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OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting

Warsaw, October 5-15, 2004

The Macedonian Minority in Greece

Report by the Macedonian Human Rights Movement of Canada (MHRMC)
& Rainbow Organization of the Macedonian Minority in Greece

Table of Contents
- Introduction
- Greek Neo-Nazis Threaten Macedonian Minority Party (Rainbow/Vinozhito)
- Greek Neo-Fascists Attack 50 Year Old Man
- Greek Government Harassment of Rainbow/Vinozhito
- Macedonian Language and the European Bureau for Lesser Used Languages (EBLUL)
- Macedonian Political Refugees Denied Entry into Greece
- Macedonian Theatre Group Denied Entry into Greece
- Greece Refuses to Register Home of Macedonian Culture Despite European Court Ruling
- Macedonian Orthodox Church and Father Nikodim Tsarknias
- Radio Station Owner Arrested in Greece for Broadcasting in Macedonian Language
- Greece's Official Stance Regarding the Macedonian Minority & US State Department Report on Greece
- ECRI Recommends that Greece Recognize its Macedonian Minority
- Conclusion
- Contact Information for Macedonian Human Rights Organizations

Introduction

Greece vigorously denies the existence of any ethnic minorities on its territory and attempts to suppress any voices that advocate human rights. Simply raising the issue of the Macedonian minority in Greece causes Greek citizens and politicians alike to react in outrage. The majority of Greek society supports its government's non-recognition and discrimination of its large Macedonian minority. Following are several examples of Greece's constant abuse of the Macedonian minority's rights.

Greek Neo-Nazis Threaten Macedonian Minority Party (Rainbow/Vinozhito)

Rainbow/Vinozhito, the political party of the Macedonian minority in Greece, was forced to cancel its congress twice because of threats received from Greek Neo-Nazi organizations. Vinozhito is a legal political party in Greece and did not receive any guarantees of security by Greek police, nor did the Greek government intervene despite repeated appeals by Vinozhito and the European Free Alliance in the European Parliament (of which Vinozhito is a member). Please see www.mhrmc.ca/issues/congress.asp for the letters ignored by the Greek government and other issues surrounding the congress. No Greek media or politicians denounced the threats by the Neo-Nazi organizations. Moreover, several media outlets actually praised the Neo-Nazi threats! For photographs of the demonstrations and the newspaper articles please visit the link above. Following are examples of Greece's racist advertising against its Macedonian minority:

Anti-Greek Provocation in Edessa: On November 30, 2003, there will be a congress of filoskopjans in Edessa. One by one events are published which create a web that threatens to destroy everything national in our country. (Golden Dawn  November 13, 2003)

Three weeks ago  Free World uncovered the complete program of the first congress of the filoskopjans of the  Rainbow party in which is stated the non-Greekness of Macedonia... fortunately, there were residents in the area who became alarmed by our publication and took action and denounced them and finally not one owner of any hall in the town of Edessa would welcome the congress of the filoskopjans.. It seems crystal clear that the sly plans of some in our Macedonia are coming from high places. And when they found themselves in a difficult place and were unable to hold their congress in a private room they used a public hall. Well since they pursue this course they will get the intimidation they asked for and next Sunday we will find Greek patriots who will stop them. (Free World  Weekly Newspaper, November 30, 2003)

We will oppose it, all of those who are Greek must demonstrate Sunday, 7th December at 11:00am. They must be in Edessa to put an end to the propaganda of  Rainbow. All together with one voice yell loudly  Macedonia is one and it is Greek (Golden Dawn, Dec. 4, 2003)

Stop the Provocation by the Filoskopjans: The foreign interests of "protectors" are to be found here from these marked internal agents of every kind who are anti-Greek and filoskopjan and work to create by force an issue of a skopjan minority in our Macedonia. We must react now because tomorrow will be too late. We do not forget the traitors or those who work for foreign interests. We cannot accept the sellout of Macedonia to the Slavo-skopjans. We claim national dignity. No compromise of any kind for our Macedonia. Rally Sunday, December 7th, 2003 at 11:00 AM In Central Edessa. Everyone Must Be There! (Golden Dawn, December 4, 2003)

In its press release of December 8, 2003, the Rainbow Party describes the events surrounding the postponement of its Congress:

The guilty silence of competent authorities also raises reasonable questions and so is the refusal of local party representatives to condemn those phenomena of racist and Neonazist behavior in the city of Edessa.

Within the context of those incidents, the Congress Organizing Committee decided to postpone the event, taking into consideration public safety, after authorities failed to guarantee the security of the event, since holding the event could potentially cause friction and spark off fights.

