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Another Greek Deputy Requests Ratification of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities

October 18, 1999

On 30/7/1999, with a second question to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, I requested that Parliament discusses and ratifies the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. The Framework Convention entered into force on 1/2/1998 and Greece has already signed it.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs in his written answer (23/8/1999) declared that "The ratification of the Framework Convention of the Council of Europe is a matter of time". In addition, he stated inaccurately that "all Council of Europe states that have to this date ratified the Framework Convention, among which Germany, have made interpretative 'declarations', on the basis of which they either limit the Convention's application to specific minority groups, which they name in the text of their declaration; or determine particular criteria on the basis of which they will identify the national minorities present on their territory and to which, as a result, this Convention will apply."

It is nevertheless widely known that the Convention has been ratified by 28 states. Interpretative "declarations" have been submitted only by 11 states. Among those, only 4 (Germany, Denmark, FYROM, Slovenia) "limit the Convention's application to particular minority groups, which they also identify in their declaration." Only 3 states (Austria, Switzerland, Estonia) "determine particular criteria according to which they will identify the national minorities present on their territory." Two states (Liechtenstein, Malta) declare they have no minorities, one (Bulgaria) simply insists emphatically that the rights provided by the Convention must not challenge territorial integrity and sovereignty and one (Russia) rejects every interpretative declaration which either defines minorities or excludes from its application some groups.

Six of the states with restrictive declarations belong to the group of countries where the Convention entered into force in the first semester of 1998. The tendency in the second twelve-month period has been to ratify the Convention without interpretative declarations, something which is also recommended by the Advisory Committee of the Council of Europe for the Framework Convention and was pointed out by the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, Mr. Max van der Stoel, during his recent visit in Greece. It is noteworthy that neighboring Albania is the most recent state that ratified the Convention, and did not make any restrictive declaration.

Since adequate time has already lapsed since the previous answer of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, while the last regular session of Parliament has begun.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs is asked:

1. When is he going to bring this Convention to Parliament for ratification.

2. Whether he insists on the need that its ratification be accompanied by an interpretative declaration. In such case, would the declaration restrict the Convention's application or would it simply confirm its provisions, that is that its application may not challenge the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Greece.

The deputy raising the question:

Maria Damanaki (Progressive Left Coalition)
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