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IHF: Letter to Greek PM on MFA and National Minorities

August 20, 1999



H.E. Costas Simitis
Prime Minister, Athens
in care of the Embassy of Greece, Vienna


Vienna, 20 August 1999
OPEN LETTER
Dear Mr. Simitis,
I am writing on behalf of the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF), which represents human rights monitoring groups in 37 countries in the OSCE region, to express our strong support for recent statements by Foreign Minister George Papandreou, in which he acknowledged the rights of people to identify themselves as minorities, consistent with the principle of self-determination.
We welcome the Foreign Minister's important recognition of the rights of self-identification of minorities as protected by international human rights standards, and we consider this a positive development-one of a number of such developments in Greece over the past three years.
On the 25th anniversary of the restoration of democracy in Greece, 13 civil society organizations, including the Helsinki Federation's affiliate Greek Helsinki Monitor, and three deputies, issued an appeal to recognize the existence of Macedonian and Turkish minorities and to ratify the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities of the Council of Europe.
Their appeal deserves the support of all Greek citizens and their leaders. We are deeply concerned, however, by the strong hostile reaction these proposals met-proposals that are consistent with European standards and which, if accepted, would bring Greece more closely into the family of nations in which it belongs, and instill confidence among all citizens in the humanity and civility of your society.
This reaction reflects, more than anything, a lack of understanding about international and European standards and Greece's international obligations. It suggests the need for an information campaign aimed at clarification of these issues and a renewed commitment to dialogue. We are ready to work with you and your colleagues on such a campaign.
In closing allow me to reiterate our support for Mr. Papandreou's courageous efforts, and our hope that the recent debate in Greece will mark more progress toward compliance with human rights standards.
Yours sincerely,
Aaron Rhodes
Copies to:
OSCE Delegations
Council of Europe
UN Human Rights Center
National Helsinki Committees

     
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