This is the situation in Greece, at the dawn of year 2004. Most probably, Greece is only European country where Neonazism is a lawful political parole, where racism, anti-Semitism, xenophobia and discrimination against minority groups are frequent, making part of everyday reality, both at the level of society and at the level of political parole and implementation.

This is the situation in Greece, the country hosting the 2004 Olympic Games, promoting rather hypocritically the motto for one single culture of all cultures; a country member of the European Union that vigorously refuses to ratify the Council of Europe Convention-Framework on Minority Rights; a country that refers to the members of Turkish minority as Muslims and does not recognize the existence of a Macedonian minority; a country that refuses to sign the Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, while only discussing the rights of Greeks in Istanbul / Konstandinoupoli and Southern Albania.

Bartlomiej Swiderek of the European Free Alliance made the following conclusion after a visit to Greece on December 11, 2003:

The Rainbow Party - Vinozhito, which has excellent links with minority groups and human rights organisations in Greece copes with several problems most of them linked with a lack of official recognition of the Macedonian national minority in Greece. I have an impression that any activity of the party, however peaceful, causes strong reactions from the far-right groups and a part of Greek society very much linked to the myth of a "Hellenic purity of the country" and scared of a "Slavo-Turko-European" plot directed against Greece.

It really strikes me that the congress of a democratic and legal party had to be cancelled for security reasons, while the far right groups can organise their events without any problems. It is noteworthy, that openly Nazi organisations like the mentioned "Golden Dawn" is legal in Greece and can disrupt political activities of a minority party.

I suggest that EFA monitors developments in Greece and gives all necessary assistance to the Rainbow-Vinozhito party in their activities.

The Rainbow Party was finally able to hold their Congress on May 30, 2004. Following are excerpts from their press release:

30 May 2004 marked the successful conclusion of the 1st Congress of the Rainbow Party, which as of 26 March 2004 is a founding member of the European Free Alliance (EFA). Henceforth, it will participate in the Greek political arena with the name European Free Alliance-Rainbow (EvropaEki Eleftheri Symmahia-Ouranio Toxo / Evropska Slobodna Alijanca-Vinozhito). Elections were held for the new Central Council, composed of twenty-four (24) members, and for the expanded Political Secretariat, composed of nine (9) members. On behalf of the Central Council and the party members, the new Political Secretariat wishes to commend the Greek government, the Hellenic Police Authorities in Thessaloniki, and Prime Minister Konstantinos Karamanlis, personally, for granting the request of our party president Nelly Maes and taking all the necessary measures to protect the Congress participants, particularly our European guests, and facilitate its smooth proceedings. A jarring note, however, in the behavior of the authorities was the Nea Demokratia party deputy and current Prefect of Thessaloniki, Panayiotis Psomiades, who prior to the Congress publicly stated inter alia that: [It] is a flagrant violation of every principle of national dignity, national consciousness and minimum sense of national pride that our city agreed to host a Congress organized by Rainbow, an agency known for its anti-national views, views that directly trigger our national reflexes and offend Hellenic sensibilities everywhere on earth, particularly those of Macedonians. For these reasons we deem these known circles and their delegates undesirable in Thessaloniki. We believe that the Prefect's statements gave neo-nazi elements the green light to stage violent demonstrations. These remarks were an affront to the city's democratically minded citizens, the Prefect's own faction, as well as our country's Prime Minister. EFA-Rainbow regrets that a member state of the European Union was forced to take extreme security measures to protect the proceedings of a Congress of a legally recognized European political party such as ours. We also regret that, with very few exceptions (e.g. the NGO Greek Helsinki Monitor and the leftist party AEKA-Thessaloniki), no other political parties or organizations took a public stand against Mr. Psomiades'statements and the violent protests by neo-nazi elements. This is proof of the democratic deficit in Greece. We are also distressed by the fact that Greece is the only country in the EU where neo-nazism, under the guise of patriotism, is a legitimate form of political expression. We hereby state our willingness to put our political efforts towards assisting in the broader democratization and Europeanization of Greece. We wish to add our presence by joining the political race and the process of shaping a United Europe as our common homeland. We therefore ask voters to support our candidates in the upcoming European Parliamentary elections on 13 June 2004.

Greek Neo-Fascist Group Attacks 50-Year Old Man

The following are excerpts from a September 1, 2003 article in the Greek newspaper Eleftherotypia, titled  The Minister Yelled and the Police Woke Up. English translation courtesy of www.maknews.com.

