During the past four weeks, Greece’s Department of Foreign Affairs posted on its website for public consultation (until March 13) a 36-page long brochure.

Printed in large font, the booklet contained anywhere between 11 to 136 words per page, averaging 65 words per page.

Boldly titled by the Greek government “Key Principles of a Strategic Plan for Hellenism Abroad, 2024-2027,” the brochure was pre-released to the media in Greece, with leaks and positive language, in December 2023.

According to the Greek government: “In this Strategic Plan, the Department of Foreign Affairs outlines its vision, its strategic goals as well as its operational initiatives aiming to strengthen further the ties of the Greek Diaspora with the ‘metropolitan center,'” as the Department calls Greece.

All citizens, institutional and civic partners, the diaspora (omogeneis) Greeks, and their communities worldwide are invited to participate in the consultation process.

The brochure, needs to be updated to reflect today’s diverse Greek Diasporic communities.

The document is simplistic and ahistorical. It ignores all previous policies of the Greek state over the past 40 or so years regarding “its” diasporic communities.

It is a one-way street, referring mainly to the “use” of the various diasporic communities to advance the Greek state’s economic, cultural and diplomatic interests.

Worth highlighting are the following ten indicative points:

(1) The document needs a theoretical framework for why and how Greece perceives its relationship with the Greek citizens of more than 150 countries. It does not have a strategic objective that links the past with the present and the present with the future of Hellenism.

Global Hellenism is a community of people with diverse individual and collective identities. It converses with itself and the rest of the world, the “new homelands” of Greek origin people and the country of ancestry.

In this document, we have a simple disconnected enumeration of the Greek state’s past actions and future intentions regarding ecumenical Hellenism.

(2) There is no recognition of the cultural, social, political, or historical parameters defining Greeks living outside of Greece or those of Greek origin. The brochure defines Greece as the metropolitan centre and the diasporic communities as migratory birds, as swallows that flew away from the motherland.

This inability to understand the multifaceted, ever-evolving, constantly fluid and in flux relationships between the various communities and individuals that identify as Greek, as pointed out by many Greek diaspora thinkers and academics, or Greek-Australian public intellectual Konstantinos Kalymnios,2 is alarming. The Greek state fails to see the diasporic communities as interconnecting “galaxies” that make up a diverse and multifaceted cultural and sometimes linguistic “Greek universe.”

The consultation brochure states, amongst others, that one of the aims of the so-called “strategic plan” is the promotion of issues of Greek (state) interests “in the host societies/countries.”

What the Greek government considers to be “host countries and societies” are the actual homelands of Greek-descendant citizens, the vast majority of whom, after many decades of residency, culturally and linguistically, an integral part, with rights and obligations, of the countries in which they were born, raised and reside.

(3) The networking pursued by the Department of Foreign Affairs of Greece concerns the “export” of information, culture, and language only about Greece. It does not affect and therefore does not address issues such as the “import” into the “metropolis” and its people of the history, the culture, or the know-how of those residing outside the borders of Greece.

The reference to the need to establish and to have a substantive bilateral communication and relationship is negated by the “strategic” vision of the consultation document, which clearly states that the aim is the promotion abroad, with the help of the “expatriates,” of critical national issues and interests of Greece. Furthermore, you cannot have a proper strategic and meaningful bilateral relationship with ecumenical Hellenism when you constantly imply that there is a metropolitan centre and an “expatriate” community which is seen only as an instrument to promote cultural, economic, and other interests abroad, interests that originate in Greece only.

(4) The references to create a day to celebrate Greeks abroad or to establish a museum of Greeks abroad are old requests from diasporic Greek communities and, if genuine, are welcomed. However, these symbolic initiatives are sufficient with a comprehensive 21st Century diasporic policy. We must include Hellenism’s multifaceted diasporic dimension in mainland Greece’s national narrative, school textbooks, major festivals, or significant museums.

Of course, without allocating the necessary funds from the national budget and possibly from other sources, any mention regarding implementing such policies remains wishful thinking and rhetoric only.

(5) The reference to “affirmative action” policies, for example, the availability of “apprenticeships” in public and private institutions in Greece for young people from the diaspora aiming to advance their professional development, is welcomed. Still, such initiatives need to go further. For example, it is worth exploring the possibility of establishing provisions for recruiting professional Greek-origin policymakers, technocrats, and others within the Greek state’s bureaucracy and institutions.

(6) As others have pointed out too, the consultation brochure uses the terms Apodimos Hellenism, Homogeneia and Greek Diaspora interchangeably, without defining them and without being able to understand their limits about the current cultural identities that prevail in global Hellenism. Furthermore, the author(s) of the brochure need to realise that there is not just one expatriate/homogeneous/diasporic Hellenism, but many. There are many “Greek” diasporas, depending on the historical, social, political and cultural circumstances that shaped them.

(7) The relationship with Orthodoxy is now considered a critical strategic factor to propagate a more cohesive relationship between Greece and its diasporas. This, however, ignores a fundamental fact: most Greek-origin citizens define their identity nowadays mainly through the culture, the language, and the experiences they have as members of their respective mainstream societies and not through their ethnic and religious microcosms.

(8) The use of digital technologies to make it easier to connect Greece and the various arms of the state with the lives and the needs of the numerous diasporic communities is welcomed. However, the Greek Consulates, at least in the large centres of global Hellenism, would still need to employ real people if they were to deliver their services successfully and if they were to act as professional mediators between the Greek state and global Hellenism.

(9) All the references regarding the strengthening of the relationship of Greece with the diverse Greek diasporas around the world refer exclusively to the existent and mostly irrelevant, or diminishing in influence, diasporic community institutions and organisations. It is the formal and informal networks, as well as the institutions of the leading societies and active members of which are more and more people of Greek background, that Greece needs to consider and attempt to approach.

(10) The strengthening of Greece’s relations with Ecumenical Hellenism, or the creation of a database and registry of “expatriates”, expatriate organisations, etc., even voluntarily, needs to be reconsidered, given that Greek background people culturally and legally, are first, and above all, members and citizens of “foreign” to Greece countries and societies.

It will be interesting to see whether other political parties of the “metropolis” will participate in this consultation process or whether or not they will be able to present their strategic plans if they have any.

Furthermore, how many individuals and community organisations from the Greek diasporic communities around the globe will participate in this process?

The consultation document is only available in Greek and not the main spoken languages of the diaspora communities.

Finally, participation in the consultation process can indicate the cultural, historical, and political affinity of the various global Greek diasporas with their country of origin.

Kostas Karamarkos is a Melbourne-based journalist who previously worked as a Senior Advisor at the General Secretariat for Greeks Abroad in the Department of Foreign Affairs of Greece. He also worked in the Political Office of former Prime Minister of Greece George A. Papandreou.