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Deputy FM Amanatidis’ speech during the parliamentary debate on the government’s platform statements
Ladies and Gentlemen MPs,
The reading of the platform statements is something more than just a stage for the presentation of the roadmap of our government as a whole, as well as in each area of ministerial responsibility.
It is an opportunity to broadcast in every direction, both within and, mainly, beyond our borders, the message of the consolidation of our country’s political and economic stability following the recent national elections, serving as a spark for “jumpstarting” Greece in a globalized and competitive environment.
A stable political and economic environment that is without question the basis and guarantee of an outward-looking, dynamic foreign policy; a product, at the same time, of broader domestic political consensus, aimed at
• Strengthening the Greek Diaspora’s relationship with the homeland,
• Strengthening our country’s international image and our national ‘brand name’,
• Re-establishing Greece on many levels in the international environment.
The above, in combination with the reforms we will put through in the immediate future, are the necessary and sufficient conditions for our country’s exiting the crisis.
With the invaluable dynamic capital of the Diaspora Greeks as a vehicle, continuing the state’s longstanding efforts towards interaction between Greeks abroad and the homeland, the time has come to set aside the aberration of a Grexit and focus on Greform – Greek reforms – sending a message of strong will to reform to the whole planet.
The Diaspora constitutes a significant portion of our history as a nation. It is part of our national identity, our achievements and our international image. The existence of the Diaspora is the result of a long history of immigration, which, for most, was not a matter of choice. Having reached the 21st century, we believed that such circumstances belonged to the past. But the economic crisis of 2008 contributed towards depriving our people, and our young people in particular, of the jobs and opportunities they deserve.
From the outset of its term in office, the government took the strategic decision to invest the time and resources necessary for rebuilding Greece’s international image. But I believe that our strategy and the huge effort required to realize that strategy will be fully vindicated when our policy produces the its first tangible results.
The Prime Minister and the competent ministers have opening a channel of communication with the Diaspora regarding the provision of incentives to encourage the Diaspora to play a more active role in the efforts to create investments. In countries where Greek communities reside, we can, through their activities, increase our access to the local market. The Greeks abroad have twofold experience: they are exceptional ambassadors and skilled negotiators. In this way they can build business networks and directly influence the influx of foreign investments into Greece, through the exchanging of information and the activation of the necessary mechanisms.
But the Diaspora Greeks should be seen not just as a source of funding, but also, and mainly, as development partners. A stronger relationship between the national center and the Greek Diaspora is both advisable and urgently needed. The strategic involvement of the Diaspora, which will be based on a mid- and long-term ability to assess needs, with clear emphasis on transfer of information and skills, could be the starting point.
Also of particular importance is the role that can be played by scientists of Greek origin in extricating Greece from the crisis, given the importance of science and technology in improving living conditions and economic growth. Scientific cooperation and the transformation of ‘brain drain’ into ‘brain circulation’ between the Diaspora and Greece can have a positive impact on inter-state communities. As such, capitalization on the skills of Greeks residing abroad is in accord with the direction of development policy and could contribute to bridging the gap between supply of and demand for specialized scientists.
We are working for a closer and more substantial two-way relationship between Greeks abroad and the homeland, pursuing, on the one hand, the resolution of their chronic problems and satisfaction of their longstanding demands with regard to such issues as education, taxation, pensions, voting rights, and, on the other hand, a more dynamic contribution on their part to national reconstruction and the country’s development course, to development of tourism, attraction of investments, and even cultural diplomacy.
In this context, through legislation and pursuing maximum political consensus, we are revising the organizational framework for the functioning of the World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE), emphasizing the democratic self-organization of the institution while bolstering its prestige and effectiveness here in Greece and beyond our borders.
With the Home Affairs Ministry, which has substantive competence on this issue, we have initiated the discussion on the issue of voting rights for Diaspora Greeks, and I am hopeful that in a next stage we will be in a position to talk to the political parties and present positions on this issue.
We are implementing upgraded hospitality programmes with targeted actions and with a view to maintaining contact with participants while also making scientific use of the conclusions drawn from these programmes, which was lacking in the past.
It must be stressed that in this sector of our foreign policy on Diaspora Hellenism we will capitalize on and continue the longstanding and consensus-based policies that have been implemented by the majority of the political parties, given that these policies have been shaped through the Parliament’s Special Permanent Committee on Greeks Abroad.
The policy of broad consensus in this area will be our main concern, and we request the creative contribution of the other political parties in this direction.
With regard to Cultural Diplomacy, which is also within my portfolio, despite the strong cultural advantages Greece has, this sector has remained weak to this day. Its development must begin from an understanding of its potential:
• It helps to create a foundation of trust with other peoples, which can be used by those responsible for charting policy to achieve political, economic and military agreements.
• It creates relationships with nations and peoples; relationships that transcend changes in government.
• It can provide an approach to key figures in foreign companies that is easier that traditional diplomatic channels.
• It provides a positive cooperation agenda in spite of political differences.
• It creates a neutral platform of communication and exchange of views.
• It functions as a flexible, universally accepted vehicle for rapprochement with countries with which diplomatic relations are strained or non-existent.
• It is uniquely suited for approaching young people and a diverse audience with cultural interests.
Another critical and privileged sector for our country is Religious Diplomacy. The dynamic resurgence of public religion on the world stage has complex repercussions.
Religious figures are imparting a new dimension of trust and legitimization, and, as such, increased influence on the diplomatic process. They are respected, often even as global spiritual models, and can guide developments more easily. This gives them great influence over certain political powers. Religion is a diplomatic resource of decisive importance, as a source of extensive influence. Bearing in mind that states bring tangible resources to the diplomatic process – resources such as power and capital – religious leaders bring intangible resources, such as respect, trust and dedication. Both can work effectively to strengthen the country’s position in the international community.
We are already working in this direction, hosting – as the Foreign Ministry – an International Conference on “Religious and Cultural Pluralism and Peaceful Coexistence in the Middle East” here in Athens, from 18 to 20 October, initiating a substantial and comprehensive dialogue with emphasis on the humanitarian crisis being experienced by populations in the Middle East.
Apart from respecting religious pluralism, we firmly believe in the acknowledgment of cultural difference.
Allow me to say a few words about Greek-language education abroad. In the first decade of this century, with the outbreak of the economic crisis in our homeland, we have seen a new wave of immigration to countries in Central Europe, mainly Germany, where purely Greek schools operate. The new generation of immigrants, which includes parents of pupils, have embraced the schools of this type, with a resulting increase in registration at these schools.
Educational policy must be combined, starting now, with a number of measures for adapting to the special educational and cultural conditions of Greek children abroad and those who return to Greece, of educators, of teaching methods and curriculum content.
We believe that inter-state agreements with destination countries contribute significantly to the Greek-language education of Diaspora Greeks.
The activation of all the forces of the state, together with the mobilization of Diaspora Hellenism, is the best foundation for a new start. This is what we are working towards, and we will achieve it.