It was necessary for the Minister of Justice, Philippos Petsalnikos, to intervene in order for the police to act and arrest two members of Golden Dawn who were accused of beating a citizen.

The incident took place on the evening of Saturday, [August 30, 2003] during a march by members of Golden Dawn in the city of Kastoria. According to accusations from fifty year-old Christos Mihos, he was beaten by members of Golden Dawn. A similar fate was suffered by a passerby who tried to help. Both victims were taken to the hospital in Kastoria where they received medical attention.

The victims wanted to sue the perpetrators and asked police to arrest the attacker they had identified. However, the police "encouraged" the victims to take the suit forward without naming their assailants! The issue became known to Philippos Petsalnikos, who is the Minister of Justice and the elected member of parliament from Kastoria.

The Minister stated to Eleftherotypia, "I reminded the police chief that the incident took place on Greek territory and thus, the constitution and the laws that foresee the taking of legal action against specific persons must be implemented and especially their arrest given that they had been identified and named by the victims."

After this nighttime intervention by the Minister, the police were mobilized in the early morning hours whereupon they arrested the two persons responsible for the attacks and charges were laid. Today they will be taken before the courts in Kastoria. The Ministry of Public Order was also informed of the negligence by the police.

All day yesterday 35 members of Golden Dawn remained outside the police headquarters in Kastoria and for five hours blocked one of the busiest streets in the city demanding the release of their two arrested members. At noon, in a show of force, they travelled by bus to the town of Florina and marched along the major streets shouting inflammatory slogans such as "the Slavs should get out of Greece."

Greek Government Harassment of Rainbow/Vinozhito

The Rainbow Party has been the subject of attacks, both verbal and physical, by the Greek public, media and even government officials. The Rainbow Party hung a bilingual sign in Macedonian and Greek outside their office in Lerin/Florina in 1995, which caused a huge uproar in the city. Greek nationalists, led by the mayor of Florina, attacked and destroyed the office. Four members of Rainbow were subsequently put on trial for "causing and inciting mutual hatred among the citizens" under Article 192 of the Greek Penal Code. Rainbow was essentially put on trial for publicly using their mother tongue. Following worldwide condemnation of the trial, the Rainbow members were finally acquitted in 1998. However, the perpetrators of the crime were never charged and Rainbow has initiated a European Court of Human Rights case against them.

Greek media and government officials constantly refer to Rainbow members as agents of Skopje, separatists and enemies of Greece. Rainbow does not receive coverage in the media when participating in elections and instead get slandered at every opportunity.

The following are questions posed by Greek M.E.P. Mr. Stavros Xarhakos to the European Parliament on March 19, 2003. The submission by Mr. Xarhakos was titled, EBLUL and the Systematic Defamation of a Member of the E.U.

It is well known that in Greece democratic freedoms and cultural difference are fully protected in law. This is the context in which the Muslim minority lives in Greek Thrace & its mosques built and restored with money from the Greek state'.

 What are the activities of EBLUL in countries where the cultural identity of minorities is suppressed, as is the case, for example, with the Greeks & in Turkey?'

 Similar freedom is enjoyed by the other minority groups, however few they may be, such as the small Slav-speaking community in the region of Florina, which has set up a political party that enjoys complete freedom of action (it has offices, newspapers, is free to disseminate its ideas and does not fail to abuse Greece and the Greeks)'.

 Does the Commission (which appears to provide financial support for the activities of the EBLUL office) share the historically groundless views of M. Brezigar concerning the alleged existence of a  Macedonian'language?

Macedonian Language and the European Bureau for Lesser Used Languages (EBLUL)

In its report titled  The Sounds of Silence  The Macedonian Minority in Greece in 2001, the Greek Helsinki Monitor states: & the Greek government has persistently refused to allow the teaching of the Macedonian language in schools, even in villages where the majority of inhabitants speak Macedonian. The Greek government, via its Spokesperson Minister for the Press and the Mass Media Dimitris Reppas, refused an appeal by the European Parliament's  Green and European Free Alliance group to Prime Minister Costas Simitis, in May 2000, for the recognition of th e Macedonian language and its introduction in the education system.

Despite Greece's opposition, the European Bureau for Lesser Used Languages opened an office in Salonica in 2002, with Nase Parisis, an ethnic Macedonian human rights activist, as its first president. It is ironic that EBLUL, which promotes minority languages, has opened an office in a country that claims that it has no minorities.

