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New Consul General of Greece in Chicago Emmanuel Koubarakis Speaks to TNH

BOSTON – The New Consul General of Greece in Chicago, Emmanuel Koubarakis, assumed his post on September 29 with expectations that there will be an upgrading in the service that can be expected in the Greek-American Community that extends across twelve states given the experience he gained as Consul of Greece in New York.

In his first interview with The National Herald he spoke about his goals, which aim at upgrading service to the Greek-American community.

The full interview follows:

The National Herald: How do you feel about your new assignment as the Consul General of Greece in Chicago?

Consul General Emmanuel Koubarakis: I would like to start by thanking the historic newspaper of the Greek Diaspora for giving me the chance to introduce myself at the beginning of this new chapter in my career. Every chapter in a diplomat’s life is unique, but I cannot contain the feeling of great honor, and at the same time of great responsibility, for taking charge of the Consulate General of Greece in Chicago, a Consulate that includes 12 states under its jurisdiction, and serves one of the largest and most historic Greek communities abroad. It would be an oversight on my part not to thank at this point the Minister and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for entrusting me with this posting.

Consulate General of Greece in Chicago. (Photo: Consulate General of Greece in Chicago)

TNH: Based on your previous experience as Consul at the Consulate General of New York, which areas will you prioritize?

EK: I am glad you asked me that question. Following my previous posting, working with the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs for Hellenes Abroad, I can assure you that our number one priority is the fastest and most efficient service for Greek citizens and our visitors as a whole. The digitalization of many consular services has contributed significantly to realizing this goal. We have a vision for the Greek community here, as well as for each and every one of the Greek communities abroad. What we want for them to them to progress and prosper, while still keeping alive their love for the motherland. You might ask, “how can this be achieved?” ask. Well, we can nurture his or her relationship to the motherland by supporting Greek language initiatives abroad and student exchange programs between Greek and foreign universities, as well as by enhancing Greece’s commercial incentives and making Greece more hospitable [to investors].

Maintaining the ties between the motherland and the Greek Diaspora is of great importance. Finally, the most important current challenge is halting the ‘brain drain’ in our country. We must listen to the people who decided to move out of the country due to certain circumstances, help them maintain their bonds with Greece, and finally, provide them with incentives to return and bring in the knowledge they have acquired abroad.

TNH: Even though it is still quite early to compare, which are some similarities and some differences between the Greek community in New York and the one in Chicago?

EK: I would like to be asked this particular question again at the end of my tenure. The interesting thing about the Greek diaspora in the United States is that it has many differentiations and many common elements at the same time. Upon their arrival in the United States, the Greek immigrants worked hard and managed to rise up the business, social, and academic ladder. They created a new generation of highly educated people, which contributed to the prosperity of the community as a whole. It is truly remarkable that they considered it their moral duty to teach their language, religion, and customs to the younger generations, but most importantly, to instill pride in their Greek identity. They deserve our deepest respect for that.

TNH: What is that you bring to the Greek community in Chicago as a representative of the Greek State?

EK: If there is one thing that I would like your readers to retain from today’s interview is the following: we are here for you. Carrying out our duty and responsibility, the staff of our Mission and I are here to respond to your needs and concerns. Our goal is to shorten the distance between Chicago and Greece, to make you feel like wanting to speak Greek, dance Greek, and return to Greece for your studies, for a job – or for vacation. We want to make you feel like home. We open our doors and we are here to help you.

TNH:  Where do you think Greek Education in the United Sates is heading?

EK: Please allow me to share my thoughts as to where I believe the Greek education in the United States, but also around the world, should be directed. Undoubtedly, a strategic long term goal should be set at national level. In order to achieve this, it is essential to evaluate the current situation, understand what the deficiencies and the challenges are, and set up an improvement plan. The key factor for this process is the strengthening of Greek education by making good use of the latest technologies, and the through the development of a dynamic relationship which will maintain the Greek language as a sought-after language for many generations to come. After all, we should not forget our moral obligation to preserve our beautiful ancient language that has enchanted people from all corners of the world.

TNH: What are some services that the Consulate General of Greece in Chicago provides to the Greek community?

EK: The Consulate General of Greece in Chicago offers all of the traditional services that satisfy the needs of the Greek communities abroad (i.e. passport renewal, power of attorney, authorizations, affidavits, military exemption certificates, and more). However, what is truly worth mentioning here is the great effort that was put into digitalizing many consular services. The digitalization is taking place with the use of innovative online tools that could be defined as a revolution in Greek public administration, which is usually portrayed as excessively ‘bureaucratic’. Truth be told, the pandemic worked as a digital accelerator for our country. In this framework, the newly introduced online service, MyConsulLive, has cut down on transportation cost for citizens who were required to travel from miles away. The need for their physical presence in many consular services can now be replaced with the use of this online tool. In the same spirit, the digitalization of consular services will be expanded to include registration matters, which will allow the consular officers to process cases without the intervention of the Special Registry Office, cutting down the processing time by months.

TNH: How many Consular employees are there at the Consulate General of Greece in Chicago?

EK: The Consulate General is defined by its people. The current team is comprised of 12 very capable employees, the majority of whom have served for a long time in very demanding postings abroad. It could not be any different in a Consulate General that serves such a great number of Greeks in twelve states and one of the largest Greek communities in the world. During these unprecedented times, our consular employees work hard every day with efficiency and courtesy, making it a priority to provide the best experience for everyone who visits the Consulate General of Greece in Chicago. It is an honor and a privilege working alongside our team, and I learn from them every day.

TNH:  What attracted you to diplomacy?

EK: Some say Diplomacy is an occupation, and others refer to it as a form of art. I view it as a way of life. Through serving your country and your fellow citizens, through frequent change and variety, through human contact and engaging in analysis you live a very complete life. It is a way of life that brings up the best version of you, and I consider myself lucky for being able to fulfill my dream of becoming a diplomat.

THN: How is it for someone to represent Greece in the United States?

EK: Every Greek diplomat, including myself, has the honor and the responsibility of carrying the weight of the historical and cultural significance of our country. We do not have to explain anywhere around the world which country we are representing or where it is located. Specifically in the United States, we have the advantage of being well-known thanks to the powerful presence of the Greek diaspora, which is a vital part of local life in America. This strengthens our bonds of friendship with the United States and fills us with pride every day.

 

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