Costa Cotsilinis, New Zealand Honorary Consul-General talks about his work in Greece
Tell us something about your job
I have been New Zealand Honorary Consul-General for Greece since October 1991
That is a long time! What kind of activities are you involved in?
A part from the day to day enquiries relating to Consular activities, over the years there have been a number of high level New Zealand visitors to Greece. I have met two Governors-General, a Prime Minister, Chiefs of the Armed Forces and the Mayor of Wellington.
What is New Zealand’s main interest in Greece?
Some of these visits were related to the Commemorations of the Battle of Crete, one of the most dramatic battles of the Second World War where 671 New Zealanders lost their lives and 2180 were imprisoned.
Others visits were focused on the bilateral relation between New Zealand and Greece and were particularly intense during NZ’s terms on the UN Security Council and Greece’s terms as President of the EU.
I also participated in NZ’s Consular support team during the Athens Olympics and Paralympics in 2004.
Is there an anecdote you would like to share with our readers?
At 5am on a Sunday morning a concerned parent from New Zealand rang to say that his son was staying in a tree house camp site in Greece and the site was flooded. He was stranded in a tree and the water was rising and no-one was coming to rescue him. I immediately rang the mayor of the town only to be told that it had not rained there for days. I relayed this information to the parent. An hour later an embarrassed parent rang to say that he had mixed up the name of the towns – his son was in another country where there apparently was a town with a similar name…
I believe you grew up in New Zealand, tell us about it…
I was born in 1946, of Greek parents, in Dannevirke, a small town servicing the rural community in southern Hawkes Bay, and spent all my early years there before going to university in Wellington. Life as a child in Dannevirke was idyllic for myself and my twin brother as both of us were keen athletes and enjoyed outdoor activities. Following university I started my career as a chartered accountant with an international firm of chartered accountants and transferred to their London office in 1972. Later that same year I was sent to Greece on a one month’s assignment and am still here. There is a saying in Greece that nothing is more permanent than something temporary.
What do you like about your job?
With roughly 1000 enquiries each year, there is always something of interest at the Consulate to keep me occupied, whether it is helping distressed New Zealanders, carrying out routine consular work, representing New Zealand at various functions or assisting the over 100 New Zealand pensioners who live in Greece. Meeting people from all walks of life and of many different nationalities is a very satisfying experience. This job also gives me the opportunity to give something back to New Zealand to which I feel I owe a debt of gratitude for the fantastic years I spent there. I am a very keen supporter of the New Zealand way of life and do not hesitate to recommend it to those who visit the Consulate seeking a possible alternative for them and their families in this present time of economic crisis.
What would surprise New Zealanders most about Greece?
I believe the thing that surprises most New Zealand visitors to Greece is the warmth of the hospitality and the esteem that Greeks have for New Zealanders. There is a similar feeling when Greeks visit New Zealand. This bond of friendship and mutual esteem stems from World War II when New Zealanders fought for Greece's freedom and the Greeks reciprocated by helping and sheltering New Zealand soldiers at the risk of their own lives.
Greeting to our readers in your Native language?
Χαιρετισμούς από την Αθήνα. Σκεφτήκατε να κάνετε ένα ταξίδι στη Νέα Ζηλανδία; Γιατί όχι!