Macedonian Political Refugees Denied Entry into Greece

On June 8, 2003, Greek Deputy Foreign Minister, Andreas Loverdos, made an historic announcement pledging the free return of Macedonian political refugees, evacuated from Greece as children during the Greek Civil War of 1946-1949. The child refugees (Detsa Begaltsi) have consistently been denied entry into Greece simply because they assert their Macedonian ethnic identity. They were excluded from the 1982 law that allowed the free return of political refugees that were Greek by genus. Answering a question on the free visit of "non-ethnic Greek" political refugees, Mr. Loverdos, stated that "since we have overcome all these problems of the past and of the civil war... we want to overcome this vestige too sooner rather than later... during this summer."

The events that followed Loverdos' historic announcement were indicative of a country that views itself as a Western democracy but consistently prove s itself to be the very antithesis of one. Following a nationalistic uproar by a large segment of Greek society, who were worried that the political refugees would  incite the local Macedonian population into a heightened sense of nationalism, the Greek government reversed its decision and chose to impede the reunion in any way possible. It then proceeded to announce, on July 3, 2003 that the political refugees will be allowed to enter the country from August 10 to October 30, and would only be allowed to stay for 20 days. The date of the Detsa Begaltsi's Third World Reunion was well-publicized and was originally going to take place from July 15-20, 2003. The Greek government's announcement forced the organizers to reschedule the event to August 10-15, which caused a large number of political refugees, particularly from Canada, the United States, and Australia, to miss the event as they originally planned to enter Greece before July 10.

It is remarkable that Greece, a European Union country, would reverse a humanitarian decision in favour of state-sponsored racism that has been widely endorsed in Greece.

Out of the people who tried to enter Greece for the reunion, it is estimated that approximately two hundred Macedonians were denied entry into Greece during the summer of 2003.

On July 20, 2003, Australian citizen Janko Kalinchev, born in the village of Ovcharani (Meliti in Greek), and Canadian citizen Georgi Kizovski, born in Gabresh (Gavros), attempted to enter Greece from the Republic of Macedonia in order to visit their birthplaces. However, Greek border officials denied them entry and refused to give them an explanation, instead saying that they were denied entry for "other reasons".

According to Mr. Kizovski, "The Greek government keeps a blacklist of people who are active in Macedonian organizations abroad and who openly declare themselves as Macedonian. We were obviously returned at the border because of our membership in the Association of Refugee Children from the Aegean Part of Macedonia (Detsa Begaltsi) in Australia and Canada." Greek officials have publicly stated that 80 Macedonian activists living abroad are on a blacklist. In its press release of August 10, 2003, the Greek Helsinki Monitor stated.

Preventing their entrance on grounds of their activism directly contravenes the special UN, OSCE, Council of Europe and EU provisions for the state's responsibility to respect and even defend NGOs and human rights activists.

In July, 2002, a border document proving the existence of this blacklist, which had been denied by the Greek government, was given to Steve Pliakes, a well-known Canadian-Macedonian activist. Furthermore, the Governor of the Prefecture of Florina, Mr. G. Stratakis, publicly acknowledged the existence of this blacklist on July 23, 2003. The ultra-nationalistic Greek newspaper, Stohos, even published the names of approximately half of the Macedonians on this list in a recent issue. In its press release of August 10, 2003 the Rainbow Party describes the reunion:

Unfortunately, this  humanitarian measure turned into a farce. Once again, the large majority of Macedonian political refugees were denied entry into Greece even for a simple visit. On 10 August 2003 a delegation from Rainbow was present at the Niki  Negochani border station in Florina  Lerin. No political refugee was permitted to enter Greece (of more than 20 individuals appearing between 11.00 and 13.00) whose travel document recorded the bearer's place of birth with its former (Macedonian) name. Entry into Greece was forbidden to those Macedonian political refugees with Republic of Macedonia passports, as well as to those with passports from other countries, such as Australia, Czech Republic, and Hungary. The border officials did not note on the forms the actual reason why entry was denied (this, they explained to us orally), but instead cited other reasons.

The absurdity of the matter of Macedonian political refugees holding travel documents (passports) from the Republic of Macedonia is that Greece does not recognize these passports because they record the name of country as the  Republic of Macedonia. Yet it asks the Macedonian refugees holding these passports to change the name of their birthplace in a passport that Greece doesn't recognize. For this reason, following the interim agreement between the two countries in 1995, the travel document that Greece recognizes is not the passport, but rather a sheet of white A4 paper bearing the visa. Perhaps our country ought to change its stand and finally accept Republic of Macedonia as the name of our neighboring country?

