The Rights and Obligations of Hellenes Abroad

FILE - Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, left, speaks with Syriza party leader Alexis Tsipras during their meeting in Athens, on Friday, Oct. 11, 2019. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

The souls of Hellenes abroad are rejoicing over the debate taking place in Greece about the right to vote from one’s place of residence. They are pleased that a discussion is finally happening regarding their rights, and not only their obligations, to their homeland, as has been the case for decades.

It’s about time.

Undoubtedly, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ meetings with the leaders of other political parties on the issue of voting, with most of them addressing the issue in positive terms, is tangible proof of the seriousness with which the country is dealing with this issue.

However, one would expect that this opportunity, an opportunity to make a breakthrough at the international level in our national reconstitution and to forge even closer relations between the Diaspora and the homeland, would be seized by all 300 members of our Parliament.

Wouldn’t this be a shocking success that the revolutionary technological developments of our time could make possible? And would this initiative not help further restore the credibility of the political world?

I hope this opportunity will not be lost.

I also hope that some politicians will not continue to mock the intelligence of expatriates.

Because it hurts our brothers and sisters. It repels them. It provokes them.

And as a Nation, we no longer have the luxury of indulging in such indifference and insensitivity.

I was recently in Los Angeles where I had the opportunity to pray at the beautiful Church of Aghia Sophia founded by pioneering filmmaker Spyros Skouras.

There, a young immigrant from Cephalonia with pain in his voice told me:

“But why do some politicians in our country insult us? Isn’t it enough that they forced us to migrate? Are we now considered second-class Greeks too? Why should our vote differ from that of other Greeks? And why can’t we vote by letter?”

Really. Why?

It is a godsend that opinion polls show that our people are in favor of Diaspora voting – overwhelmingly.

But I’m worried about the fact that while we talk about expatriates, we find it somewhat unnecessary to ask for their opinion.

And in the worst of cases, let those people indulging in insults think about what they are saying because they are being watched by Greeks on every corner of the Earth.

You see, today, in 2019, the news has no borders,

as much as this may surprise some.

And let’s all understand that neither Greece nor the Diaspora have the ‘luxury’ of continuing on separate journeys – separate from one another.

The demographics are relentless. There is also a clear need for the reconfiguration of our nation’s forces.

Today this is possible. The only ones who do not seem to realize this are those who identify themselves as “progressive” but tragically seem to only be capable of looking backwards.

One has to have been living in a cave for the last few decades to not know that the distance that separates us from the Diaspora is no more than a click on our computer.

Something similar separates us from the judgment of history.

*Antonis H. Diamataris is Deputy Foreign Minister responsible for Hellenes Abroad

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