HomeGreeceMinister of Foreign Affairs Nikos Dendias’ remarks at the 5th Digital Conversation...

Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikos Dendias’ remarks at the 5th Digital Conversation Series event hosted by The Hellenic Initiative Australia (THI), themed: ‘The Greek Diaspora and Foreign Policy’ (07.07.2022)

N. DENDIAS: A lot, a lot. Why? Why am I saying that? Of course we have to do our own work and our homework, and I will speak about that, but I think everybody knows that the quality of life that this paradise on earth offers is unique.
You can earn more money in major metropolitan capitals of the world, that’s for sure. But you live better in Greece.And I am looking very much forward to coming to Australia and meeting the diaspora in person, because what we advocate in our foreign policy is that we are a bridge, and we don’t believe that we are only a bridge towards Africa or towards the Middle East.We believe we can be a bridge also to the Indo-Pacific, with countries like Australia that have similar values, and if you allow me to openly say, similar interests.And yet again, as we speak, Australia is one of the biggest investors in Greece.
But also we try to facilitate investment from abroad. Let me give you an example. Dividends. Tax on dividends in Greece is 5%. There is no other European country that has a 5% tax on dividends.MODERATOR: You are speaking about bringing people to Greece, what economic incentives are you giving, digital, attracting digital nomad workers to Greece?So, we believe we can project ourselves as a modern, successful medium-sized country but with a global horizon.
And the Greek diaspora is one of our main advantages in our effort to try to do so.So, we see this opportunity to vote as the bridge that the diaspora should cross to be reconnected closely with the motherland.
Of course, the future will tell if we are right or wrong, but that is the way we see it.
And I have to say, there is a unique acceptance within the Greek political establishment and within the Greek society of the vote of the Greek diaspora.N. DENDIAS: Well, we are trying our best already but we start from one basic thesis: you can never project positively something that does not exist.
So, step one is to modernize our country, modernize Greece and then project this image of the new Greece to the world.Australians have fought in Greece, have fought in our region for the same values over the years, during the World Wars, and Greece and the Greek society never forget that.MODERATOR: Yes, and following on from that how can you mobilize the Greek diaspora on a permanent basis and promote interactions between Greek and Australian organizations.But, of course, please appreciate that whatever we do has a lot to do with human effort, and less with our budget which is very, very limited for understandable reasons. We are not a rich country, we aspire to be a rich country, but we are a rich culture, a rich society in sentiment, but not a rich country budget-wise.N. DENDIAS: The second is more difficult than the first, because bureaucracy is a strange beast, and you have to fight every day for the obvious sometimes. Because, also, bureaucracy and bureaucratic hurdles are very resistant to the forces of transformation, of modernization.Really, honestly speaking, I don’t think that this is something that works in Turkey’s favor. I think that Turkey’s future – and I believe that this is also what a big part of the Turkish society, I think, would like to see happening – is to come closer to us, become the best of friends with Greece and become eventually, in a distant future, a candidate and a member state of the European Union.
But, unfortunately, this has a long way to go and we don’t seem to get any closer.N. DENDIAS: Well, first of all, let’s speak structurally. There is a General Secretariat, the Secretary General, also the the Deputy Minister sitting next to me, So it is Deputy Minister Andreas Katsaniotis, next to me, and Secretary General Chryssoulakis, two very competent collaborators of mine in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with a record of proud achievements within our government.But also, apart from that, there is something else: It is the image of Greece. Our diaspora around the world is a successful diaspora. We are very proud of the Greeks abroad, what they have achieved in their lifetime. And so, they are the best ambassadors of Greece.
They are the ones who can promote Greece’s image abroad because they are successful within their own communities.
So, being very proud of them, we also ask them to work for their mother country.Having said that, I believe that the government I serve, the Mitsotakis government, has done a lot. And we have one indication, one of many that we can use. The level of foreign investments in Greece. I have to say, among others, Australian investments.
Even in the previous decade, if I was speaking about Australian investment above a billion to Greece, I think not only nobody would believe it.And all my friends, all my friends and people younger than me who have been working abroad, especially during the time of the crisis, are trying to get back. But we have to assist them, not deteriorate their standard of living when they come back to the country.I have to say Greece was treated unjustly in the previous decade, the second decade of the 21st century during the debt crisis. I will never, never in my lifetime forget that Mitt Romney, whom I respect as a politician, used Greece as an example in his campaign in the USA saying that ‘if we don’t do X, we may end up another Greece’.MODERATOR: Minister, is there anywhere that the diaspora can play a positive role on this problem?And we believe this is the main, main connection axis between Greece and the diaspora. They have a say to their mother country.
But also we are trying to do a lot of more things.