As for the Macedonian refugees from other European countries that have signed accession agreements with the EU (Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Poland, Slovenia), how will Greece explain such a refusal of entry to these governments? How will it behave in April 2004 when these countries become full EU member-states? How will it then explain the refusal of entry to equal and law-abiding European citizens, who have the right to enter Greece simply by presenting their personal identity cards? Will Greece then blacklist these citizens as persona non grata?

Perhaps the Greek government and the Greek Foreign Ministry can explain  if the reason for barring entry into our country is, indeed, the use of place names, which are aspects of the linguistic and cultural heritage of both Greece and Europe  why the use of these names should to be a reason to bar entry? Can it provide us with an example of another European country that has barred entry to its former citizens for the same reason?

Vana Niczowski and her husband Chris, both Canadian citizens of Macedonian ethnicity, who had fled to Poland following the Greek Civil War, attempted to enter Greece on July 21, 2003. Mrs. Niczowski was born in Statitsa (Melas in Greek), Kostur (Kastoria) region and her birthplace was spelled Kosturia on her passport. The Greek border official insisted that this was not the Greek name of the city and sounded too Slavic and therefore, denied her entry.

Greece has consistently refused entry to people who use the original Macedonian village/city name on their passports, instead of the new Greek toponyms applied after 1926. In its press release of August 1, 2003, the Rainbow Party, political party of the Macedonian minority in Greece, stated:

Greece should establish a record of toponyms (both old and new), a practice and a policy carried out in many democratic countries, especially since there is such a provision in international texts related to the protection of the heritage of linguistic, religious or ethnic minorities.

The Greek government has used this as an excuse to deny entry to dozens of Macedonian political refugees. The Rainbow Party goes on to say:

"Let every democratic citizen of Greece consider how he or she would judge similar behavior from another country acting against its Greek minority. Let us assume, for example, that the Albanian government forbids entry to one of its former citizens, a member of the Greek minority, who abandoned Albania in the course of the Greek-Italian war in 1940, was stripped of his Albanian citizenship and had his property confiscated by the state. Assume that person today resides in Canada or Australia and in his Canadian or Australian passport, his place of birth is not mentioned as 'Drach' (the Albanian name of a city in Southern Albania), but "Dirahio" (the name of the same city in Greek).

How would we judge such an action of the Albanian government? How would we judge the placement of other such citizens in a list of "personae non grata" by the Albanian Foreign Office, because in Melbourne or Toronto they participate in Greek and not Albanian cultural associations? What would we say if the Albanian government stripped them of their citizenship and forbade them as long as they lived to visit their families and their places of origin in Southern Albania? Would we not correctly characterize such behavior as racist and inhuman?

The following are comments made by Greek parliamentarian Evgenios Haitidis regarding the Macedonian political refugees. They are indicative of Greek society's attitude towards the Macedonian minority:

They are contemptible separatists, who appear to act undisturbed not only outside Greece but inside Greece as well, under the tolerance or even the assistance of government members, Their primary goal is the recognition of a Macedonian Ethnic Minority in Greece, while their ultimate goal is self-rule namely, the detachment of Greek territory.

Mr. Haitidis claims that the Macedonian political refugees have been found guilty in regular courts of law of being enemy collaborators and criminals and are being characterized by strong anti-Greek activity abroad.

On January 7, 2004, the Greek Deputy Foreign Minister, once again, announced that the issue of the blacklist and Macedonian political refugees would finally be solved. He pledged that the blacklist would be abolished and that no conditions would be placed on ethnic Macedonians who wanted to enter Greece.

George Saragil, an ethnic Macedonian from Lerin/Florina, Greece, immigrated to Canada in 1969 and became a Canadian citizen. He had travelled to Greece several times in the 1980's and 1990's but was denied entry in July 2000 and was told that he was on Greece's blacklist. They instructed him to consult the Greek Consulate in Toronto for more information. Following Mr. Loverdos'second announcement, Mr. Saragil sent a letter (http://www.mhrmi.org/news/2004/march06_e.asp) to the Greek consulate in Toronto asking him to confirm the announcement and whether he would be allowed to enter Greece. He has yet to receive a response.

Greece must be pressured to stop making empty promises and to finally solve the issue of the Macedonian political refugees and blacklist. The European Union must demand that one of its member nations stop discriminating against citizens of other countries based solely on their Macedonian ethnicity.

Macedonian Theatre Group Denied Entry into Greece

The following is a quote by Tihomir Stojanovski, Art Director of the Macedonian theatre group Skrb I Uteha at the Third Macedonian World Human Rights Conference on September 20, 2003.

