After having spent nearly five decades in New York, where I studied, made a career, and created a family, I decided to return to my homeland, at the invitation of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, to undertake the responsibility of Greece’s relations with Greeks living abroad.
I came to this admittedly difficult decision for two main reasons: First, because I profoundly believe in Kyriakos Mitsotakis, both as a politician and as a person. Second, because I consider this to be a rare opportunity to work, as I have done from the position of publisher-editor of The National Herald for 40 years, with the goal of strengthening the troubled relations between the mother country and Greeks abroad.
To be specific: For decades the homeland treated Greeks living abroad in a haphazard fashion, unwilling to take advantage of the opportunities offered by them. Instead of trying hard to maintain close relationships with them, the country did exactly the opposite, contrary to its own direct interests.
The bitter truth is that the country did not show any concern, as it should have, for Greeks living abroad. The majority of Greek politicians were content to extend flatteries and empty promises to us.
For example, some people in Athens are frustrated because of the reduced influence of the Greek lobby in the United States, without analyzing the causes. They express their irritation because only certain Greek Americans they call “opportunists” try to make contact with them, without wondering why. Greek officials demand sacrifices from us “in the interest of the mother country,” without considering what kind of an example they set for the rest of us.
However, Greeks living abroad do not give up, despite the fact they are left to their own devices. Many fight tooth and nail to pass on language, religion, history, culture and traditions to their children. Many Greeks living abroad are struggling, against the trends of our times, to preserve the sacred values of our people, because they are deeply aware of their importance first-hand.
To treat the expatriates as if they were alien to the developments in Greece, as “Americanakia,” is not simply misguided, but also a sign of inadmissible ignorance and arrogance with negative repercussions for the Greek nation.
At this point, I would like to make a strong appeal to all political parties in Greece. The issue of relations between Greece and Greeks living abroad is not a partisan one. It is purely a national issue. Therefore, all political parties should place the interest of the nation above and beyond petty politics and rise to the occasion.
A case in point is the issue of granting Greeks abroad the right to vote in the countries where they live. It is a shame for Greece, in the year 2019, to be the only EU country which denies its citizens that right. Let us put petty politics behind us once and for all and serve the national interest.
I hope the reasons why I have returned have become clear. In short, I have returned to contribute to the strengthening of the fraternal relations between our homeland and the Greeks living abroad. Let us all embrace each other, Greeks in Greece and abroad, and work together to build the best possible country, and to preserve our Greek communities outside the country.
My brothers and sisters, Greeks living abroad greeted my appointment as deputy minister for foreign affairs with responsibility for Greeks living abroad enthusiastically and consider it a gesture of genuine concern for them on the part of the prime minister. Thank you. I promise that I will work very hard not to disappoint them.
Antonis H. Diamataris is deputy minister for foreign affairs who is responsible for issues related to Greeks living abroad.