Sunday, 21 August 2011

Transnational social space between Greece and Germany

The theories about transnationalism are since twenty years a new attempt to approach migration and diasporic phenomena. The intention to explore different kind of transnational relationships, contacts and ties, which cross the lines from the nation-states and to focus on the transnational agents, networks and organizations, are the primary research field of the transnational migration studies. In continental Europe these field is developing in the last 10 years.
The conditions of the Greek migration to Germany in the sixties allowed the establishment of a transnational social space between the two nation states. This space nurtured not only by the bidirectional mobility of the Greek migrants in this period, but mainly through compatible and comparable sociopolitical developments between the two countries. This allowed the emergence of social and political issues and concerns in the transnational social space, which could be capitalized and were transferable between the two countries.

Α discourse began in Greece about the continental migration in parliamentary deliberations and in the media of the day, together with the attempt of the Greek political parties of that period to promote the  organization of Greek migrants in Germany in the “Greek way” (namely through Greek student unions and associations, party branches and local worker communities). There were also tensions in the political parties and the political system as a whole.
At the same period Germany was experiencing the beginning of the formation of a political movement demanding a variety of socio- political reforms. It started from the youth (especially in the universities) and was spreading to the worker unions and the social democratic party.
In this manner engagement with politics became the main transnational transmission belt within the transnational social space between Germany and Greece. Transnational ties which had a sociopolitical character became convertible more easily and were capitalized within the transnational social space.
Student associations (mainly the Greek ones) and the workers unions (mainly the German ones) were the driving force in this case, establishing a leftist dynamic in this transnational social space.
But this was not the mainstream in this transnational space. The Greek political party Centre Union and the German Social Democratic Party were able to get the affiliation and the loyalty of the majority of the Greek population in Germany.
Especially in the period 1965-67 there was an important interrelationship between the two political parties. It was a network of people, who were acting as transnational agents throughout the sixties and were trying to establish a social democrat party in Greece.
In 1965 the Centre Union branch was founded in Germany. This caused many synergy effects within the transnational social space.
The representation of the interests of Greek workers and students in Germany included the engagement with the social and political agenda in Greece and Germany.
The cooperation between the German (VDS) and the Greek (EFEE) umbrella student organizations was such an example, which lead to the implementation of a common congress in the mid sixties. The Greek student umbrella organization in Germany (OEFE) were working as a transnational political agent for the accomplishment of this goal.

Another example was the cooperation between the umbrella organization of the German worker unions and the local Greek (working) communities in Germany. There were held events about the political tensions in Greece. The transnational agents for the problems of the Greek workers in Germany in this case were mainly the networks, which were active in the German SPD and the Greek Centre Union and were publishing a Greek-German newspaper, which was funded by the German worker unions.
The interrelationship between the two political parties led in 1968 to the proclamation of the Centre Union in Germany as a Sister Party of the German Social Democratic Party.
The foundation of values for this act were in the minds of the transnational network the Bad Godesberg Program of the SPD in 1959.
The Godesberg program was notable mainly because with it, for the first time, the SPD renounced all Marxist ideas. In adopting the Godesberg Program, the SPD dropped Marxism and hostility to capitalism that had long been the core of party ideology, and sought to move beyond its old working class base to the full spectrum of potential voters, with an appeal to the middle class and to professionals. Labor unions had abandoned the old demands for nationalization and instead cooperated increasingly with industry, achieving labor representation on corporate boards and increases in wages and benefits.
The Greek military Junta’s coming into power in 1967 led to a fundamental change in transnational social space between Germany and Greece. Transnational agents have been transformed gradually to political refugees. Their participation in an Europe-wide network of Greek resistance organization and the emergence of an Europewide Greco-phone public sphere, together with the inflow of many new Greek immigrants, which were de facto political refugees are the main reasons therefore.
This led to a disconnection between the social and political agenda of Germany and Greece on a long-term basis. Furthermore it complicated and impeded the articulation of sociopolitical issues and matters concerning the problems of the Greek workers and students in Germany within the transnational social space.
After 1974 and the restoration of democracy it was not possible to recreate the transnational social space of the sixties between Germany and Greece.
There were existing strong transnational ties between Germany and Greece, which had furthermore a strong political character. But there were one-sided orientated towards Greece and Greek Politics.
Transnational political assets seemed no more convertible and transferable in the two societies.
Illustrative of this could be a reference to the different political paths of the Simitis Brothers in this period. Kostas Simitis not only did he return to Greece in 1974, although he held a professorship (chair) until 1977, when he is getting a chair at the Panteion University in Greece, but as a founding member of the Pan-Hellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) he was forced to deny any transnational ties to the German SPD. In the proposals of the PASOK Party for the Greek constitution of 1975, which were conceptualized mainly by Kostas Simitis, the influence of the German Grundgesetz had to be concealed and partly denied.
Spiros Simitis, which was since 1952 a resident in Germany and Professor since 1964 gains the German citizenship in 1975 and held in the same year a German political office (Data Protection Supervisor for the federal state Hessen).
The Greek residents in Germany, which were participating in the transnational political space between Greece and Germany were gradually transformed into expatriates. The huge inflow of Greek students in the late seventies and Greek teachers in the early eighties, which were de facto expatriates and held strong transnational ties to the Greek society helped this transformation of the de facto permanent Greek residents in Germany.
The Greek organizations in Germany were adopting entirely the new Greek way of organizing in political and social issues.
This development is underlined by the founding of local branches of the Greek political parties in Germany in the mid-seventies, which were dominating the local Greek communities and were running for the elections of these communities as the worker unions branch of the parties.
In the early eighties social structures supported by the Greek state were established in Germany. Greek schools and banks are establishing an expatriate community in the spirit, although the majority of this community were migrants and long-term residents. The political polarization in Greece in this period was transferred through the transnational political space to the Greek migrant population in Germany.
Intellectuals and university teachers in this period, who weren’t participating as Spiros Simitis in the political sphere of Germany, who were organized in an European-wide umbrella organization (Ένωση Ελλήνων Πανεπιστημιακών Δυτικής Ευρώπης) were trying to tackle this issue. But this happened in Greece and not in their resident countries. There was held a congress in Athens in 1984 about the problems of the Greek continental Migration in Europe.
In the mid-eighties this umbrella organization was dissolved, because the most of the members became university teachers in Greece.
In the early nineties the transnational political space between Germany and Greece weakened strongly and dissolved gradually.
In the last ten years there is a recreating of a transnational political space between Greece and Germany, which was forced by a change of paradigm of the Greek foreign politics.
The Greek foreign minister Yiorgos Papandreou declares that Greece is not interested anymore in the organized Greek abroad but in the successful Greeks abroad.
The Greek organizational structure remain however unchanged in Germany.
In the mid-2000-ies the Greek organizations in Germany are trying gradually to maintain transnational political ties to Greece, without intending to repatriate in Greece and to declare this as a political goal.
Greek politics was appreciating this change and transformation. But there were not using the Greek organizations in Germany as transnational agents between the two states, although there were many people, which were participating at the same time in German and Greek political parties.

The involvement of personalities like Michalis Christoforakos as mediators between Greek and German politicians (at least in the state of Bavaria and its capital Munich), which never participate in the local organizational Greek community structure in Munich was not able to reestablish reliable transnational agents between both states.

Alexandros Nikolaidis, Lecturer at the Euro-Schools-Organisation (ESO)

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