A newly-formed Secretariat of Greeks Abroad is aiming to bridge the gap between Diaspora communities and Greece. The seven-member team is made up of individuals aged 24 to 45, something Greece's New Democracy party hopes will bring a fresh approach to connection-building.
“For New Democracy, the Hellenic Diaspora represents a national asset with social, cultural, political, educational and financial significance,” said New Democracy Secretary of Hellenes of the Diaspora Nick Theodoropoulos in an interview with The National Herald.
Born in 1993, Theodoropoulos studied international economics at the Athens University of Economics and Business, and holds a master's degree in comparative political economy from the London School of Economics.
Regarding the younger age range this group is composed of, he said “it's a new era for New Democracy in terms of Diaspora...you will not find in other parties such a low average in terms of age and such a strong interest to connect with the diaspora,” he said.
What differentiates New Democracy from other parties, Theodoropoulos said, is the roles of technology, diaspora diplomacy, and the Orthodox Church as a connector of community.
The conservative New Democracy party took the reins of leadership from opposing SYRIZA in July of 2019 when the then-51-year-old Kyriakos Mitsotakis won 33% of the votes.
The son of former Prime Minister Konstantinos Mitsotakis (1990-1993), and younger brother of Greek politician Dora Bakoyannis, Kyriakos Mitsotakis spent much of his life living abroad.
“It is the first time in the last 100 years that our prime minister spent almost 20 years of his lifetime abroad ... he was raised in Paris, studied in the United States, and lived in London,” Theodoropoulos said. “It's not a coincidence that we want to strengthen the bridge between Greece and the diaspora, and it's not a coincidence that so many members of the Diaspora are representing the government and parliament today.”
Theodoropoulos' team is now tasked with researching Diaspora communities in Europe and the United States to identify and better understand community age groups, social connections, experiences, needs, and expectations.
From there, the team will decide on various initiatives and launch a targeted effort to connect Hellenes abroad to Greece. “New Democracy is working on a proposing national Diaspora strategy with a patriotic, liberal ideological framework that will reply to the question of what Greece can make better for its Diaspora, and what the Diaspora can do for Greece,” Theodoropoulos said. “That's what our manifesto will answer.”
While the team is in its early stages of planning, some of its focuses, Theodoropoulos said, will vary from formal, long term initiatives, to programs and projects of shorter scope both in their conception and implementation.
These may include the creation of a think tank to foster interdisciplinary research and networking, the offering of more Greek language learning material, and the opening of offices that can best assist Greek citizens abroad with matters such as voting remotely, something that has been on the table for some time.
“The entire political system, all the political parties will try to address Diaspora issues in order to win votes as remote voting will become a possibility,” Theodoropoulos said. “This is good for democracy and the Diaspora because we will see political competition for solving diaspora issues. This will motivate the political system to engage with the Diaspora, to listen and solve problems,” he said.
In terms of reach, Theodoropoulos said the plan is to first tend to the needs of Greek citizens living abroad, but through initiatives, to also bring closer those individuals who have an interest in Greece and Hellenism.
“We are here for everyone that has this need and feeling to connect with Greece and to keep the door open ... there are fifth generation Greeks that feel Greek. We are here for them,” he said.