In December 1995, the first global General Assembly of the World Council for Hellenes Abroad (SAE) was held in Thessaloniki amidst great fanfare. 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 would soon be realised. 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 maximise citizen engagement. At the same time, SAE’s offices in Thessaloniki are now being used for other municipal services, while its three employees were harshly ousted. This paper attempts to explain SAE’s brief history, by demonstrating its structural deficiencies and exploring its predicament and its prospects. Though the institution’s demise coincided with the financial crisis that has plagued Greece since 2008, it was SAE’s failure to become a relevant body for the diaspora that led it to near extinction.
Global Hellenism; World Council for Hellenes Abroad (SAE); Greek government; Diaspora networks; State institutions.