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When a Greece-centric Brochure is Called Strategic Planning for the Greek Diaspora!1

During the past four weeks, the Department of Foreign Affairs of Greece, posted on its website for public consultation (until March 13), a 36-page long brochure. Printed in large font, the brochure contained anywhere between 11 to 136 words per page, with an average of 65 words per page.

Boldly titled by the Greek government “Key Principles of a Strategic Plan for Hellenism Abroad, 2024-2027,” the brochure was pre-released to the media in Greece, with leaks and an overwhelmingly positive language, as early as December 2023.

According to the Greek government: “In this Strategic Plan, the Department of Foreign Affairs outlines its vision, its strategic goals as well as its operational initiatives aiming to further strengthen the ties of the Greek Diaspora with the ‘metropolitan center,’” as the Department calls Greece.

All citizens, as well as institutional and civic partners and, in particular, the diaspora (omogeneis) Greeks and their organisations from all over the world were invited to participate in the consultation process.

The consultation brochure, however, is outdated and out of touch with today’s cultural, linguistic, societal, political, and other realities, that define multifaceted and diverse Greek diasporic communities around the globe.

The consultation document is simplistic, ahistorical and ignores all previous policies of the Greek state over the past 40 or so years, regarding “its” diasporic communities.

The brochure points to a one-way street, referring mainly to the “use” of the various diasporic communities in order to advance the economic, cultural and diplomatic interests of the Greek state.

Worth highlighting are the following 10 indicative points:

(1) The brochure/document does not have a theoretical framework, as to why and how Greece perceives its relationship with the Greek origin citizens of more than 150 countries around the globe. It does not have a strategic objective which attempts to link in a historical, reflective and a forward-looking manner, the past with the present and the present with the future of global Hellenism. Diverse global Hellenism can be defined not only as a community of people, but also as a diverse individual and/or collective identity, in constant conversation with itself and with the rest of the world, that is, the “new homelands” of Greek origin people, as well as the country of ancestry. What we do have in this document, is a simple disconnected enumeration of past actions and future intentions of the Greek state, regarding ecumenical Hellenism.

(2) There is absolutely no recognition of the current cultural, social, political, historical, and other parameters defining present-day Greeks living outside of Greece and/or Greek origin residents of the world. The brochure defines Greece as the metropolitan centre and the diasporic communities as migratory birds, as swallows that flew away from the motherland!

This ignorance, the inability to understand the obvious, that is, the multifaceted, ever evolving, constantly fluid and perpetually in flux relationships between the various communities and individuals that identify as Greek, as pointed out by many Greek diaspora thinkers and academics, or Greek-Australian public intellectual Konstantinos Kalymnios,2 is alarming.

The Greek state fails to see the diasporic communities as multiple interconnecting “galaxies” that make up a diverse and multifaceted cultural and sometimes linguistic “Greek universe.”

For example, the consultation brochure states amongst others that one of the aims of the so-called “strategic plan” is the promotion of issues of Greek (state) interests “in the host societies/countries.”

What the Greek government considers to be “host countries and societies,” are the actual homelands of Greek descent citizens of the world, the vast majority of whom, after many decades of residency, culturally and linguistically are an integral part, with rights and obligations, of the countries in which they were born, raised and reside.

(3) The networking pursued by the Department of Foreign Affairs of Greece, concerns the “export” of information, culture, language etc, only in relation to Greece. It does not concern and therefore it does not address issues such as the “import” into the “metropolis” and its people of the history, the culture, or the know-how of those residing outside the borders of Greece.

The reference to the need to establish and to have a substantive bilateral communication and relationship, is negated by the “strategic” vision of the consultation document, which clearly states that the aim is the promotion abroad, with the help of the “expatriates,” of important national issues and interests of Greece. Furthermore, you cannot have a proper strategic and meaningful bilateral relationship with ecumenical Hellenism, when you constantly mention or imply that, there is a metropolitan centre and an “expatriate” community which is seen only as an instrument to promote cultural, economic, and other interests abroad, interests that originate in Greece only.

(4) The references to create a day to celebrate Greeks Abroad, or to establish a Museum of Greeks Abroad, are old Greek diasporic communities’ requests and if genuine, are welcomed. However, on their own, without the existence of a comprehensive 21st century diasporic policy, these (mostly symbolic) initiatives are not sufficient enough. Without including in the national narrative of mainland Greece, school textbooks, major festivals, major museums, etc., the multifaceted diasporic dimension of Hellenism, we cannot go far. Of course, without the allocation of the necessary funds from the national budget and possibly from other sources, any mention regarding the implementation of such policies remain wishful thinking and rhetoric only.

