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European Commission against Racism and Intolerance Second Report on Greece

June 27, 2000


In the following report, ECRI recommends to the Greek authorities that further action be taken to combat racism, xenophobia, antisemitism and intolerance in a number of areas. These recommendations cover, inter alia, the need for the fine-tuning and effective implementation of existing legislation, the need to strengthen and effectively implement existing policy initiatives, the need to address the situation as well as the specific problems faced by non-ethnic Greeks, and the need to raise the awareness among the general public of the multicultural reality of Greek society.

Citizenship law
4. ECRI welcomes the repeal, in June 1998, of Article 19 of the Citizenship Code, as suggested by ECRI in its first report. This article provided that Greek citizens who were not ethnically Greek could have their citizenship revoked if they left the country and the Greek authorities believed that they did not intend to return. Most of the almost 60,000 people deprived of citizenship on the basis of this article since 1955 belonged to the Muslim minority of Greece which is mostly of Turkish ethnic origin. Following the repeal of Article 19, which did not have retroactive effect, former Greek citizens who lost their citizenship on the basis of this article have the option of applying to the Citizenship Council for the cancellation of the decision to withdraw citizenship if they can prove that a mistake was committed in such decision, or of applying for Greek citizenship through ordinary naturalisation. A few of these persons have succeeded in reacquiring citizenship; however, ECRI considers that restoration of citizenship for this category of people should be further facilitated. ECRI also notes that in late 1997, special cards for stateless individuals were issued which enable the carrier to travel abroad, work, and claim social security provisions. However, few people applied for these cards. As an interim measure towards restoration of citizenship, ECRI encourages the authorities to publicise and continue issuing these cards.

5. Article 20 of the Citizenship Code allows the government to strip citizenship from those citizens living abroad who "commit acts contrary to the interests of Greece for the benefit of a foreign state". Although this Article is applicable equally to all Greek citizens regardless of ethnic background, so far it has been applied mostly to persons who identify themselves as Macedonians. The authorities have stated that in the period 1994-1998, Article 20 has been applied only in very few cases. ECRI considers that more transparency as concerns the application of Article 20 is desirable.

Education and awareness raising
15. ECRI welcomes positive initiatives in recent years in the field of general human rights education. ECRI considers, however, that there is a serious need to educate the Greek public to the benefits of a multicultural society. In order to have a lasting effect, this education should begin in schools. Specific courses focusing on issues of tolerance and respect for differences should be offered and teachers should be trained in this area. In addition, in its general policy recommendation N 1 on combating racism, xenophobia, antisemitism and intolerance, ECRI recommends member States " to ensure that school-curricula, for example in the field of history teaching, are set up in such a way to enhance the appreciation of cultural diversity". Implementation of existing legislation would also serve as a powerful educational tool. The training of professional groups, such as civil servants and the legal community, therefore assumes a fundamental importance from an awareness-raising perspective. The specialised body suggested above could also play a pivotal role in the accomplishment of these tasks

Vulnerable groups
This section covers certain minority groups which may be particularly vulnerable to problems of racism, discrimination and intolerance in the country in question. It is not intended to provide an exhaustive overview of the situation of all minority groups in the country, nor to imply that groups not mentioned face no problems of racism and discrimination.

Macedonians

24. As regards Greek citizens wishing to express and promote their ethnic Macedonian identity, ECRI notes that, in July 1998, the European Court of Human Rights found Greece in violation of the right to freedom of association, based on her refusal to register an association aimed essentially at promoting Macedonian culture(5) . ECRI also notes reports of cases where the right to freedom of expression of this group has not been respected. ECRI encourages the authorities to ensure that all groups in Greece effectively enjoy the right to freedom of association and to freedom of expression, in accordance with international legal standards.

     
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