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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 10 August 2019
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 10 AUGUST 2019 3 NEWS when considering the figures of the Greek Interior Ministry at this year's EP elections. These showed that 11,792 from a total of 14,892 Greek citizens registered to vote in other European countries reflected the more general sentiment of Greeks voting in Greece. The results showed that the New Democracy Party received 33.9 per cent of the vote, SYRIZA came in a distant second with an extremely disappointing 15.3 per cent, followed by the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) with 14.1 per cent of the vote, and 8.6 per cent for the Movement for Change. MAINTAINING MEANINGFUL TIES Mr Papastergiadis, who is doing all he can to ensure that the diaspora's ties with Greece are strong, can see many advantages in giving Greeks abroad a vote. "A vote means more than just filling out a ballot," he said "It means reflecting and engaging on all the issues that relate to your country. It brings you closer to your country "By allowing the vote, Greece will send a message to its citizens that every one counts. That we are all one. Hopefully this will lead to more engagement both culturally and economically. "From a pure practical perspective it will also mean that the Greek Government will also reflect on its relationship with its citizens living abroad. Greece will pay much more attention to the issues confronting those abroad when there is a vote involved." Nicole Trian, a Greek Australian journalist/lecturer currently living and working in Paris, disagrees that "nationals abroad are casting an uninformed ballot, skewing the election towards a 'bad' outcome for the country." She said that living in a country is not a requirement of staying informed. "There are plenty of voters who despite living the day-to-day experiences of a country's policies – and I'd include countries seemingly politically and economically stable, like Australia, the US, what we've seen in the UK with Brexit – that don't bother to learn enough about what the politicians are proposing. They too are voting out of ignorance or something equivalent to what some are calling a 'Greek sentimentality'. But you can't regulate to prevent an unenlightened vote," she told Neos Kosmos. Independently collected data by Synpraxis, a Greek community think-tank, showed that Greek citizens living abroad remain aware of the Greek political process. Their study found that Greeks abroad could correctly identify the political parties who supported the 'yes' vote in the 2015 referendum, while over 20 per cent of citizens living abroad remained active in Greek political parties and pressure groups, a greater portion to those of citizens living in Greece. Furthermore, it was found that 60 per cent of Greeks abroad had completed their military service, 60 per cent are still taxpayers of Greece and 80 per cent had lived at least half their lives in Greece. For University of Sydney lecturer Vrasidas Karalis, Greeks in Australia are aware of what is going on in Greece thanks to technology. "I think that distance is not a problem anymore and most Greeks, from all over the world, know enough to make an informed choice about voting. I also believe that since many Greeks of the diaspora pay taxes then they must have the right to vote in the national and European Elections," he said. LOOKING AT LOGISTICS Of course, agreeing to the Greek right to vote is one thing, and actually putting it in place with the right mechanism is another. "The most serious problem that I see if they are going to vote for a specific electorate (wherever they are enrolled) or for the Supreme Court (Συμβούλιο Επικρατείας)," Mr Karalis said. "There we must focus our attention and formulate a coherent proposal. I don't think that we have to re-draw the electoral map of the country for new representatives or increase their number in the parliament. "On the contrary the number of MPs must be reduced and the constitution must be revised for the introduction of a body like the Senate in Australia which will hold the governing party accountable. "Perhaps the question of the diaspora vote should give the opportunity for a deep constitutional and institutional reform in the governance of the country." The diaspora vote could provide the opportunity to reinvigorate democracies, not just in Greece, but in Australia. Ms Trian believes that the opportunity of change could also be accompanied by a "publicly funded education campaign reminding voters of their rights and responsibilities – that they ask questions of their local representatives, engage with their communities and have a healthy scepticism that can be used to hold politicians and their promises to account." GCM President Bill Papastergiadis with Greek Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister for Expatriate Greeks Antonis Diamataris. Diaspora, a Greek government priority Greek Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister for Expatriate Greeks Antonis Diamataris on Wednesday assured the Greek Community of Melbourne (GCM) President Bill Papastergiadis that the Greek government will make every effort to support Greeks throughout Australia, in a meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Athens. Mr Diamataris stressed that expatriation is a government priority and asked to be briefed on the important issues facing Melbourne's expatriates, particularly in the field of education, such as potential teacher transfers from Greece, the activation of student hospitality programs in Greece, as well as school textbooks and distance learning. Mr Papastergiadis briefed Mr Diamataris on Melbourne's Greek community, the second oldest Greek diasporan hub, with 300,000 residents of Greek descent, which is also considered the third largest Greek-speaking city in the world, after Athens and Thessaloniki. He said the Greek community operates schools of Greek language and culture in various suburbs of Melbourne and the Alphington Grammar College, with more than 2,500 students in total, and supports five Greek Orthodox churches. The community also hosts some of the biggest festivals in Austral- ia, such as the annual Greek Film Festival and the Lonsdale Street Greek Festival in downtown Melbourne, which attracts more than 120,000 visitors. In 2014, the construction of a 15-storey new community building in central Melbourne, which houses the Greek Centre for Contemporary Culture, the largest of the Greek diaspora, with tens of thousands of visits each year. FECCA and the National Ethnic Disability Alliance (NEDA) have been strong advocates for reform in permanent residency visa applications. Hard work of disability advocates rewarded with visa policy changes The Federation of Ethnic Communities' Councils of Australia (FECCA) welcomes the Federal Government's decision to make changes to the way permanent residency visa applications are assessed for migrants with permanent medical conditions or disabilities. FECCA understands that part of these changes includes the threshold for an acceptable perceived economic cost of care for applicants with permanent medical conditions or disabilities has been in- creased from $40,000 to $49,000. The government will now also only calculate the care cost over a ten-year period, rather than the lifetime of the applicant as was previously the case, meaning many more people with permanent medical conditions or disabilities will potentially fall below the new threshold. FECCA Chairperson Ms Mary Patetsos said that FECCA and the National Ethnic Disability Alliance (NEDA) have been strong advocates for reform in the area. "NEDA has been advocating hard for changes to the strict visa application requirements for migrants living with permanent medical conditions or disabilities for many years," she said. "The strict rules around hypothetical cost of care has meant many families who have wanted to work hard and contribute to Australian society have faced deportation because of the medical circumstances of one family member. "In each of these cases, NEDA and FECCA have fought tirelessly for the affected families, and these changes are a testament to the work both organisations have done for our communities." FECCA is the peak, national body representing Australians from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds. FECCA's role is to advocate and promote issues on behalf of its constituency to government, business and the broader community.
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