Secretary General for Public Diplomacy and Greeks Abroad, J. Chrysoulakis reveals his plans for the Greek Diaspora, analyses the relations with the Greek communities abroad, talks about the biggest challenge he has to manage and refers to the bicentennial of the Greek Revolution and the participation of the Greeks Abroad in the celebrations

interview by George Vailakis

What are the programs that you are currently implementing at the General Secretariat for Greeks Abroad and Public Diplomacy of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of the Hellenic Republic?

The General Secretariat for Greeks Abroad and Public Diplomacy has now a dual focus: on the one hand the Diaspora and on the other Public Diplomacy. These two aspects are complementary and extroversive and act as an operational arm for the promotion of Greece abroad.

The newly established General Secretariat is more than ever committed to bringing the Greek communities closer to each other, strengthening their ties with the homeland, and preserving their cultural identity.

At the same time, through Public Diplomacy campaigns, the General Secretariat creates a modern narrative for the country and promotes its image internationally, with help and cooperation of the Greeks abroad, who, wherever they live, are a prominent part of their local communities.

With regard to our program for the Greek Diaspora, which is a strategic priority for our country, I could first mention the actions we have planned, and those that our Diaspora has proposed for the celebration of the Bicentennial of the Greek War of Independence.

Another program, which is the result of long efforts, is about keeping the Greek language alive, and in this context we participated in numerous events organized all over the world on the occasion of the International Greek Language Day.

This is the capstone of our long efforts to preserve the Greek language and disseminate the Greek culture among the children of our Diaspora up to the 4th generation. In this vein, we were actively involved in the creation and promotion of the e-learning platform StaEllinika.com, a very useful free tool that the Greek Diaspora, as well as philhellenes and their children, can use to learn our language, history and culture.

This was made possible due to the collaboration of the General Secretariat with the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Centre for Hellenic Studies at the Simon Fraser University.

The platform was entirely funded by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, first launched in April 2020 and officially presented in October 2020. There are currently more than 28,000 registered users from 118 countries.

It is also important to mention that the Hosting Programs that we are redesigning, and which will take place this year, if sanitary conditions allow, will no longer be just holidays in Greece, but will be combined with learning of the Greek language and culture.

In this way, we are confident that this amazing experience will leave an indelible mark on children’s souls. In this context, another action that we are planning for our Diaspora and philhellenes is about operating Summer Schools with Greek language courses.

Especially for the children of our Diaspora, these schools will start operating in 3 age groups very shortly, where Greek language, history and culture will be taught. Furthermore, women could not be exempted from our plans.

In fact, under the Auspices of the General Secretariat, the Greek International Women Awards will be held this year for the second time. These awards were established to recognize and reward Greek women from Greece and abroad who stand out due to their professional achievements or actions.

Finally, I would like to stress that thanks to our efforts, this year, the Economics Olympiad, an international knowledge competition in economics and finance for high school students, year will accept applications from Greek schools abroad for the first time.

How will you strengthen our relations with the Greek communities abroad? What is your plan?

Further strengthening relations with the Diaspora is our top priority and that is why we have established a permanent two-way dialogue with Greeks all over the world, so as to listen to their needs and support them as much as possible.

I often participate in the meetings of the European Network of Greeks Elected in Local Administration, as well as in the meetings of the Parliamentary Special Permanent Committee on Greeks Abroad.

Of particular interest are the meetings and visits of the World Hellenic Interparliamentary Association (organization of the Greek Diaspora bringing together legislators of Greek origin from around the world), a very important network that supports our national issues and showcases our culture globally.

Our frequent contacts with international sectoral networks, involving prominent Greeks, give us the opportunity, during the conferences we organize, to exchange ideas and collaborate in drafting proposals aiming at reconnecting them with Greece and transferring their experience and know-how to our country.

One of our initiatives in this context is to promote a network of excellence for scientists who live or want to live in Greece and produce work of high international standards.

At the same time, we are drafting plans that will bring the Diaspora closer to their homeland, such as the strategy of second residence acquisition in Greece, especially in villages, islands and the mountainous parts of the country.

The full interview of John Chrysoulakis is published in the March/April 2021 issue of Greek Business File, available here.