The importance of human capital as a factor in Greece’s plan to exit the ongoing crisis was stressed by Deputy Foreign Minister Yannis Amanatidis in the inaugural meeting of the Hellenic Parliament’s Committee for the Greek Diaspora.
In his address to the members of the Committee, Mr Amanatidis set out a framework of actions that the Committee and the General Secretariat for Greeks Abroad (GGAE) should take, in order to further enhance the strong relationship of the Greek diaspora with the motherland.
“We work on a legislative initiative for the Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE), seeking the greatest possible consensus, with democratic self-organisation of the institution, and the strengthening of its status and effectiveness,” he said, while promising to introduce “reforms and structural changes to modernise the whole public administration in order to facilitate everyday life for Greeks abroad”.
Prominent among this set of reforms is the creation of an electronic system interconnecting all Greek embassies and consulates around the world with the Ministry of Interior – a change that would enable expatriates to issue any kind of certificate in their country of residence.
Equally important is the planned digitisation of the GGAE archives, which would thus become accessible online for researchers wishing to locate any official document related to the Greek diaspora.
But the most ambitious initiative is the establishment of May 20 as an international ‘Greek-speaking Day’, aimed at promoting the learning of Greek language and the diffusion of Greek culture. The date was picked to coincide with the alleged birthday of the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates. An official presidential decree, signed by Prokopis Pavlopoulos, will be the first step, before the issue is referred to the UN and UNESCO.
“It is therefore clear that we aim not only to strengthen the links of the metropolitan centre with the Greek diaspora, but primarily the interaction of the Greeks inside and outside the borders of motherland to a new foundation – functional, modern and effective,” he said.
THE NEED FOR A NATIONAL STRATEGY FOR GREEKS ABROAD
The committee’s priorities were set out by its chairman, Mr Alexandros Triantafyllidis, who stressed the need for a national strategy for the Greeks abroad “in a spirit of mutual understanding, consultation and consensus, based on the principles of democracy, humanism and culture”.
The aim to attract investments by expatriate Greek entrepreneurs has taken centre stage recently and features hight in the priorities set by Mr Triantafillidis, as a way to address the ongoing financial crisis.
Among the committee’s main goals is to create an extensive record of diaspora Hellenism, gathering information by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Hellenic Statistical Autority; the continuation of programs for the preservation of the Greek cultural identity within Greek communities abroad; to assist inter-cultural education institutions; to further cooperate with the World Hellenic Inter-Parliamentary Association; to promote the teaching of the Greek language, through the relevant departments of universities and institutes around in Greece and abroad; to put to use Citizen Service Centres for Greeks abroad, in order to tackle bureaucracy and mismanagement; to support the national broadcaster’s satellite channels (ERTSAT, ERT3, Voice of Greece) and develop synergies with the Greek media abroad.
As for the recent wave of emigration of educated young Greeks due to the economic crisis, it presents new challenges for the committee, which needs to develop policies to cater for their needs.
However, there’s still no sign of a resolution to other long-outstanding demands of the expatriate communities, such as the pension and insurance issue and the right to vote in the general elections; the latter should be discussed thoroughly by the permanent committee in a special session, according to Mr Triantafillidis.