Journalist: Minister, during a difficult period for Greece , we observe that the Greek Diaspora has not helped as much as we would expect to overcome the crisis. What is the reason, in your opinion?
K. Tsiaras: Your remark does not correspond to the current situation. Hellenism abroad is a timeless force for Greece and, it is true that now, more than ever, we need that force. Each and every Greek in every corner of the earth is an ambassador for issues that concern our country, for issues that will determine the future, even in shaping local public opinion in relation to our country.
From my experience as Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, responsible for all issues concerning Greeks Abroad, I strongly believe that Hellenism worldwide, is active and creative, and does not cease, no matter how far away it is, to maintain and strengthen the feeling of national unity.
It is well known that Greeks abroad, especially the younger generations, have an enviable presence in the social, scientific, economic and political life of the countries in which they live. With their participation in public affairs, they have become potential ambassadors of our country and regulatory factors in the political scene of their countries, overturning the negative image of our country that is promoted by some, due to the adverse fiscal circumstance.
In these harsh times of dire need, it is particularly encouraging to see that the Diaspora sends messages of solidarity and support to the nationwide effort. This is the moment that Greece has need of this largely untapped national asset.
One of the major issues in the midst of the economic crisis is the openness of the economy and the Greek market. In this direction, promotion of relationships with ecumenical Hellenism is a focal point of economic development. This perspective is among our priorities as set forth by the Prime Minister, Antonis Samaras.
As you know, visits by former President of the United States of America Bill Clinton and a large group of Greek-American businessmen were organized in this context.
The interest of the Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is very strong, and he is leading these efforts that we feel can create the “next day” for the Greek economy.
Another area where the contribution of the “omogeneia” could be decisive is the tourism sector. Greeks, both through their associations and acting as individuals as well, can contribute to the development and promotion of Greek tourism for the next season. They are the best advertisers of our country and they can convince their friends, their professional and social acquaintances, to visit Greece.
In our national effort to rebuild the country we need the dynamism, the support, the help, the ideas of all Greeks.
Journalist: An ongoing claim of the Diaspora is the provision of voting and citizenship. What does the government do for this issue?
K. Tsiaras: As I have already pointed out, Hellenism abroad is a huge national asset, which, through two-way processes and equal-basis relationships, we have to recognize and promote.
In this context we consider it imperative to strengthen the ties of overseas Greeks with our country and, by extension, to legislatively regulate their right to participate in national elections.
Journalist: The cuts on diplomatic missions for economic reasons introduced by the Papandreou government, eventually helped the Greek economy or damaged the international presence of Greece?
K. Tsiaras: It is true that under the current fiscal situation, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs is thoroughly examining the reorganization of its Missions abroad. In the light of the above, the Ministry is paying all the necessary efforts in order to cut its expenses but, at the same time, to maintain all the necessary Embassies and Consular Authorities, having as paramount priority to promote national interest and facilitate Greek Diaspora and Greeks living abroad.
Journalist: The issue of immigrants living in Greece has been regarded as a major issue for a considerable part – if not the majority – of the Greek people. Is the Ministry for Foreign Affairs thinking to launch a diplomatic “offensive” friendship with the countries that have the largest population of immigrants in order to reach an arrangement with them to go back to their countries?
K. Tsiaras: First of all we need to make a distinction between illegal immigration and legal migration. I assume that your question refers to the illegal immigrants living in Greece. It is a well-known fact that our country, especially during the past decade, has served as the main port of entry for vast numbers of illegal immigrants. During that period the authorities have recorded more than 1 million cases of persons illegally entering Greece. This number marks, in a negative way, a historic high for Greece. Despite the ongoing efforts undertaken by the Government to tackle this issue, this phenomenon is still hard to deal with taken into consideration the huge inflow of illegal immigrants directed daily into Greece. Their final destinations, as we all know taking into consideration and the current financial situation in Greece are other European countries since Greece is only a transit point for them.
We believe that within the framework of the European Union we can push for the finalization of readmission agreements between the EU and third countries. For this reason Greece is one of the strongest supporters of every EU initiative directed towards this goal.
We are certain that through a collective effort by all EU Member States the future not only of our societies but also of those innocent people that their sufferings and their misfortune are being exploited by criminal networks will look more optimistic.