NEW YORK – The East Mediterranean Business Cultural Alliance (EMBCA) presented an informative discussion via Zoom on September 27 on Hellenic Dual Citizen Initiative on the 200th Anniversary of the Hellenic Revolution in association with AHEPA's Hellenic Cultural Commission.
The event is among the many that are planned by EMBCA with others for the upcoming 200th Anniversary of the Hellenic Revolution of 1821 by EMBCA's American Hellenic Revolution of 1821 Bicentennial Committee.
Lou Katsos, EMBCA's President and Chairman of AHEPA's Hellenic Cultural Commission, gave the welcoming remarks and served as moderator for the discussion. Hellenic Deputy Minister for Diaspora Greeks Konstantinos Vlasis offered his remarks on video to open the discussion and announced the new effort to ease the process for diaspora Greeks applying for dual citizenship as part of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis' goal of strengthening the ties between the Greek diaspora and the motherland. The new online system of services is available at the Consulate General in New York first where the demand is high and will soon be available at Greek Consulates across the globe.
The distinguished panel for this important topic included Consul General of the Hellenic Republic in New York Dr. Konstantinos Koutras, Secretary General for Citizenship at the Ministry of the Interior Athanasios Balermpas, AHEPA's Supreme President George Horiates, Maria Markou of Markou Global Legal Group, Nikolaos Bregiannos of Bregiannos Law In Athens, and Dr. Nicholas Theodorou of Bregiannos Law.
Katsos noted, “As we approach the 200th Anniversary of the Hellenic Revolution of 1821 next year, many people in the diaspora are very interested (or have considered it) in seriously pursuing Hellenic Dual Citizenship. For some having been born in Greece, but been in the diaspora for many years, they may want to now obtain their passport, etc. or for their children for various reasons. For others, it may be they want to obtain their dual citizenship as part of their birth right under the principle of jus sanguinis the nationality law of Hellas or Hellenic citizenship acquired by descent, or by other approved means. For many the process has been and can be daunting, complex, and very time consuming.”
The aim of the event was to help demystify the process with the advice of experts in the field who discussed the various issues and aspects involved in obtaining Hellenic citizenship.
Consul General Koutras noted that he is a fan of dual citizenship and is doing his best to promote the idea for all Greek-Americans. He mentioned recent article in the New York Times which reported that the new status symbol for Americans is a European passport. Greek citizenship is not just a symbol or a way to travel to Greece during the COVID-19 pandemic, but it is a right for those entitled to it, Koutras pointed out, adding that it is not, however, unconditional.
Greek nationality law is based on the right of blood, through the citizenship of one or both parents, not on the place of birth, so those interested in Hellenic citizenship must fill out a form and have the documents proving their parents' citizenship and marriage have been registered with the Consulate. With the technology now available, those applying can begin the process online.
Koutras also mentioned that the Consulate has been inundated with requests for passports and dual citizenship during the pandemic, and the staff is working seven days a week to make it possible for as many people as possible. He added that more information is available on the Greek Consulate General in New York website: https://www.mfa.gr/usa/en/consulate-general-in-new-york/about-us/sections.html.
Secretary General for Citizenship Balermpas pointed out that name changes and marriages must also be registered through the Consulate and Article 10 of the Hellenic nationality law may help many in the diaspora with the process since the naturalization application of the persons of Greek origin who reside outside of Greece is submitted to the Greek Consul of the place of residence of the applicant.
The lawyers participating in the discussion also offered their insights. Maria Markou stressed the importance of registering name changes, marriages, births, and divorces. Nikolaos Bregiannos noted that the discussion was long overdue and while Greek citizenship is an asset to those in the Greek diaspora, the Greek diaspora is also an asset to Greece. He applauded the use of technology that will make the citizenship process faster and easier for Greeks abroad.
Dr. Nikolaos Theodorou said that the pandemic highlighted the need to focus on digitization to help deal with the bureaucracy in Greece and the recently updated website for the Greek government is a step in the right direction but needs more information available in English to facilitate the citizenship process for many Greeks abroad.
AHEPA Supreme President George Horiates, a lawyer by trade, also participated in the discussion, commending the Greek government on the “incredible outreach to the people because our hearts also bleed for Greece and I think that dual citizenship can help Greece not only from an economic perspective, but frankly from a spiritual perspective as well.”
The entire event is available for viewing on YouTube: https://youtu.be/8-1go1GnxaE.