|Istanbul Summit, November 18-19, 1999
The Ethnic Macedonians from the neighbouring countries of the Republic Macedonia, especially Greece and Bulgaria, in the past ten years had made big efforts to attract the attention of the international community in regards to the gross injustice done to them by the state structures in the countries where they live. A long list of reported human rights violations was presented to the corresponding institutions of the OSCE, but that did not produce substantial improvements of their situations and the rights which are denied to them in these countries.
The weight of the problem is easier understood if we mention that the number of ethnic Macedonians who live in Greece, Bulgaria and Albania is over 2,500,000 and is greater than their number in the Republic of Macedonia where 1,400,000 Macedonians live. They are the integral part of the Macedonian nation, with the same language, culture and history, but unfortunately were separated after the Balkan war in 1913. Greece and Bulgaria do not admit their existence, while Albania recognizes a minority status only to the Macedonians of Christian religion. Using administrative measures, Greece and Albania have changed the personal and last names of the Macedonians, in order to hide their unique ethnicity.
The publication “The Macedonian minority in Greece”, which in May, 1999, was published by the Ministry of External Affairs of Turkey, points to the fact that a human tragedy is allowed to happen within the borders of the EU. The official policy of Greece towards the Macedonians is one of total denial in respect to their existence. And continuing with that reasoning, if they do not exist, their rights can not be discussed.
The High Commissioner on National Minorities, Van der Stoul, finally took one step which purpose was to warn Athens that one minority does not have to be recognized in order realize and enjoy its rights. But, the interventions of this kind, without mentioning the Macedonians as a minority, are below the minimum concern for the national minorities expected from the OSCE. While Greece goes easily over this kind of suggestions by the international community, the assimilation of Macedonians is continuing as a process organized by all structures of the state. And no one sees a problem when two Macedonians are fired from work, only because they spoke Macedonian while using the internal communication system of the company they worked in.
This example talks about the gap, which should be filled, so that a chance will be given for tolerance and joint living of the different ethnicities. This is happening in the frames of the European Union, to which Greece is a member and Europe does not know that. Maybe that is why they are quiet. From their side, the Macedonians are asking themselves whether, while this situation is tolerated, they will ever get at least the basic elementary education in their mother language, or whether the priests in the Greek Church will stop conditioning baptizing children with Greek names only?
The OSCE shows a flagrantly different behavior towards this type of problems in the Balkan region. For example, the Republic of Macedonia is under the constant pressure to expand the rights of the Albanian minority, even though not even one European or other country has done the same for its minorities as much as Macedonia has done for the Albanians who live there. It is demanded by a poor country such as Macedonia to support a separate University for the Albanian minority of 450 to 470 thousand people, where as Albania has not even been asked to introduce the Macedonian language in the elementary schools, even though close to 200,000 Macedonians live in this country. As an example, in the whole region of Golo Brdo there is not even one Macedonian school, even though only Macedonian people settle it. In Tirana, as well, there are more than 35,000 Macedonians and there is not even one school where Macedonian language is taught.
The previous examples give the skeptics the right to assert that the principals of the international community are of a stretched material, which is formed according to the interests of the strongest. We would like to believe that this is changing, however, the facts do not allow us to come to that conclusion.
In front of the eyes of Europe, police torture is performed against the Macedonians in Bulgaria as well. Members of the Macedonian national minority are physically attacked because they gather to celebrate one important day from the Macedonian history. Even though the Macedonians once enjoyed wide cultural autonomy in the Pirin part of Macedonia, today they are denied as a unique ethnicity, and their history, language and culture are presented as Bulgarian. All these also before the eyes of the OSCE.
If something substantial does not change, the injustice done to the Macedonians in the mentioned countries can grow into a problem with serious security consequences for the whole region. For these reasons the United delegation of Macedonian organizations is calling the international community, especially the OSCE, to pay more attention to the problems which ethnic Macedonians face in Bulgaria, Greece and Albania. This is more so, since all these countries are hoping to "freeze" the position of the Macedonian human rights at the present level, and that means total denial of their existence of the Macedonian national minority.
We expect the international community to use its influence in these countries and to insure their compliance of the international standards for human rights and freedoms. At the same time, all games of "individual interpretations" of those standards must be condemned.
The Republic of Macedonia, the country that is at the center of the problematic Balkan, and the bordering countries should make an effort to consolidate the standards that they will use for implementing the human rights and freedoms. As a first step, they could obligate themselves to take sanctions against all kinds of public or hidden pressures, individually or collectively, which goal is to hinder the self identification of the national, religious and other minorities, or is narrowing the space of these rights and freedoms.
Parallel with this, in the framework of the ethnic and cultural pluralism in the Balkans, there is a need to promote the right of all peoples to have unhindered communication in its own language and culture over the whole territory that they settle, regardless whether that territory is separated by state borders. The right to its own unified linguistic and cultural territory should be accepted as an expression of pride for all peoples, big or small, which will find its place in the wider European community of peoples. If Europe does not ensure this kind of free flow of the national cultures across the existing boundaries, the pacification of the mixed ethnic regions will not have any chance for success.
As an inevitable conclusion of all that is said in this appeal, we feel free to express our skepticism for the success of the Pact for stability of Southeastern Europe if the human rights problems are ignored any further or treated differently in relation to some countries.
United delegation of ethnic Macedonians
from Greece, Bulgaria and Albania