We were supposed to visit, Lerin, Republic of Greece i.e. Aegean Macedonia in September 2001. The Hellenic Liaison Office in Skopje told the Agency that was supposed to take us to Greece and to get visas for us that:  this is politics and plays in the Macedonians language are not allowed in that part of Greece?! We sent them many letters including the invitation of the Home of Macedonian Culture in Lerin. We talked over the phone. They met us and they told us that they would inform us about the visas in a written form. A long time passed, and we have not received any information. I talked twice over the phone with the Greek Consul Mr. Mihalopulos and he told me that Athens is not issuing visas to us because of security reasons. They are not issuing any written document that they are not giving us the visas. Unofficially, plays in Macedonian are not allowed in this part of Greece?! I wrote open letters to Mr. J. Papandreou, Minister of Foreign Affairs and to the Minister of Culture of the Hellenic Republic. The Greek Helsinki Committee published the letters in its annual report on human rights for 2001: 30 December 2001,  Sounds of Silence - The Macedonian Minority in Greece in 2001 (www.greekhelsinki.gr/bhr/english/special_issues/cerd.html).

Greece Refuses to Register Home of Macedonian Culture Despite European Court Ruling

The European Court of Human Rights convicted Greece for a violation of freedom of association in the case of Sideropoulos and others vs. Greece in 1998 for failing to register the Home of Macedonian Culture. Despite repeated attempts since then, the Home of Macedonian Culture (HMC) has encountered numerous obstacles in trying to register the association. A complete summary of the events surrounding Greece's refusal to register the Home can be found at the Greek Helsinki Monitor's special webpage on the subject: www.greekhelsinki.gr/bhr/english/special_issues/home_of_macedonian_civilization.html

The most recent example occurred in June 2003 when the HMC filed an application with the Single-Member Court of First Instance in Florina. After a lengthy delay, the court issued its decision on December 19, 2003, rejecting the application by the Home of Macedonian Culture and making the following outrageous claims:

 the formulation of the associations'articles is unclear and can cause confusion regarding its real goal& The use of the term  Macedonian culture' intensifies this confusion by connecting this with a non-existent language, described as  makedonski'& The recognition of such an organization contains a direct danger to public order and provides an opportunity for exploitation by foreign agents, who have tried from time to time, unsuccessfully, to fabricate a historically non-existent  Macedonian nation'& For all the reasons mentioned above, we reject the application.'

Greece continues to make a mockery of the European Court of Human Rights and obviously has no intention of registering the Home of Macedonian Culture despite the European Court's decision of 1998. The European Union must enforce its decision and force Greece to immediately register the Home of Macedonian Culture.

Another Macedonian organization, Rousallii, was denied registration by the Greek courts in 2000.

Macedonian Orthodox Church and Father Nikodim Tsarknias

Father Nikodim Tsarknias has been harassed, beaten, fined, jailed and expelled from the Greek Orthodox Church for advocating human rights for the Macedonian minority in Greece. He has also been the subject of several court cases, in which he has been found guilty in absentia, for promoting Macedonian human rights. He has started building a Macedonian Orthodox Church in the city of Sobotsko (Aridea in Greek) and is holding religious service in the Macedonian language there every Sunday. Because of this, he was sentenced to three months in prison on May 11, 2004 by the Aridea Criminal Court of First Instance on charges of establishing and operating a church without authorization. For more information, please see the press release issued by Father Tsarknias (www.mhrmc.ca/news/04/tsarknias.html) and the US State Department's 2004 International Religious Freedom Report (http://www.mhrmi.org/news/2004/september20_e.asp)

In its report,  Sounds of Silence  The Macedonian Minority in Greece in 2001 , the Greek Helsinki Monitor describes the attitude of the Greek Orthodox Church towards Macedonians:

At the same time, in the rare occasions that, despite the prevailing hostility towards such actions, parents want to christen their children giving them Macedonian names, the (civil servants) Orthodox priests refuse to do so and often end up arbitrarily giving Greek equivalent names. In 2001, GHM and MRG-G were informed of two such recent cases. On 23 April 1998, in the Meliti (Florina, Western Macedonia) St. George church, the priest imposed the name of Domna to the infant girl of Evangelos and Elizabeth Anastasiadis who wanted to name her after her grandmother Donka.