We have really rehabilitated, again, the Council of the Greek diaspora, we are using a much more elaborate term that it is clear what it is all about, with which we can have a forum, a platform through which the Greek diaspora expresses itself on issues that have to do with the diaspora.I have to say that what we hear, what we see, what is happening to the other side of the Aegean is that Turkey is diverging from the NATO paradigm or from the European paradigm, in the sense that it advocates values and really deals in a way that is totally against what a modern 21st century country is expected to do.And we see that happening. Many people have returned, but we need more, because the truth is that the human resources, the human capital is what is the major factor for creating a success story out of present Greece.And we present ourselves as the best investment destination because it is not just the Greek market, the Greek market is a small market, it is an 11 million people market. But Greece is an entry point to the European Union, and Greece is the entry point to the Balkans and to Central-Eastern Europe.N. DENDIAS: It is extremely important. It is extremely important and I have to say that the General Secretariat is dealing with that.
First of all, our language is our soul. The Greek language is not an ordinary language. I mean no language in the world is an ordinary language, but the Greek language has one additional advantage: it has 4,000 years of continuity.And also issuing a threat of war, a casus belli against Greece, if Greece extends, as it is entitled according to international law, its territorial waters to 12 miles etc.
Overflights over the Greek islands, and even the Greek mainland, is an everyday agenda for this Ministry. And countless other provocations against Greece.But also the General Secretariat does a lot to promote teaching the Greek language in all sort of universities and schools abroad. And we will try to do more.But we have done that and I think we have done that in a very successful way. And we also work very positively for young people, for example, from Ukraine who, because of the Russian invasion, have to resettle.
Greece is the obvious destination in the region.MODERATOR: Minister, can I ask a question about the promotion of Greek language and Greek studies abroad? What are your thoughts on that issue, and what role can Greek studies programs and oversea universities play?N. DENDIAS: For my country, extremely important because we believe we have a story to tell to our diaspora, and because the diaspora consists mostly of successful people, I think they are people who would subscribe to that story, the story of the Mitsotakis government.So, we had to start from a very low point. And yet again, I think now we are at a position in which Greece is credited for having achieved a total transformation of the country.
We are considered a stable democracy, a vibrant democracy, a successful economy with proud achievements, for example how we dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic.So, we are trying to implement within the Greek universities, and hopefully in the future within the Greek schools, the ability for foreign students to come and study and live with us and understand the country and understand our culture.
We have a long way to go but it goes extremely well in the first stages.But, having said that, the more important thing is the strongest connection with the motherland. If you vote, if you express an opinion to where the country should go, that means you are an informed citizen of that country, you care about what is happening in Greece, you care about what will happen to Greece, you care about taxes in Greece, you care about everyday life in Greece, you care about the Greek foreign policy, you care about the image of Greece.MODERATOR: And if I can ask another question about the diaspora regarding the next elections, it will be the first elections where the diaspora will be voting. How important is that?So, I’m very much looking forward to flying over, to come to Australia, to meet the diaspora, and enhance this process of creating a stronger bond between the Australian diaspora and the mother country.
Thank you so much for this opportunity which I will treasure.N. DENDIAS: Well, I don’t want to say much, but I have to say that I treasure this unique opportunity to address the diaspora in Australia.N. DENDIAS: Absolutely. The diaspora can make a huge difference in this. Because the diaspora can act in two different, distinct, but extremely useful, ways.
First of all, advocate Greece’s positions. And I have to say, we make the life of the diaspora easier in the sense that, let’s use Australia as an example, what we advocate is exactly what the Australian State advocates: International Law, International Law of the Sea.
When Australia speaks about the challenge presented in the South China sea in the Pacific, it uses exactly the same terms, exactly the same values that we project in the Aegean and the Mediterranean.MODERATOR: Minister, that concludes, we thank you, we know you haven’t got that much time, but we thank you enormously here.
And now I pass on Mr. Nicholas Pappas to conclude the proceedings.Also, we have a stable tax environment, we have a low tax on companies’ profits.  And we are an investment-friendly country. Last year we had in foreign investment above 6 billion euros, unique for Greece.But unfortunately, I cannot provide you with much insight in the sense that we cannot figure out why Turkey is taking the position it does take.So, what we are doing is, having implemented a tax regime, which allows people who left Greece in the times of the crisis and would like them to return with a bonus, something that will help them really feel that they do not only come because the quality of life is better, but also because they are getting a better deal from the deal they have, for example, in London or in New York or in Singapore or in Hong Kong.MODERATOR: Can I ask you a question about the, well, you mentioned the tragic last ten years for Greece and the brain drain, how confident are you about reversing the brain drain?N. DENDIAS: Well, thank you for asking me the obvious question I would have expected to be asked by anybody caring about Greece, but not just about Greece, caring about peace and stability in this very important region of the world.N. PAPPAS: Foreign Minister, thank you so much for your presentation today, we know we you are very pressed at the time, we are very conscious of that, but you gave us so much information it was both insightful and informative.