(5) The reference to “affirmative action” policies, for example, the availability of “apprenticeships” in public and private institutions in Greece, for young people from the diaspora, aiming to advance their professional development are welcomed, but such initiatives do not go far enough. For example, it is worth exploring the possibility to establish provisions for the recruitment of professional Greek origin policy makers, technocrats and others, within the bureaucracy and the institutions of the Greek state.

(6) As others have pointed out too, the consultation brochure uses the terms Apodimos Hellenism, Homogeneia and Greek Diaspora, interchangeably, without defining them and without being able to understand their limits in relation to the current cultural identities that prevail in global Hellenism. Furthermore, the author(s) of the brochure do not seem to realize that there is not just one expatriate/homogeneous/diasporic Hellenism, but many. There are many “Greek” diasporas, depending on the historical, social, political and cultural circumstances that shaped them.

(7) The relationship with Orthodoxy is now considered to be a key strategic factor, in order to propagate a more cohesive relationship between Greece and its diasporas. This however ignores a fundamental fact: that the vast majority of Greek origin citizens of the world, define their identity nowadays mostly through the culture, the language and the experiences they have as members of their respective mainstream societies and not through their ethnic and religious microcosms.

(8) The use of digital technologies in order to make it easier to connect Greece and the various arms of the state with the lives and the needs of the numerous diasporic communities is welcomed. However, the Greek Consulates, at least in the large centres of global Hellenism, would still need to employee real people, if they are to successfully deliver their services and if they are to successfully act as professional mediators between the Greek state and global Hellenism.

(9) All the references regarding the strengthening of the relationship of Greece with the diverse Greek diasporas around the world, refer exclusively to the existent and mostly irrelevant, or diminishing in influence, diasporic community institutions and organisations. It is the formal and informal networks, as well as the institutions of the main societies, active members of which are more and more people of Greek background, that Greece needs to consider and attempt to approach.

(10) The strengthening of Greece’s relations with Ecumenical Hellenism, or the creation of a database and registry of “expatriates”, expatriate organizations, etc., even on a voluntary basis, needs to be reconsidered, given that Greek background people culturally and legally, are first of all, and above all, members and citizens of “foreign” to Greece countries and societies.

It will be interesting to see, whether or not other political parties of the “metropolis,” will take part in this consultation process, or whether or not they will be able to present their own strategic plans, if they have any…

Furthermore, it will also be interesting to see if and/or how many individuals and community organisations from the Greek diasporic communities around the globe, will participate in this process. Considering that the consultation document is only available in Greek and not in the main spoken languages of the diaspora communities.

Finally, participation in the consultation process can be viewed as an indicator of cultural, historical and political affinity, of the various global Greek diasporas, with their country of origin.

March 16, 2024

Kostas Karamarkosis a Melbourne based journalist, who in the past worked as a Senior Advisor at the General Secretariat for Greeks Abroad, in the Department of Foreign Affairs of Greece. He also worked in the Political Office of former Prime Minister of Greece George A. Papandreou.

Notes

1. The original was published in Greek as «Απόδημος Ελληνισμός: Όταν μια Μπροσούρα Ονομάζεται Στρατηγικός Σχεδιασμός! Η Ανάρτηση του ΥΠΕΞ και ο Προβληματισμός» ΕΘΝΟΣ, Φεβρουάριος 29, 2024.

2. Dean Kalymniou. 2024 “Diatribe: Greece’s Three Year Plan.” Neos Kosmos. March 9.

Editor’s Notes:

1. On the concept of “the diasporic communities as multiple interconnecting ‘galaxies,’” see George Kanarakis, 2012. “The Greek Diaspora in a Globalized World.” Modern Greek Studies (Australia and New Zealand), Special issue, Thinking Diversely: Hellenism and the Challenge of Globalisation. For the ideological work of diaspora conceptualizations see, Γιώργος Αναγνώστου, 2017. «Η Ώρα της Διασποράς;» ΧΡΟΝΟΣ, Νοέμβριος 15.

2. For a position on the topic of this article published in the Greek American press see, Alexander Kitroeff, 2024. “A New Blueprint.” The National Herald 27 (1378), March 9-15. P. 15.

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