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Open Letter to Council of Europe Secretary General, Walter Schwimmer, on CoE Use of the Name Macedonia

March 25, 2004

International Helsinki Federation
Greek Helsinki Monitor
Helsinki Committee for Human Rights of the Republic of Macedonia

Press Release


Skopje, Athens, Vienna, 25 March 2004. In October 1995, the Republic of Macedonia became full-fledged member of the CoE under a rather complex formula. Since the Republic of Greece objected the use of the name “Republic of Macedonia”, the temporary solution was approximately: the State, whose name is stated in its application letter, is accepted, and, for the purposes of the CoE, it will be provisionally referred to as “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”.

On March 2, 2004, the Private Office of the Secretary General of the CoE issued an instruction to the administration of the CoE, and a strong recommendation to its adjoining bodies (the Parliamentary Assembly, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe, the European Court of Human Rights and independent monitoring mechanisms) extending the use of the reference not only to the State but also to its citizens. Furthermore, referring to its culture and language the formula “Macedonian (Slav)” is to be used, while regarding persons belonging to minority the word “Macedonian(s)” should be accompanied by a footnote reading “Terminology of self-identification used by the person(s) concerned”.

Therefore, the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights of the Republic of Macedonia, the Greek Helsinki Monitor and the International Helsinki Federation, agreed to send the following

OPEN LETTER AND APPEAL TO THE SECRETARY GENERAL OF THE COUNCIL OF EUROPE, Mr. SCHWIMMER

The Helsinki Committee for Human Rights of the Republic of Macedonia, the Greek Helsinki Monitor and the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights are greatly disappointed with the contents of the document No. EB (2004) 05, dated 2 March 2004, signed by the Director of your Private Office. This document instructs the Secretariat of the Council of Europe (CoE) to use “The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” as the name for Macedonia, “citizens of ‘the former Yugoslav...’” for its citizens, and “Macedonian (Slav)” for its culture and language, and it strongly encourages the Parliamentary Assembly, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe, the European Court of Human Rights and independent monitoring mechanisms to use these references. The disappointment is even greater, all of us being aware of the great role that the Council of Europe, and you personally Mr. Schwimmer, played in the period of the 2001 crisis in Macedonia, as well as in the period after the crisis until today.

The Helsinki Committee for Human Rights of the Republic of Macedonia was established under the above stated name on 6 October 1994, based on direct engagement of the Greek Helsinki monitor and in November 1995 was admitted to the International Helsinki Federation under the same name as a full-fledged member of the Federation, based inter alia on the firm belief that the problems in connection with the name are of transitory character a short term “privilege” of international political / governmental organizations, that will be overcome in the spirit of international law and by giving the opportunity of accepting the changes peacefully and in a friendly atmosphere.

The Macedonian Helsinki Committee, the Greek Helsinki Monitor and the International Helsinki Federation have gladly accepted the signals coming from Strasbourg and especially from the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly pointing to the possibility that in a fruitful discussion and in a truly constructive atmosphere the handicap that the Republic of Macedonia was faced with: the monopolization of the name Macedonia, a precedent in the state history of Europe, would be surpassed. However, instead of the expected progress we have witnessed further degradation in respect of this issue: in a quiet, administrative manner, not only the state, but its citizens as well, are placed in a situation of not being able to express themselves as they feel, meaning they are not able to express themselves as “Macedonians”, but as “citizens of …”

This, we believe, is a discrimination of the gravest form. In this respect, we take into consideration the numerous provisions of the Council of Europe itself, as well as Article 2 of the Universal Declaration for Human Rights in which it is explicitly stated that: “…. no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country …… to which a person belongs….” and the provisions contained in Article 19 according to which “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference ….”

If we allow ourselves the freedom to simplify the essence of the dispute regarding the name it will result that one nation claims that it has the superior right to the terms “Macedonia” and “Macedonians”, due to historic reasons. However, in the International Convention for Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination states have assumed the following position “Convinced that any doctrine of superiority based on racial differentiation is scientifically false, morally condemnable, socially unjust and dangerous and that there is no justification for racial discrimination, in theory or in practice, anywhere...”. Thus, although these words seem anachronous and we believed that they belong to history, in this case, yet another provision of the said Convention is being demonstrated in practice: “Alarmed by manifestations of racial discrimination still in evidence in some areas of the world and by governmental policies based on racial superiority or hatred, such as policies of apartheid, segregation or separation...”.

Therefore, distinguished Mr. Schwimmer, the Macedonian Helsinki Committee, the Greek Helsinki Monitor and the International Helsinki Federation, reminding of Article 2 of the same Convention:” “1.... (b) Each State Party undertakes not to sponsor, defend or support racial discrimination by any persons or organizations; (c) Each State Party shall take effective measures to review governmental, national and local policies, and to amend, rescind or nullify any laws and regulations which have the effect of creating or perpetuating racial discrimination wherever it exists...” and believing that this fully applies to the Council of Europe, call upon you to personally engage yourself, not only to rectify the situation created by the document of your Private Office, but to give an example, together with the Council of Europe, in the opposite direction: to put an end to an unenviable situation in which the Republic of Macedonia has been placed. Assuming such a position will be in the spirit of the fundamental principles on which the activities of the Council of Europe are based, and which embody the commitment of European countries to prevent the amalgamation of Europe, on cultural, linguistic, ethnic, racial and any other ground.

     
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