A lot is said every so often about the role and influence of the Greek diaspora, and given that the United States is the most powerful nation in the world right now, it’s no surprise that in that context it is the Greek-American community that is getting much of the attention.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ visit to Washington, his contacts at the White House and his speech to a Joint Meeting of Congress underscored Greece’s merits. The country’s geographical position and overall stance obviously matter, just as the policy pursued on issues related to American interests also affects how it is viewed by Washington. If, however, it also has the advantage of a significant diaspora as well – in terms of numbers, but more importantly, of political and economic influence – that is certainly important.
The many Greeks doing important things in the United States have clout. This is not some exaggeration to play up their role. Their votes can often influence the outcomes of elections, especially in swing states. The funding of parties and candidates – a legitimate part of how American democracy works – creates bonds that can prove useful when it comes to passing bills and making decisions.
Anyone who has lived in the US and knows how the political system operates saw that a number of the lawmakers who came to watch Mitsotakis speak – and there were some very important ones among them – knew that they were not just listening to the prime minister of an ally in a sensitive region, but also the leader of a country with around 1.5 million (the exact number is not easy to establish) American citizens who care about Greece and express this in many different ways. It’s an important factor no one can overlook.
The overall value of Hellenism (Greece and Cyprus) is increased by leaps and bounds in the eyes of the American political system by virtue of its diaspora.
Some doubt the influence of the Greek-American community and the so-called Greek lobby in Washington. I beg to disagree.
Can we do more? Of course. There’s always room for improvement. Would the diaspora be more effective if all the different Greek-American organizations worked together in harmony? Obviously; there’s strength in numbers. Could Athens, Nicosia and the diaspora act in a more coordinated manner? A lot of progress has been made to this end, but more can always be done.
In any case, what is clear is that Greece has been very clever in its movement in recent years. The actions of those who know how the mechanisms of leverage and decision-making work have been well targeted and are yielding tangible results.