NIKOS DENDIAS: The Greek Diaspora and the Passion for Greece

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The Hellenic Initiative Australia presented a live webinar yesterday with Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias, moderated by Greek-Australian historian, Dr Nicholas Doumanis, dealing with a range of topics on the theme “The Greek Diaspora and Foreign Policy”.

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Dr Nicholas Doumanis with Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias

Eastern Mediterranean

On the vexed question of Greece's relations with Turkey (Turkiye) Nikos Dendias was critical of that country’s “neo-Ottoman ideological approach” and Erdogan’s revisionism in attempting to resurrect the Ottoman Empire. The Greek Foreign Minister also criticised Turkey’s search for a casus belli in the Aegean, pointing to overflights over the Greek islands and even the mainland and countless other provocations as an “everyday agenda”.

According to Dendias, this does not work in Turkey’s favour. Turkey needs to become a friend of Greece but Turkey also has to accept the operation of international law.

How can the Greek Diaspora play a role?

Nikos Dendias believes that the Greek Diaspora in Australia can play an important role in advocating for Greece, especially since Australia’s position on the operation of the International Law of the Sea as it applies to the South China Seas is identical to the Greek position on maritime rights in the Eastern Mediterranean. Greece and Australia share the same values and the Foreign Minister urged individuals and associations within the diaspora to explain and demonstrate those similarities to the local authorities.

A successful diaspora is the best advertisement for Greece, according to the Foreign Minister who noted that many Greeks abroad will be able to vote at the next Greek elections and commented that the Council of the Greek Diaspora is being “rehabilitated” and will develop into a forum where the diaspora can express itself.

Public diplomacy campaigns

The Greek Foreign Minister observed that you cannot project something positively if it does not exist and noted that Greece was treated poorly during the debt crisis but has now turned that around. The Greek State wishes to enhance its position in the Indo-Pacific region and to project itself as a successful country with “global horizons”. To that end Nikos Dendias plans to visit the area as well as Australia in the spring of 2022 to cement those ties and establish new bridges between Greece and South East Asia.

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"The Greek language is our soul"

Dendias pointed out that the Greek Diaspora has always been larger than the Greek population, at least since the War of Independence, and that’s what makes the country strong. He also welcomed the promotion overseas of the Greek language and studies, because “our language is our soul” after 4,000 years of continuation in the Greek language. Bringing the Greek language to the world is extremely important.

The Greek Foreign Minister concluded that Greece may not be a very rich country but it has a rich culture and is rich in sentiment.

It was an interesting discussion and The Hellenic Initiative Australia, as part of a global philanthropic initiative, is to be congratulated.

Hellenism and Phihellenism will continue to thrive and prosper in the dynamic diaspora down under.

George Vardas is Secretary of the Australian Hellenic Council (NSW) and also Co-Vice Chair of the Australian Parthenon Association