.
The Greek Government reported a spike in individuals choosing to base their professional and business ventures in Greece. This movement of individuals, families and businesses requires support from the Greek Government to navigate bureaucratic processes and systems.
Although, Greece is actively courting the diaspora, the reality is that there are barriers for Greeks abroad to efficiently manage their affairs in Athens. These barriers include language and bureaucratic terminology; insufficient official documentation on hand; limited time; and access to e-systems and applications online – a magnified issue for first generation migrants.
A potential way to strengthen and support Greeks abroad is through the establishment of a one-stop government space that exclusively assists Greeks abroad whilst visiting, investing, setting up a business, studying or relocating to Greece.
A one-stop space or centralised hub in Athens for Greeks abroad could provide:
- Information that is specifically tailored to the needs of Greeks abroad.
- Services which are specifically related to the needs of Greeks abroad.
- Streamlined insight on key matters such as healthcare; education and enrolment processes; university courses available in foreign languages; youth exchange programs; passport applications; military service; practical taxation matters such as acquiring a tax file number and investment.
- Access and support to online portals and e-services as they increasingly become digitalised.
- A direct link between the diaspora and local organisations and institutions such as universities; co-ops; and investment bodies.
- A connection between the diaspora with local organisations and institutions, or prefectures, seeking investment and fundraising partners.
Ultimately, such a space would become an integral drop-in point whilst in Athens for Greeks abroad. Especially so for future generations. Eventually, it could become a hive of activity – a kypseli – that further opens dialogue and connections between communities abroad and the Greek Government. Providing the opportunity to bolster the diaspora’s desire to visit, work, invest and study in Greece.
Undoubtedly, there are holes to this concept. Among other things, the cost, purpose and risk of duplication are all issues that would need to be considered.
In researching this concept, I discovered there was a push for an office in Athens about three decades ago. For a period, a Citizen Service Centre (KEP) for Greeks Abroad did indeed exist – although its scope and reason of closure are unclear. However, the timing is different now. The needs of Greeks abroad are certainly different now.
An efficient, high-tech drop-in space in Athens is important and necessary for Greeks abroad. A space where future generations feel welcome to explore and connect with Greece and its services, organisations and programmes – especially so when the link with relatives living in Greece becomes less direct – would be beneficial.
Tammy Iliou has an economics and government administration background and has worked in Canberra, Melbourne, Athens and London. Tammy has served on various Greek community boards in Melbourne for over two decades including Vice-President of the Greek Community of Melbourne; and Co-Chair of the Antipodes Festival.