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Politics

SYRIZA’s Othon Iliopoulos: Support for Greek-Language Education in the Diaspora is a Priority

ATHENS – In an interview with The National Herald Dr. Othon Iliopoulos of SYRIZA emphasized that support from the Greek state for Greek-language education for Hellenes abroad and their children is a priority for his party. The Greek-American professor at the Harvard Medical School is a member of the Greek Parliament and the shadow minister for the Hellenic diaspora of major opposition SYRIZA. Among the matters he discussed was the new postal voting process for Hellenes abroad in the upcoming European Parliament elections.

The interview follows:

The National Herald: You started with Alexis Tsipras at the helm of SYRIZA and continue with Stefanos Kasselakis. What difference does the new leader bring?

Othon Iliopoulos: I started and continue with SYRIZA, that is, a party that defends the free market economy but also the regulatory role of the state. A party that rejects Thatcherism and is closer to Franklin Roosevelt’s American social contract. We defend, without any ‘yes, but’, the welfare state that guarantees public healthcare for all, protection and care for children, public education, and state control over public basic goods such as water and energy. A party that believes that social groups with religious and racial differences can coexist, like in America. These are the commonalities between Tsipras and Kasselakis, which is why the latter succeeded the former as the leader of the party. Stefanos Kasselakis reflects the characteristics of his generation… and he is a new presence in the political scene.

Greek-American Dr. Othon Iliopoulos, a member of the Greek Parliament for SYRIZA is a professor at the Harvard Medical School. (Photo: Courtesy of Mr. Iliopoulos)

TNH: You are a medical man. Assuming SYRIZA becomes the government and you are the Minister of Health, what are three things you would do immediately in order to strengthen the public health system?

OI: The first move I would make, within the first 24 hours, would be to make permanent the contractual doctors who supported the National Health System (NHS) during the pandemic, without whom the NHS would collapse. It’s not just a matter of ethics; it’s a necessary step to ensure the existence of the NHS.

The second measure would be substantial hirings of healthcare personnel (doctors as well as nursing staff) according to the needs of hospitals, starting with those in urgent need. A primary concern would be the hiring of anesthesiologists (at double the current salary) to ensure the proper functioning of surgery facilities. We would also hire pathologists to meet urgent needs in that area.

The third measure would be to expand proper primary care by completing the network of Local Health Units that the SYRIZA government began nationwide. Prevention and early diagnosis cannot rely on fragmented SMS messages, as sent today by the ND government, which reach only part of the population and lack continuity over time. These actions are now ad hoc and spasmodic.

TNH: What is your message to expatriates everywhere?

OI: SYRIZA believes that Hellenes abroad are not just voters who owe something to Greece – which they love and care about. They are a complex and diverse population that feels a great obligation and need to contribute to Greece, but also has needs and demands, and expects Greece to address them. For all these reasons, SYRIZA has consistently supported the voting rights of Hellenes abroad in national and European elections. In contrast to ND and PASOK, SYRIZA is the only party that asks the Greek Parliament to set aside a number of seats to be filled by Hellenes abroad, with the direct election of Members of Parliament by Greeks living in each region (i.e., North and South America, Europe, Australia, Asia, and the Middle East/Africa).

For SYRIZA, the top priorities are support from the Greek state for the Greek-language education of Hellenes abroad and their children, i.e., the establishment of Greek schools integrated into the host country’s educational system and a sustainable system for teaching the Greek language. It has formulated specific and budgeted proposals.

We also call for the re-establishment of the Council for Greeks Abroad (SAE) with elected representatives and not friends of the current government, which will function as an independent advisory body and, among other things, oversee the promotion of Greek culture by founding a ‘Hellenic House’ in every major city with a significant Greek population.

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