Greece’s Deputy Minister of the Interior, Theodoros Livanios, lands in Australia next week. He will be in Melbourne from 21-23 March and in Sydney 24-27 March.

The 47-year-old politician told Neos Kosmos that he was “delighted to visit Australia” and participate in “celebrations of the Greek Revolution”.

While here, the deputy minister will meet Greek communities and their leaders, Greek and other media, and parliamentarians. “Particularly Greek Australian ones to discuss all the issues of Greek Diaspora,” Livanios said.

Diaspora’s participation in European elections

Part of his mission is to “promote” the new postal voting reform and open the upcoming European elections to Greek Diaspora citizens for the first time.

“This is a significant change, and it is essential for us, in Greece, that the Greek Diaspora participate actively in the upcoming elections.

In the last national elections, only a trickle of Greeks living abroad who were eligible to vote did so. Impediments to voting, forced mainly by the main opposition, SYRIZA – which has now changed tact with a new leader, himself, Diaspora – made the process cumbersome.

“The criteria that applied to enable the Diaspora to vote was the problem.

“For example, having to prove that as a Diaspora, one has lived at least two consecutive years in Greece during the last 35 years was an impediment,” Livanios said.

The minister said around 20,000 Diaspora voters cast a ballot for the Greek national elections.

“It was disappointing in terms of the size of the Greek Diaspora. We had an issue.”

Following the electoral victory of New Democracy in 2023 with a clear majority, there was new impetus to make it easier for citizens of Greece living abroad to vote.

“The new parliament decided to lift all those barriers; we went one step further and had postal voting for the upcoming European elections. Greek citizens abroad can vote easily in the European elections.

“We need, and we’re expecting, all the Greeks, who love and have an active connection with Greece, vote and participate in demonstrating the size of the Diaspora,” Livanios told Neos Kosmos.

Greece’s prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis (R) French President Emmanuel Macron (L) and Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic with European Council President Charles Michel during a European Council meeting in Brussels last October. Photo: AAP/Olivier Hoslet

Addressing endemic Greek consular challenges

A significant challenge for the Diaspora in Australia is the poorly resourced consulates. There are anecdotes of endless waiting times for documents that often take a Kafkaesque tinge.

“I’m very aware of the problems,” Livanios said, adding that the issues are worldwide and mainly due to “the ten years financial crisis that we faced.”

“We cut budgets, creating staffing shortages and resource issues.”

However, the minister said he is working with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to address these issues.

“Our goal is that no one, and no Greek, should have to visit the consulate to secure documents physically.

“All their needs should be services remotely and digitally, and we have now introduced systems.

“We’re working with the minister for foreign affairs to hire staff locally, people based locally in Melbourne or Sydney. They will assist consular staff.

“If you need two or three, four months or even a year to resolve an issue or get a passport is not acceptable,” Livanios said.

The former tech analyst and researcher entered parliament in 2016. He was deeply involved in government digitisation and heralds “the last three, four, 4-5 years as seeing the significant digital transformation Greece has undertaken.”

“We now manage to provide 1500 services digitally. We need to expand all the services and make them available to the Greeks living abroad,” Livanios said.

Overcoming barriers and embracing reform

The Greek prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, “is a very liberal politician,” Livanios says when asked if the recent marriage equality legislation legalising same-sex marriage was counterintuitive to New Democracy – a conservative party.

“The prime minister is leading a broad coalition of political powers from the right of the political spectrum to the centre, and maybe the centre left.

“He decided that in terms of human rights, legalising same-sex marriage in Greece is essential.

“Mitsotakis believes that the government should deal with the issues that all citizens encounter, regardless of the social status, regardless of if they are living inside or outside Greece,” Livanios said.

After the ten year catastrophic financial crisis, Greece is seeing better days in the last five years, which Livanios has put down to reforms and meeting challenges.

“We’re working on big challenges such as financial stability. Greece has received the investment grade from all credit agencies like S&P, which is important; it demonstrates trust.”

Meeting of the President of the Hellenic Republic Katerina Sakellaropoulou with Livanios, then Deputy Minister of Digital Governance. Photo: EUROKINISSI/YIANNIS PANAGOPOULOS

Prometheus unbound?

With a GDP growth rate of 1.2 per cent, Greece stands out among other countries for its sharp growth in the actual value of the stock market, which rose by 43.8 per cent from 2022 to 2023.

According to The Economist, investors have re-evaluated Greek companies due to the government implementing pro-market reforms. Greece expects to receive more than EU 55 billion (AUD 90 billion) from EU structural and recovery funds by 2027, a Mistotakis idea that economists estimate will contribute one percentage point in growth annually. Investment is forecast to grow by 15.1 per cent in 2024, more than double compared with last year.

Livanios extols Greece’s “stronger presence in Europe”, once the black sheep in the family, now has secured influence like never before.

“I cannot recall any previous moment that Greece was more robust in Europe. Prime minister Mitsotakis often talks with all the EU leaders, President Macron, the president of the EU Commission, Ursula von der Leyen – he is in regular contact.

“He worked closely with the EU to drive necessary forms, for example, the Recovery Resilience Fund after the COVID-19 period was his initiative. EU member states are now adopting significant initiatives from Greece.

Hellas: East and west

Greece’s gaze has turned east again in recent years, and the recent state visit to India by Mistotakis and one to Greece by Indian prime minister Modi last year are examples. It resulted in significant migration, military and economic agreements and projects.

“We used to say Greece is between Europe and Asia, but that was a theoretical discussion.

“We decided. To strengthen the contacts with India, China, and even Japan because they are huge economies and need the gateway to Europe,” Livanios said.

“Greece, India, and China – were civilisations with worldwide impact on what we’re calling ‘modern culture’.

“Traditionally, Greece had good cultural relations with India, but economic and political ties were not strong, so our prime minister decided to work on this and move on this path.”

Varoufakis: Luddite or visionary

Yanis Varoufakis, the former SYRIZA finance minister at the height of the Greek financial crisis, was in Australia this week promoting his latest book ‘Technofeudalism: What Killed Capitalism.

In it he posits that tech giants now are more like old feudal lords extracting rent from all of us, as well as scraping our information to augment their own vast wealth.

Neos Kosmos asked the former tech analyst and programmer what he thought of the outspoken former politician’s dystopic views on tech giants.

“Technology helps us create a better world. More knowledge. More transparency. We can now hire more doctors, more nurses, and fewer administrative officers.

“Software and digital technology helped us reconstruct the Greek economy and government service sector.

In a subtle swipe at Varoufakis, he said: “We need to decide whether we will adopt and adapt to this change and accept the benefits or deny it and stay in another universe.