Radio Station Owner Arrested in Greece for Broadcasting in Macedonian Language

SEEMO (South East Europe Media Organisation)
www.seemo.org

Press Release: Greece - Vienna, 9 June 2004

The Vienna-based South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South East Europe and an affiliate of the International Press Institute (IPI), is deeply concerned about a recent media development in Greece.

According to information before SEEMO, on Friday, 4 June 2004, police entered the premisses of the private radio station Makedonikos Ichos (Macedonian Sound) in Naoussa, ceased the transmitting and arrested the owner, Aris Vottaris. The official explanation was that this radio station has no licence for local or regional transmission. Vottaris was released after few hours, but there were charges pressed against him because of illegal transmission and lack of documents. Vottaris is a (Slav) Macedonian and was often transmitting traditional songs and dances in Macedonian language, as well as using Macedonian language on air.

In SEEMO's opinion, it is very surprising that only this radio station was shut down, although, according to our sources, there are many other radio stations operating in the prefectures of Imathia and Pella (N.Greece) under the same conditions. SEEMO asks Greek officials to speed up the process of regulation-making for radio licences, especially for alternative radio stations such as Makedonikos Ichos, which are working on regional or local level.

We would like to remind, that it is crucial for journalists that they can do their job freely and that independent media are very important for democratic development in any country.

Greece's Official Stance Regarding the Macedonian Minority & US State Department Report on Greece

On April 7, 2003, the MHRMC issued a press release (http://www.mhrmc.org/news/2003/april07_e.asp) following the US State Department's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices  2002: Greece protesting its continued misrepresentation of the Macedonian minority. The Greek Helsinki Monitor also protested with the US State Department, boycotted the US Embassy in Greece, and filed complaints with the Helsinki Commission of the US Congress. Following these protests, the US State Department made some changes in its 2003 report (issued on February 25, 2004) but it is still grossly inadequate and mirrors the official Greek position that the Macedonian minority is illegitimate. Following are excerpts from our 2003 press release:

The Macedonian Human Rights Movement of Canada is appalled by the US State Department's continued misrepresentation of the Macedonian minority in Greece in its  Country Reports on Human Rights Practices  2002: Greece. Despite numerous appeals by the MHRMC and other international NGOs, (see the Greek Helsinki Monitor's press release of March 18, 2002: www.greekhelsinki.gr/bhr/english/organizations/ghm/ghm_18_03_02.rtf) the US State Department continues to make erroneous statements regarding this minority in what can only be seen as an attempt to appease Greek sensitivities to the Macedonian issue. For example, when referring to the Macedonian minority, the US State Department places the term Macedonian in quotation marks. This gives the impression that the US State Department agrees with the official Greek position that this minority is illegitimate. The Macedonian minority and language are internationally recognized as such but the US State Department questions its legitimacy throughout this report by referring to it as Slavo-Macedonian, Slavic dialect and by making statements such as:

Northwestern Greece is home to an indeterminate number of citizens who speak a Slavic dialect at home, particularly in Florina province. Estimates ranged widely, from under 10,000 to 50,000. A small number identified themselves as belonging to a distinct ethnic group and asserted their right to Macedonian minority status.

Most estimates place the Macedonian minority at well over the numbers stated above. Macedonians live throughout the region of Aegean Macedonia, not just in the Lerin/Florina district. Furthermore, a large number identify as ethnic Macedonians, not an insignificant segment of the population as this report indicates.

Several local and international NGOs, including local Macedonian activists in Greece, have repeatedly contacted the US State Department in order to provide information about the human rights abuses suffered by the Macedonian minority. The US State Department selectively chooses which information to use which gives credit to the argument that its main agenda is to pursue its own interests, not the achievement of human rights for oppressed minorities. The Greek Helsinki Monitor ended its 2002 press release by stating:

[The US State Department's] attitude towards Macedonians in Greece, as reflected in the annual reports, cannot therefore be considered an oversight, or a result of lack of information; on the contrary it is a sustained and deliberate policy of complacency towards Greek authorities on the most sensitive human rights issue in Greece. Such complacency is not shown towards Bulgarian authorities that have a similar sensitivity for Macedonians, whose problems are mentioned in the relevant chapter.

The MHRMC calls on the US State Department to correct its past errors and issue an immediate press release to rectify its erroneous statements about the Macedonian minority in Greece.

ECRI Recommends that Greece Recognize its Macedonian Minority

The following is an excerpt from ECRI's report. For the full text, please see the link below:
www.coe.int/t/E/human_rights/ecri/1-ECRI/2-Country-by-country_approach/Greece/Greece_CBC_3.asp

Macedonians and other minority groups

80. In its second report, ECRI encouraged the authorities to ensure that all groups in Greece, Macedonians and Turks included, could exercise their rights to freedom of association and freedom of expression in accordance with international legal standards.