So, Foreign Minister, thank you, I don’t know if you want to close with some words, but if so, I have to give you one last opportunity to say any further to the diaspora before we close the proceedings.According to our understanding, the obvious way forward for Turkey is to remain an ally within the NATO framework, and a country that would like to get as close as possible to the European Union, meaning the values and the principles of the European Union, not just the Single Market, and eventually, in some distant future, become also a member of the European Union.And through the words, the words of modern Greek, if you just dig a little underneath and you take some time to understand how this word came to be pronounced, to be spoken, as it is the situation today, you can go back through 4,000 years of fascinating history, full of successes, of failures, of defeats, of wins.So, for us, really bringing our language to the world is something of huge importance. And not just for the Greek diaspora.
So we have done what we could, also, to create a digital platform, to facilitate teaching Greek to whoever wishes to try, I have to say it is not easy, this is not an easy language, this is the other side of the coin. 4,000 years of history does not make it an easy language to understand, because the same word could have different meanings and the pronunciation could even change that meaning.N. DENDIAS: We have a special regime. I think it is the best and the most advanced in the European Union.
First of all, it is important, and let me say it, that Greece has understood the term.
Greece was one of the first countries in the European Union that dealt with the issue and Greece also understood how important that is. Because Greece, at the same time, has to address the phenomenon of the illegal, the irregular migration, and encourage migration that will help the Greek economy grow, and also help digital nomads establish themselves in Greece.MODERATOR: Greece is currently facing very serious challenges from Turkey. What do you think is the reason for all the tense rhetoric that is coming out of Ankara at the moment?And we are bringing our Ministry, by the way the whole of the Greek public sector but we are speaking now for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in the 21st century.
We are implementing a series of digital tools with which the Greek diaspora can be connected with the Ministry, can be connected with the Consulates, can be connected with the Greek public sector without having to travel, to go a Greek Consulate or to have to apply through a big bureaucratic procedure that used to be the case in the past.
We need something like eight months more, but I think we are going to do it and it will make a difference how the diaspora will be connected and how issues that have to do with military service, with being registered in Greece, with being connected also with their properties in Greece, is going to work.Let us be frank. Since our independence, in the 19th century, the Greek diaspora has always been larger than the Greek population, far larger than the Greek population. It is what enriches the country, what makes our country strong and what makes our country proud.N. DENDIAS: Well, first of all, it is a huge thing that it happened. Because the truth is that studying in Greece means studying in Greece in foreign languages, primarily in English and then we’ll see where we go from there.N. DENDIAS: Thank you.Now, this is the structure that is responsible for connecting us with our diaspora, and they are doing so. I have to say that their job is not easy, because our diaspora is all around the world. But yet again, they are trying their best.  
And the ways we are trying to do it, the first and the main one I would like to say, is that the Greek diaspora can vote in the Greek elections. They can have a say in what happens in Greece, who is elected in Greece, which is the program on which the next government will be elected.MODERATOR: What are your intentions regarding conducting Public Diplomacy campaigns to create a contemporary narrative for the country and promote its image internationally?So, the Greek diaspora in Australia preaches to the converted. But it is important to explain, to show the similarities of our positions and the Australian positions of the issues of International Law of the Sea.What we are seeing is returning back to some sort of neo-Ottoman ideological approach, a revisionism which thinks of recreating the Ottoman Empire with terms like “Mavi Vatan”, which means the “Blue Homeland”, which encompasses half of the Aegean and a big part of the Eastern Mediterranean.Also a country that supports Ukraine, supports international law, uses itself as a bridge between the Arab world and the European Union, between Africa and the European Union.
And I have to say in the months to come we would like to enhance our position in the Indo-Pacific. I have traveled to India, I am going to Vietnam in the next few weeks, I am planning to come to Australia during the autumn. Prime Minister Mitsotakis also has the Indo-Pacific high in his agenda.Now, the very fact that Greece has decided that it could be a magnet for foreign students who wish to study in this country, I think it is important.
And I think Greece has unique advantages that it could offer. Again, I’ve spoken about it before, quality of life, the weather, the environment, the ability to come in contact with historical monuments which do not exist anywhere else in the world. Even the very fact that you would see the Parthenon in your lifetime I think is an important achievement for every human being.So, if I may be allowed to say, our diaspora, its members have a comparative advantage, they know the country, they know the mentality, in 95% of the cases they know the language very well, so our diaspora has a unique advantage and a unique opportunity to invest in the country that will be the success story of Europe in the years to come.MODERATOR: Minister, Greece has a very, very prosperous diaspora. What measures does your government implement to encourage investment from the diaspora and to overcome bureaucratic obstacles?MODERATOR: And a final question, your government launched the Study in Greece initiative. How is that going?

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