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OSCE Review Conference - IHF Report on Greece

July 23, 1999



The following are excerpts from the IHF's report regarding Greece and its treatment of minorities. For the full text, please visit the IHF's homepage.


National Minorities
Greece is the only Southeast European country that does not recognize the presence of any national minorities in its territory. Turks are recognized as a mere “religious, Muslim” minority (which nevertheless is educated in Turkish), while Macedonians are not considered even a linguistic minority. The words “Turkish” and “Macedonian” have repeatedly led to the prosecution of their users, with courts handing down prison sentences or banning minority associations.
On 23 July 1999 a public appeal was sent to the speaker of parliament and to the party leaders for the recognition of the Macedonian and the Turkish minorities, the unconditional ratification of the Council of Europe’s Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, and the respect of minority rights. The appeal was supported by the three Turkish MPs in the Greek Parliament, by three Macedonian and seven Turkish minority organizations, as well as by three human rights NGOs, including Greek Helsinki Monitor and Minority Rights Group-Greece.
Coincidentally, in a 26 July interview with the monthly magazine Klik, Foreign Minister George Papandreou said: “No one doubts that there are many Muslims of Turkish origin… If no one contests the present borders, I couldn’t care less if one calls himself a Muslim or a Turk, a Bulgarian or a Pomak.” In two subsequent interviews, he defended his statements arguing that Greece is committed to the respect of the right to self-identification by member of both minorities.
At the same time, the Ministry of the Interior leaked to the media plans to radically change the citizenship policy. It called for allowing immigrants, after some years or residence, to qualify for citizenship, without excluding those from neighboring countries or of the Muslim faith. Even the problem of allowing the return of ethnic Macedonian political refugees, who fled as a result of the civil war in the late 1940s, was to be finally settled.
Greek media, intellectuals and politicians reacted in a near unanimously hostile manner to the initiatives of the ministry. With the exception of the leftist daily Avghi, all other 21 Greek national dailies engaged in unscrupulous misinformation campaigns of personal slander and hate speech against the signatories of the appeal. It was also reported that the parties summoned all three deputies for explanations in low level disciplinary actions. The intellectuals’ silence was eloquent. The prevailing opinion was that “Anyone who feels a Turk should move to Turkey” (Ethnos 24/7) and that “the Greek people is one and indivisible” (To Vima, 30/7). Foreign Minister Papandreou came under intense fire from political foes and even members of the ruling PASOK party who asked for his resignation.
State vs. Journalists and Inaccurate Information
In late 1998 and early 1999, Greek Foreign Minister Theodore Pangalos has on several occasions verbally attacked journalists who hold opinions he considers embarrassing. When asked about uncomfortable issues such as the situation of the Macedonian minority in Greece, the minister has called them “pervert journalists" and “the worst enemies of the Greek government” and simply forbidden any discussion about such issues.

     
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