For the first time (some) Greek citizens outside Greece will be able to vote in Greece’s upcoming national elections without going back.

“In an historic, albeit restricted way, Hellenic citizens living outside Greece will for the first time be able to vote under new guidelines,” said Louis Katsos the President of the East Mediterranean Business Cultural Alliance (EMBCA) from his office in New York.

Until December 2019 Greek citizens permanently living abroad, and who were on Greece’s electoral roll, could only vote in a national election if they went back to Greece for the election.

In response to the new legislation, the EMBCA will host a panel discussion; Hellenic Republic Voting and the Diaspora next Monday Australian Eastern Standard Time, 6am (Sunday, January 15, at 2 pm U.S.A. EST and 9 pm Athens EEST). Katsos, also the host of the forum, told Neos Kosmos that the forum is important, “since the right to vote and citizenship are linked, we thought the issue important enough to discuss openly.”

“Given the Hellenic election is coming up we thought it was a good time to discuss those guidelines, as well as the issues around it for the diaspora,” Katsos said.

“We hope to achieve a discussion around the topic with members of the Diaspora (each having their own opinion), not a one-way conversation coming from Hellas.”

“We hope this contributes to an ongoing conversation between Hellas and its diaspora relating to Hellenic citizenship and the expansion of voting rights,” Katsos added.

Katsos said that everyone on the panel “will have their own thoughts on this issue. Hellas always asks for help in many areas and it is given by the Diaspora with very little in return.”

He emphasised “complications around getting citizenship let alone voting rights.”

“The political confrontations and the public discussion in Hellas regarding voting rights for Hellenes Abroad is revealing of the current nature of the relationship between the two parties.”

Neos Kosmos asked Katsos if he could envisage a forum like the World Jewish Congress, which could muster global Greek Diaspora support and impact on Greece’s policies towards its large global Diaspora.

“To a degree a sort of Diaspora initiated and run, though fragmented, network advocacy group exists, but to reach the level of the World Jewish Congress is unlikely at the moment for a number of reasons.”

“We have, in our various communities, been doing it for decades but have not been able to unite globally for many reasons,” Katsos said.

As the author of this report, I will also be on the panel and believe that Greece must go a long way to harness the skills and political weight of its Diaspora, as Israel does.

Israel is a nation, which like Greece was born as a nation through the actions of its Diaspora and relies on its Diaspora for support in all areas, however unlike Israel, Greece only considers its Diaspora as an afterthought and only in major crises.

Alexander Billinis, Greek American historian and author will be on the panel. Photo: Supplied

Historian Alexander Bilinis said that from a historical perspective of “the Diaspora’s contribution to Greece, is older than the Greek state.”

“In the past, when the Greek Diaspora consisted largely of merchant networks, they were doing this all the time”

“At the Modern Greek Studies Association I spoke to many Greek Aussies, Canadian and Latin American Greeks, and I hear iterations of the same stories–the Hellenic government nominates their preferred spokespeople who ape the Hellenic government positions rather than reflecting the Diaspora,” Bilinis told Neos Kosmos.

The panel, facilitated by Lou Katsos, includes Nicholas Alexiou, Professor of Sociology, and Director of the American Hellenic Project (HAP); well-known Hellenic historian Alexander Billinis; Nick Theodoropoulos, the Secretary of Hellenic Diaspora Affairs for New Democracy; Stavros Basseas PhD, President, and CTO of Nantsound; and the only Australian, Neos Kosmos writer, Fotis Kapetopoulos.

The president of the EMBCA Louis Katsos is an active board member of the Harlem Chamber of Commerce who has worked on building enduring bonds with the African American Diaspora.

Hellenic Republic Voting and the Diaspora will be on next Monday Australian Eastern Standard Time, 6am (Sunday, January 15, at 2 pm U.S.A. EST and 9 pm Athens EEST) you can follow the panel discussion here.