Ministers Kotzias and Kouroumblis present Foreign Ministry’s link with National Civil Registry database

In a joint news briefing, Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias and Minister of Interior Panagiotis Kouroumblis announced the Foreign Ministry’s link with the central database of the Integrated Information System of the National Civil Registry. Inter alia they said:

KOTZIAS: […] The action we are going to be talking about […] is one that benefits citizens, in the framework of a Europe as we perceive it. Because our country is historically a diaspora power, and we are well aware that a state that is built with perspective and to the benefit of its citizens, and that links its advantages and assets with its diaspora, is a state that can solve many, many problems and can capitalize on its citizens and friends abroad, which is something we don’t always do as fully as we would like, and we often inconvenience our fellow citizens of the diaspora, as well as our foreign friends who want to visit Greece.

At the center of the thinking behind this plan, which the Foreign and Interior Ministries are starting to implement jointly, is the citizen and the quality of services we provide for that citizen.

Because we have entered a new era, an era of globalization, wherein the Foreign Ministry – with the help of the Ministry of Interior contributing wherever it can to the activities of the Foreign Ministry – must make a major shift in many areas.

We need to strengthen our presence in many states, like China, India, Nigeria, which is the strongest emerging country in Africa, and convince our diplomats of the importance of these states.

Second, we have to ensure the better structuring of our services and send our best staff to such Embassies and new Directorates. As you know, we have created a new Directorate for China, Mongolia and Korea, with China at the epicenter, of course.

The Foreign Ministry also has to be configured in such a way as to capitalize on all the potential of the digital age. We, too, here at the Foreign Ministry, need to understand what the digital age means for us. We need to look at all of our diplomatic problems from the standpoint of globalization and the digital age.

So we want our diplomacy to serve the homeland, the citizen, but to have a foundation in electronic digital communication. Electronic digital communication has many advantages…

They have a lower cost. Our staff in the Information and Public Diplomacy Department […] found that we will save at least 50,000 man-hours. Electronic communication serves the citizen, who is at the center of our policy. It shapes a better political culture in our relations with our diaspora. It facilitates and improves our country’s image in the world, which is frequently not the best of

We will also be able to redeploy our consular resources with regard to visas, reducing the time necessary for serving citizens abroad.

The Information Department decided we should name this programme “Proxenos”, and we adopted the name, with the Roman “e” used in the Greek spelling as well – «Πρόξeνος» — meaning that it is a programme for consulates in the digital age.

It is a programme aimed at doing away with lines of Greeks or of visitors to our country, and at making consular services more convenient for all of these people.

The programme provides access to the National Civil Registry. We thank the Ministry of Interior very much for this huge assistance it is giving to our Ministry, to Greek citizens of the diaspora, whom the Interior Ministry, as well as the Interior Minister personally, always has at the center of its thoughts and soul.

We are beginning with the Dusseldorf Consulate. For a week we are monitoring the operation of the programme in Dusseldorf, and we will then extend it to all of our consulates and to all requests concerning everything from birth certificates to civil status.

I don’t know whether you have lived abroad as part of the Greek diaspora or whether you have been to a consulate. People take time off work so they can travel a whole day – losing wages – so they can go to a consulate. At the consulate they say, “fill out an application,” and they leave again, and they have to return. They often ask two or three times, missing several workdays. They are inconvenienced and angered by their country.

These procedures are now being done away with, thanks to the new potential we are gaining through capitalizing on digital services. Application and receipt will be a matter of a few minutes. It will be, I would say, a kind of Citizen Service Center (KEP) abroad and it will create a better image for our country.

[…] We have entered the digital era. We want to digitize other tasks and services, as well, at the Ministry. You know that the digitization of the Historical and Diplomatic Archive is ready, and we will have a similar event.

We want to digitize the potential for access, applications and results at our translation service, because here in the country, as regards translations, citizens face the same difficulty as the members of the diaspora do at consulates. They have to come in from the provinces, submit a request, and come back for their translations.

I think that, despite the difficult times the country is going through, and, in fact, in contrast to these difficulties, thanks to the excellent personal and official cooperation with the Ministry of Interior, the Foreign Ministry, too – at speed, albeit after a delay – is entering the age of electronic information, of digital interconnection of services, to citizens’ benefit.

KOUROUMBLIS: The Technical Services of the two Ministries collaborated seamlessly, because, as you know, we tend to accuse civil servants, and we are always ready to run them down. But when they are given the opportunity and when they are entrusted with something, they carry it through in the best possible manner.

The ambitious goals are to move ahead decisively towards the interoperability of state databases that touch on first base, which is the National Civil Registry. A great deal of institutional and substantial work has been done in the area of the National Civil Registry, and based on this, already, as of the day before yesterday, we had the pleasure of announcing the interconnection of the National Civil Registry with the Education Ministry’s “My School” information system, and thus hundreds of thousands of pieces of information on hard copy are now obsolete, saving thousands of man-hours for the public sector.

The same was done by the Interior Ministry Services, collaborating with the Foreign Ministry […] in a spirit of precisely this understanding, so that we could send a message to the Greeks of the diaspora at a difficult time, at a time when the homeland is going through a major economic, social and, now, refugee crisis. In this melancholy and often-gloomy environment, we are trying to provide rays of hope.

Because we, I and the Foreign Minister, are among the people who believe in Hellenism’s DNA. We believe that, in spite of the difficulties, Hellenism will overcome the major problems it is facing. After all, Hellenism has been tested many times during its long history and has proven that it has within it the strength to overcome these major issues that often threaten to bury it.

In such a spirit, we are today moving ahead with the process of interoperability, which will make life easier, as the Minister so rightly highlighted, for thousands of Greeks abroad who are forced to visit our consulates far from their places of residence. All of this will gradually become a thing of the past, because the country is dynamically entering the space of e-governance.

And because we don’t want to give you just words, I say that our goal is for the 15 largest state databases to be interoperable within 2016.

We believe that this work being done today at the Foreign Ministry is bringing diaspora Greeks closer to us, showing them that they are always in our thoughts and that we care about them.