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European Union Threatens to Sue Greece Over Minority Issues

November 26, 2004


In the middle of its campaign to halt the recognition of Macedonia’s constitutional name, Greece was severely reprimanded by the European Union, which in the last couple of days threatened Athens with a lawsuit in the European Court of Justice if it continues to ignore appeals to right its discrimination against minorities.

Even though the law that the EU is seeking relates to numerous different minority groups within the country (religious, racial, sexual and immigrants, etc.), Greek media explained the pressure that Brussels is exerting for the legalization of the rights of minorities, is above all geared towards ethnic Turks and Macedonians, who Athens has failed to recognize for decades.

The EU threat towards Greece came only five days after the European Commission roundtable against Racism and Intolerance by the Council of Europe (ECRI) was held in Athens, within which it was requested that a law be put into place which guards against discrimination and which helps ethnic and other groups to get better treatment in the country.

In order to soften the blow of such a move by the EU, Athens stated a draft-law which pertains to these problems the day before yesterday, even though it had promised to Brussels that such a law would be adopted by July of last year.

The threat of an impending action at the European Court of Justice is yet another great shame for Greece, which only recently managed to save some face in regards to their other great political scandal: the falsification of the economic parameters of their country in order to gain permission to join the Euro.

Because it is difficult to believe that the action of the EU and the Council of Europe is a coincidence, it may be seen as a result of the growing impatience that European countries have towards the obvious intolerance in Greece – which as a member state – stubbornly does not want to embrace EU standards for minorities and immigration.

According to the report published by ECRI for Athens, in this country there is still strong resistance and a judgmental attitude towards minority groups and it is of key importance to their state to create an independent national body which would oversee and prevent discrimination.

The members of ECRI scolded Athens that it has been four years since it was given recommendations in regards to minorities and that they have still yet to be implemented. Also the issue of ratifying the Convention for the Protection of the Rights of National Minorities – the so-called “Bible” of the Council of Europe and the European Charter for the Usage of Minority Languages – is still being dragged out and not executed. Greece is one of the few countries who asks of new member-states to enforce the convention – yet it does not do so itself – and it was among the first to preach hypocritically to Macedonia with regards to the Ohrid Agreement, even though – on a parallel issue – it completely refuses to recognize its own Macedonian minority.

In its second report for Greece published in April of this year, the ECRI wrote an entire chapter on the non-recognition of the Macedonians, concluding that they are under constant pressure and duress and that their issue is a point of condemnation.

Prior to this, it was mentioned that regardless of the ruling by the European Court for Human Rights granting ethnic Macedonians their freedoms of speech and assembly with regards to the “Sidiropoulos Case”, they have still not been allowed to register as an official organization.

Greek sources state that the new bill against discrimination will be debated within the Greek parliament in the next few days, however it is still unclear as to whether or not this bill will assume the standards of the EU and Strasbourg.

     
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