An appeal to Greeks all over the world to join forces and make Greece stronger was made by Prime Minister Costas Simitis from the podium of the 5th SAE World Convention. Speaking at the opening ceremonies, at the Vellidion Center in Salonica, last Thursday, Greek Premier told the deligates:
“You who are here today, the leaders of organized Hellenism, and the other 7,000,000 Greeks abroad, are the voice of Greece all over the world”, said the Prime Minister, and added:
“Greece, our homeland, needs you. It needs you not only because you are convincing defenders. It needs you because you are the incarnation of the inventive and tireless working Greek in the modern globalized reality. Because with your successes and achievements abroad, in adverse conditions, you show what abilities are require d of people today”.
At the same time he stressed the contribution of Hellenism abroad to the successful organizing of the 2004 Athens Olympics and that the body of Greek living abroad volunteers, a crucial dimension in the overall contribution of volunteers.
On SAE, Mr. Simitis said that it is a body of vital importance to Hellenism. It is the real channel of communication between Greece and Hellenism abroad. Greece is one of the few countries in the world with a steady policy for its people abroad. It supports the descendants of its nation globally and recognizes a specific institutional role.
With the new executive law to be voted on in Parliament soon, SAE will take on the role of the official interlocutor of the state. It will advise regarding every related law and will be provided with all possible assistance to achieve its important work.
The Prime Minister referred to the successes of Greece over the past few years. He characterized 2004 as a landmark for the progress of society in all sectors and stated that the government will prepare a program for the next four years, which will revolve around 3 axes: The social contract for real convergence, the plan for the renewal of public life and the plan for responsible governing.
The first goal of the Council of Hellenism Abroad, of organized Greeks abroad, must be the promotion of modern Greece globally, stressed President of the Republic Costis Stefanopoulos, at the 5th SAE World Convention and he was emphatic in his request fo r support for the Patriarchates of Istanbul, Alexandria and Jerusalem.
In the past we thought that the goal of SAE was the defense of our national interests (Cyprus, etc.), but we must be pragmatists, we cannot affect the course of national issues, observed Mr. Stefanopoulos. Of course that aim remains, but our fist concern now is the promotion of Greece, he added.
At that point he underlined that present day Greece has nothing to do with Greece of the 1940s, 1950s or 1960s and he underlined that: “Who would have believed that Greece would be organizing the Olympics?”
Regarding the organization of the Olympics, he expressed his belief that Greece is capable of succeeding and that the contribution of Greeks abroad will be decisive.
Mr. Stefanopoulos characterized SAE’s course so far as successful and he expressed his satisfaction with the measures being prepared by the government for the upgrading of SAE. He said that some mistakes had been made and asked that any differences be pu t aside and be expressed in such a way that is conducive to the progress of SAE.
He asked Greeks abroad to support the Patriarchates that are facing various problems, and mentioned those of Istanbul, Alexandria and Jerusalem. He stressed that Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos was correct in raising the issue of universality in his message to SAE, and he noted that this universality is what creates problems sometimes.
He was in favor of increasing the participation of women in politics and the bodies of SAE, and for this to be achieved present conditions that present obstacles must be improved.
He also spoke of himself saying that he would not be attend another SAE World Convention as President of the Republic, because his tenure will end in 2005.
His reassurance that the Greek Parliament will always stand by the Council of Hellenism Abroad (SAE) was given by President of the Greek Parliament Apostolos Kaklamanis, in his address at the opening of the works of the 5th SAE World Convention.
Regarding the situation in the modern international environment, he stressed that it is characterized by instability and uncertainty due to the inability of the international community to deal with the major problems of our age, such as the inequality between the rich and the poor, violence, terrorism and the violation of human rights. Greece, he said, is a steady herald for the necessity of an international system of cooperation and enforcement of international justice. He added that Greeks all over the world must contribute to global peace, democracy and progress and he stressed that that is why constant institutional communication among the representatives of Hellenism is necessary.
He mentioned that in the framework of that cooperation, the Greek Parliament is in constant contact with Greeks abroad, through the Special Standing Committee, while at the same time it supports the actions of Greek abroad bodies by strengthening programs specialized in education and welfare and by cultivating a constant contact with young Greeks abroad through the Greek Youth Parliament.
Mr. Kaklamanis underlined that SAE is facing a new period of renewal and action in view of the vote on the executive law of the Constitution and the creation of new structures that will allow it to extend into new regions, and the preparation of new policies in areas of direct Greek interest. He also mentioned that the two future goals are the promotion of Greece as a reliable force for peace, security and cooperation in the Balkan region, and the organizing of perfect Olympics, which will be distinguish ed by their uniqueness and reinstate the ancient ideals on the basis of competition, not commercialization, and will promote fundamental values such as the truce and volunteerism.
His support to the efforts of Hellenism abroad was committed by the Head of the Opposition from the podium of the 5th SAE World Convention. Mr. Karamanlis stressed that the SAE World Convention is sending out a message of unity, which is due to the efforts and struggles of Greeks abroad. He added that the goal is the creation of institutions that Greeks abroad are entitled to so that they can better communicate and keep up with each other.
“Greek communities create new galaxies”, stressed Mr. Karamanlis, while he underlined that wherever there is a strong Greek element, there is Greek thought and culture.
He referred to the role of the Church and characterized it as a beacon for Greeks in hard times. He stressed that Greeks abroad are not foreigners in the countries they now reside in, on the contrary they are a dynamic part of society.
“You make us proud and we must make you proud”, said Mr. Karamanlis, who added that Greece owes a lot to Greeks living abroad for everything they have done in defense of Greece’s national interests. At the same time he apologized for everything that Greece was not able to do for them and promised to support them.
Mr. Karamanlis stressed the need to strengthen Greek education and the retaining of the Greek language with the support of seats for Modern Greek studies in as many countries around the world as possible. Education, he said, is the bridge that connects Greece to Hellenism abroad and leads to the conquering of the future. He characterized Greek abroad media as a bridge that is helping keep Greek education alive. Our goal, he said, is to strengthen organizations of Greeks abroad without party affiliations, and pointed out the necessity for solidarity towards Greeks abroad.
At the same time he stressed that the time of the political changeover period and missed opportunities has come full circle and that an era of new prospects is dawning. Regarding the 2004 Olympics, he underlined that this is a national affair of all Greeks who must proclaim that Greece will hold the best and safest Olympics ever, and that they will not have a party character.