In December 1995, the first global General Assembly of the World Council for Hellenes Abroad (SAE) was held in Thessaloniki amidst great fanfare. Plans for the institution’s creation had been proclaimed as early as the 1950s, but it took more than four decades for a global state-sponsored umbrella organization of the Hellenic Diaspora to become a reality. Ironically, the entity’s glory was short lived. At its peak in the late 1990s, there were SAE youth camps and academic conferences, humanitarian projects and political lobbying coupled with considerable active participation of the Diaspora on a worldwide level. After the last General Assembly and elections were held in 2006, SAE’s presence has dwindled: an occasional press release on current events, a meeting of one of the officers with a Greek minister and numerous promises that restructuring and new legislation will soon be realized. In 2013, the issue was even opened to public debate on opengov.gr, the much-touted Greek government platform that aspired to ensure transparency and maximize citizen engagement. At the same time, SAE’s offices in Thessaloniki, previously housed in spacious quarters donated by benefactor Thomas Makrides (whose desire was that the building be used in some capacity for the benefit of Diaspora Hellenism), are now being used for other municipal services, while the sole two employees were harshly ousted. This paper documents SAE’s passage into oblivion since 2008, during a period when crisis-driven emigration from Greece has notably increased and thus, a strong global institution for the Diaspora would seem more than necessary. An analysis of both the state’s reluctance to pursue SAE’s recreation and the Diaspora’s unwillingness to contribute wholeheartedly is offered, while comparisons to respective responses to similar situations in other southeastern Mediterranean EU member-states are also made.
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