SYRIZA, the party of the official opposition, proved once again that it is afraid of the Hellenes Abroad. That it considers them dangerous. That they are suspicious of them. They only consider them Greeks on a case by case basis.
One would expect that a self-proclaimed progressive party would lead the initiative to secure the vote for Hellenes Abroad.
Instead, they insist on slamming the door on us.
They believe that our vote should be exercised selectively. They want to give it less weight than the regular vote of citizens in Greece.
As of last week, the vote in Parliament regarding the law submitted by the government to abolish restrictions on voting in the Diaspora has not yet taken place. But how and why this discussion about voting has once again come to the fore is now known to all.
Theodora Tzakri, SYRIZA Member of Parliament responsible for issues pertaining to Hellenes Abroad, in an interview with Ethnikos Kirikas, published in the April 10-11 weekend edition, described the current law as "unfair."
The government, through the competent Minister of Interior, Maki Voridis, hastened to express its full agreement with Ms. Tzakri's statements and proceeded to submit a draft law that would abolish the restrictions.
Unfortunately, Mr. Tsipras threw Ms. Tzakri under the bus, resulting in the law reaching an impasse in parliament. To get the law passed, 200 votes are needed, and in the likely scenarios, at least 1 SYRIZA vote would be required.
On the other hand, the leader of the KINAL Movement for Change party, Fofi Gennimata, in her statements published last week in Ethnikos Kirikas, wholeheartedly supported the abolition of the restrictions: "Who is afraid of expatriates and why?" she said. "They are our people living abroad; a solution must finally be found."
I would like to now make four remarks:
First, these events justify once again the decision of the government of Kyriakos Mitsotakis in 2019 to pass even the current, limited law.
Second, that the discussion about Hellenes Abroad is useful. And it is useful not only because it exposes SYRIZA's positions; it also gives Hellenes Abroad the opportunity to draw their own conclusions about the various parties and allows this issue to permeate and be discussed amongst Greek society with the result that at least a percentage of the voters will punish SYRIZA for its reactionary, old-fashioned positions.
There is no doubt that SYRIZA is fighting a battle that has already been lost. Sooner or later, it will have to find a way to do another ‘backflip’ and support these initiatives.
But it seems that in order to do this, there must be a series of successive battles over this issue - a series of public debates - until everyone wonders why so many years had to pass, why Greece had to be preceded by so many other countries, why it was necessary to insult and devalue Hellenes Abroad before they finally reach the inevitable point of granting them the right to vote.
Third, this discussion is interesting because, as I must point out, it is taking place without the ones responsible for these issues - the representatives of Hellenes Abroad. Their participation with regard to an issue that concerns them directly is lacking.
Fourth, one of the reasons for the sudden resumption of the debate in Athens on the vote is that there has been no response from Greeks abroad – because they are having difficulty registering, on the electronic platform of the Ministry of the Interior, which has been in operation for a few weeks. I will not dwell on this point. I will not comment on the ease or not of its use, nor on whether the existence of the platform is even known a little farther than … Syntagma Square.
But it is terrible that the politicians do not realize that what they are doing dampens the interest of the Diaspora in voting.
I will emphasize, once again, as I have done so many other times, that the Greek political order has an ‘imperial complex’ in relation to Hellenes Abroad. They consider themselves superior to expatriates and the Diaspora-born. That they are the ones who ‘excel’. That they hold the ‘keys to the Kingdom,’ to the golden door of Paradise.
This mentality is myopic. It reveals their basic ignorance, the dearth of knowledge and information about the situation outside of Greece.
It is a mentality of the past.
And as Manolis Kottakis wrote recently in his commentary in ‘Estia,’ the bodies of expatriates are abroad, but their souls are inside Greece.
And yet, despite this fact, it is a huge mistake to take Hellenes abroad for granted.
The political order must understand that the centrifugal forces driving assimilation in the countries in which we live, from Europe to Canada, Australia and America, are great.
So, it is in Greece's interest to take urgent initiatives, including incentives of a financial nature, but more importantly, better service at embassies and consulates for Hellenes abroad – and let us no longer hear any more stories about fluent Greek-speaking children of people born and raised in Greece waiting more than 5 years for their Greek citizenship. There should also be summer camps and other programs for children and young adults, to strengthen the Diaspora’s relations with Greece.
It is so offensive and so untrue to believe that ‘real Hellenes’ live only within the borders of Greece.
And yet the same people who speak this way turn to the Diaspora for support in difficult moments. But they cannot have it both ways. They cannot keep changing hats on a case by case basis.
It is more than ironic that at the same time that Hellenes Abroad are being devalued, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, that is, Andreas Dracopoulos, returns to Greece to make another valuable donation. To make another targeted investment in the most critical sector of all, the health sector, with two ambulance aircraft and two helicopters.
So, I address Mr. Tsipras and call on him, as a simple expatriate, to weigh these matters once again. To understand that the future of his party, as far as Hellenes Abroad are concerned, does not lie in the denial of rights that have been secured long ago. It is not safeguarded by the old partisanship. The future of his party requires being on the right side of history, which, of course, in this case, is to deliver the vote to Hellenes Abroad.