GREECE: Brain drain still flows

Since time immemorial Greece has been a net exporter of culture and talent. The country is small, the population restless. Naturally clever and inventive, when unable to realise their dreams in the restricted space of the country's boundaries they did not hesitate to seek wider horizons for their talents – not only in Europe but worldwide.

One look around the world would convince the staunchest sceptic. There are thriving Greek communities in most developed countries and individual Greeks burrowing away in under-developed ones. The country's contribution to history, human development and to civilization in general, is well-known and documented.

Fond of education, the arts and sciences, philosophy and culture since the ancient times, the Greeks were also willing scholars, inventors and explorers. On occasions they were also conquerors but wherever they went in whatever capacity, their knowledge, energy, and creativity helped them to establish new careers and often new conditions.

After World War I and the unsuccessful campaign against the Turks, large numbers of Greeks were obliged to leave their homelands in Asia Minor. Some found shelter in the Greek mainland and the islands of the Aegean while others sought homes further afield in America, Australia and Canada. A second emigrant wave took place after World War II when scholars, artists, engineers, architects and sundry intellectuals left the country and helped rebuild the devastated European continent.

The third emigration wave occurred during the colonel's military junta (1967 to 1973). Many intellectuals, artists and politicians who opposed the regime and did not wish to rot exiled on desert islands, went into voluntary exile in European capitals, America and elsewhere where they picked up their interrupted careers and helped create a movement towards the freedom of the country.

Such were Melina Mercouri, Mikis Theodorakis and Andreas Papandreou, to mention a few well-known names.

With the restoration of democracy and a robust economic climate, with Greece first becoming a member of the EEC and subsequently a full member of the European Union and the European Monetary Union, many Greeks of the diaspora started to return – either to resume their former careers or start from scratch in the country of their parents.

One of these is renowned physicist Dimitris Nanopoulos, a member of the Greek Academy since 1997, president of the Greek National Council for Research and Technology, and national representative to the European Laboratory for Particle Physics, CERN, and the European Space Agency.

Today, in the first decade of the 21st century, Greece is politically and economically more stable than ever, although working conditions and salaries are still not on a par with the other EU member states. Therefore, there is still a 'brain drain' albeit not so rapid.

Headhunting firms actively recruit young Greek graduates for positions abroad while many students who graduate from foreign universities delay their return home because they have been offered lucrative contracts abroad. Whether this trend is for the benefit or the detriment of the country has not been assessed properly as yet.

It is true, however, that currently many young and brilliant brains, instead of remaining in Greece where salaries and conditions, opportunities for promotion and chances for carrying out meaningful research are still not on a par with other EU member states or America, find it more conducive to emigrate to further their careers and realise their ambitions.