Even this alone – even if Kyriakos Mitsotakis did only this for us expatriates – would have been enough. What did he do? He solved the problem caused by the presence of foreign license plates on our cars. This issue might sound insignificant to someone unfamiliar with it, but it’s of crucial importance. Trust me.
Specifically: Countless fellow expatriates who own cars in Greece to use during their vacations or in other instances were needlessly tormented. Yes, they were ‘tormented’.
If you work for a company, you typically have 2-3 weeks of vacation per year. If you’re a small business owner, you take roughly the same amount of time off. Vacation time is precious.
So, you arrive in Greece and, of course, you want to use your car to go to the beach. However, you can’t use it because it’s ‘locked up’ in customs. You need a customs officer to ‘unseal’ it. Won’t it take at least 2-3 days for them to come? And won’t you have to give them… ‘something’ for their service? You lost those days that you hoped to dedicate for swimming or any other necessary work you needed to undertake.
Days go by, and the day you’re leaving Greece is approaching. You contact your… acquaintance at customs to come and… ‘seal’ it. But because it’s the heart of summer and they’re busy and many of their colleagues are on vacation, they inform you that they’ll come in 3-4 days.
So, the day comes. You wait for the customs officer who told you they’d come in the morning – but they arrive in the afternoon, resulting in you losing another day. And won’t you give them ‘something’ to take good care of you next time?
So what’s the situation now? All of this is now abolished. The process of sealing/unsealing is done electronically. Even parking the vehicle can be done in private spaces, without the presence of customs officials. Payment of fees is also done electronically. A miracle. Welcome to the 21st century!
It was one of the issues I was determined to address as Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs responsible for Hellenes Abroad. I was and remain deeply convinced that the path to stronger relations between the Diaspora and Greece passes through modernizing the services that Greece offers to expatriates.
You can’t torment a fellow compatriot, making them go back and forth, to fetch this and to fetch that – mainly the children of expatriates at consulates worldwide – for a simple document, and expect them to visit Greece again the following year.
So, having secured the Prime Minister’s approval, I requested to meet with Theodore Skylakakis, Deputy Minister of Finance and an old acquaintance of mine. Indeed, dear Theodore visited me – despite holding a higher rank – in my office. I explained to him that I had the Prime Minister’s approval, and we discussed ways to address the matter.
However, because I didn’t want to leave any possibility for ‘attacks’ from various malicious parties, I wanted to ‘wrap’ my proposal with a study that would demonstrate the safeguarding of the interests of the public sector, meaning that the state wouldn’t incur losses from the solution I would propose. So, I referred it to the colleague I had hired, the well-known Greek-American Tassos Philippakos in New York – who was unjustly and baselessly attacked – to conduct the study.
Simultaneously, I was constantly working with Manos Koumbarakis, the honest and capable director of my Diplomatic Office and beloved within the Greek-American community from his tenure as Consul in New York and now as the current General Consul in Chicago. Also, the invaluable Konstantinos Koutras, back when he was the Consul General in New York, and who cared deeply and was eager to help the Diaspora. He continued to strive for a solution even after my resignation.
Thanks to the personal interest of the Prime Minister and the broader collaboration of officials at several entities, such as Georgios Pitsilis, Director of the Independent Authority for Public Revenue, we found a solution for this crucial matter concerning the Greek Diaspora.
Only under these conditions does government policy have real meaning – only when it solves the problems of everyday life.