81. ECRI notes that the Greek authorities are more ready to recognise the existence of minority groups in Greece, such as the Pomaks or the Roma, including the fact that certain members of these groups have a native language other than Greek. However, other groups still encounter difficulties, the Macedonians and Turks for example. Even today, persons wishing to express their Macedonian, Turkish or other identity incur the hostility of the population. They are targets of prejudices and stereotypes, and sometimes face discrimination, especially in the labour market. In the Sidiropoulos and others v. Greece judgment of 10 July 1998, the European Court of Human Rights found that the refusal to register the association "Home of Macedonian Civilisation" constituted an interference with the freedom of association as guaranteed by Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights. ECRI deplores the fact that, five years after the decision of the European Court of Human Rights, this association has still not been registered despite the repeated applications made by its members. ECRI notes that similar cases are currently before the Greek courts concerning registration of associations whose title includes the adjective "Turkish".

82. ECRI stresses that the authorities took a first positive step on the path of reconciliation by opening their borders for a few days during the summer of 2003 to persons of Macedonian origin compelled to leave Greece in the civil war when most were only children. ECRI nevertheless deplores the fact that persons holding a passport in which the name of their birthplace in Greece was indicated in the Macedonian and not the Greek form were refused entry to Greek territory.

83. ECRI notes that representatives of the Macedonian community have asked the authorities to recognise their right to self-identification, as well as the existence of a Macedonian national minority in Greece. They have also called for the ratification of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, considering that this step could improve their situation in Greece.

Recommendations:

84. ECRI encourages the Greek authorities to take further steps toward the recognition of the freedom of association and expression of members of the Macedonian and Turkish communities living in Greece. It welcomes the gesture of reconciliation made by the Greek authorities towards the ethnic Macedonian refugees from the civil war, and strongly encourages them to proceed further in this direction in a non-discriminatory way.

85. ECRI also recommends that the Greek authorities closely examine the allegations of discrimination and intolerant acts against Macedonians, Turks and others, and, if appropriate, take measures to punish such acts.

86. ECRI strongly recommends the Greek authorities to open a dialogue with the Macedonians' representatives in order to find a solution to the tensions between this group and the authorities, as well as between it and the population at large, so that co-existence with mutual respect may be achieved in everyone's interests.

Conclusion

The Macedonian Human Rights Movement of Canada calls on the international community to apply pressure on Greece to end its racial profiling of individuals of Macedonian ethnic background, to immediately solve the issue of the Macedonian political refugees, to repeal the racist 1982 law that only permits ethnic Greek political refugees to return to Greece, and to immediately recognize its large Macedonian minority and grant it the human rights that it is guaranteed by all international human rights conventions. The MHRMC specifically asks that the European Union end its hypocrisy in demanding that new member states respect human rights standards while ignoring human rights violations within the EU.

Written by:

Bill Nicholov, President
Macedonian Human Rights Movement International
Address: 157 Adelaide St. West, Suite 434, Toronto, Canada M5H 4E7
Tel: 416-850-7125 Fax: 416-850-7127
E-mail: info@mhrmi.org Website: www.mhrmi.org

Presented by:

George Papadakis
Rainbow Organization of the Macedonian Minority in Greece
Address: Stephanou Dragoumi 11, P.O. Box 51, 53100 Florina, Greece
Tel/Fax: ++ 23850 46548
Email: vinozito@otenet.gr
Website: www.florina.org

For more information, please contact the Macedonian Human Rights Movement of Canada or the following organizations of Macedonians in Greece:

Rainbow Party/Vinozhito
Address: Stephanou Dragoumi 11, P.O. Box 51, 53100 Florina, Greece
Tel/Fax: ++ 23850 46548
Email: rainbow@florina.org
Website: www.florina.org

Home of Macedonian Culture
Address: Stephanou Dragoumi 11, P.O. Box 51, 53100 Florina, Greece
Tel/Fax: 23850 46548

European Bureau for Lesser Used Languages - Greece
President - Nase Parisis
Address: PO Box 100, TK 59100, Naousa, Greece
Tel: ++ 23850 22570
Email: greblul@otenet.gr
Website: www.eblul.org

Father Nikodim Tsarknias
Address: Aegeas Sophias 13, Aridea, Pellas, 58400 Greece
Tel: ++23840 23271
Fax: ++23840 21778

     
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