This Year’s Historic European Elections for Diaspora Greeks and Collective Priorities

Citizens of the 27 EU nation-states are voting in this year’s European Parliament elections. For the first time ever, Greek citizens living in the Diaspora were afforded the opportunity to participate in the process through mail-in ballots. There is much at stake. Although the results will not directly impact how the EU operates in terms of its main institutions (European Commission, European Council, Eurogroup), they will manifest the mood of the people and set the stage for a possible political shift. Politicians once considered extremist and associated with fringe parties may end up at the center of political developments.

Due to the intricacies of the EU’s political architecture, the outcome of parliamentary elections will not have the same impact as in the individual nation-states that comprise it or in other countries like the U.S. The European Parliament’s votes are, in many instances, non-binding and therefore, the significance of this institution tends to be reduced. Also, a number of scandals associated with EU deputies has in part damaged its credibility. Nonetheless, the composition of the EU Parliament is a reflection of voter tendencies and may predict the direction in which political winds will be blowing in the years to come.

Of course, each nation-state experiences these phenomena differently. For example, as public opinion begins to change over what constitutes a traditional center-left or center-right party, new political movements promoting different agendas are beginning to emerge. For example, for some years now, the socialist party in Denmark has adopted a tough stance against immigration – something unthinkable for a center-left party in Greece, where even a center-right party like the current ruling New Democracy party appears to be uncomfortable with cracking down on illegal immigration – despite the acute demographic problem facing the nation.

However, it is a mistake to view EU elections as merely a referendum for a nation-state’s current government – which is often the case with voters from Greece. Those who do cast their ballot should look beyond the domestic balance of power and form a wider vision about the issues that their nation’s elected deputies will present before their European colleagues. For example, each nation-state has its own unique set of challenges, along with common issues that it faces along with the other 26 EU members. It would be a mistake for any party to send an elected deputy to Strasbourg who isn’t passionate about presenting his or her nation’s distinct outlook on an issue.

Sadly, the criteria for sending someone to the EU Parliament seems more akin to the logic that prevails in the kitschy annual Eurovision song contest than in identifying the nation’s best ambassadors to effectively represent their country. In Greece, a number of the candidates routinely elected are entertainers, athletes, or news personalities chosen more because of their recognizability than on the basis of their party’s platform and particular political proposal. In fact, many voters probably don’t even know the official position of the party they voted for regarding a number of European issues.

While it’s true that this is sometimes the case here in the United States as well, the dangers in Europe are even greater because there are far greater differences and distinctions among the citizens of the 27 member-states than the citizens of the 50 states in the Union. Considering the widespread polarization that currently exists in the U.S., one can only imagine how untenable the situation could become in the EU if these matters are overlooked.

Regardless of the individuals who do in fact get elected to represent Greece and Cyprus in the European Parliament, the hope is that they will be able to provide added value by expressing the unique standpoint of the constituents they represent. For instance, Cyprus remains the only EU nation-state under foreign occupation – a deep shame and lasting blemish for the EU. For all the rhetoric regarding Ukraine and Palestine, it’s sad to observe that very few people are talking about this year’s infamous fiftieth anniversary since Turkey’s invasion and occupation of Cyprus’ northern third.

Likewise, as one of the earliest European areas to espouse Christianity, Greece could provide a resounding message against the conversion of sacred spaces like the Aghia Sophia or Chora Monastery into mosques by the current Turkish Government. Moreover, a renewed embrace of the classics, which should be spearheaded by Greece, could serve as an important counterweight to the destructive absolutism and excesses of wokeism or the cancel culture movement.

There are many opportunities to share the truly universal values of Hellenism and Orthodoxy with the people of the EU, provided Greek and Cypriot politicians possess this ambition. Hopefully, the first group of Diaspora Greeks allowed to participate in this year’s elections will have done their part to help enable this.

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