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Greek Diplomats and Members of the Greek Parliament Lie to the Council of Europe

December 5, 2005

Rainbow/Vinozhito - Press Release

Florina / Lerin - Surprised and bitterly disappointed, the European Free Alliance-Rainbow recently witnessed -- through the reports of the Greek Helsinki Monitor -- and for yet another time, Greek diplomats and members of the Greek Parliament shamelessly lying in front of an international organization. This time it was the Parliamentary Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights of the Council of Europe, where Greece was reproached for the way it treats its Macedonian minority.

Our country, along with France, Turkey, Georgia and five other nations, has not yet ratified the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (FCNM) of the Council of Europe (acting hypocritically, however, Greece was among the first countries to sign the FCNM back in 1997).

Greek diplomat, Mr Georgios Ayfantis, tried to justify this attitude on the 22nd of November in Paris. Not surprisingly, he was aided by New Democracy MPs, Miltiadis Varvitsiotis and Elsa Papadimitriou as well as the guilty silence of their PASOK colleagues, Theodoros Pangalos and Athanassios Alevras. Among others, Mr Ayfantis made the following "amazing" statements:

"...These people (Slavophones) are free to speak their Slavic idiom and teach it in private schools..."

Until today, Greece's immovable position on the linguistic issue is that the Macedonian language is "non-existent". Instead, in the Greek province of Western Macedonia, very few elderly bilinguals speak an "oral Slavic idiom". Perhaps Mr Ayfantis and the "luminaries" that guide him could then explain how it is possible for an "oral idiom" to be taught in schools and tell us how many of these schools exist in Greece.

"...The majority of them (Slavophones) do not wish to become a member of a minority, as being a minority member means being marginalized."

With a few words the Greek diplomat succeeded in describing what Greece has "accomplished" during the last century, regarding the minorities in its soil. Integration through violent assimilation or marginalization, since the people who are not "integrated" cannot freely express their different ethnic identity or learn their mother tongue.

At the same time he indirectly admits that these "Slavophones" are more than just a few thousand elderly people. What Mr Ayfantis didn't explain was why Greece refuses its Macedonian and other ethnic or linguistic groups the ability to declare their particular identity through the official national censuses, depriving them even from the basic right of self-identification.

"...Historically, minorities have been used to break up states as in the case of Yugoslavia. This is why Greece does not ratify the FCNM. If Greece were to ratify it, there would be no improvement for the man on the street, just more work for Greece in the Council of Europe."

According to the official Greek position, Greece is an ethnically and linguistically homogenous state with the exception of the so-called "Muslim" minority in Western Thrace. Judging from Mr Ayfantis' statement, though, it seems that this is not exactly the case since a fear of the "non-existent" minorities is more than obvious. If Greece had no minorities, then what is the reason for using Yugoslavia as a misleading and unfortunate example?

If we put things under the same perspective, aren't the Greek minority schools in Southern Albania and the Greek-Orthodox minority in Turkey (far smaller in numbers than the Macedonians in Greece) also destabilizing factors? Yet, Greek diplomacy and politicians pledge support for the Greek minorities' rights in neighboring countries with clarion voice and at every opportunity.

In any case, if Greece was so afraid of suffering the same fate as Yugoslavia, then why did so readily sign the Framework Convention on National Minorities, yet now is refusing to ratify it? Did minorities appear in the country only after 1997 and never exist before that time? Or is it because ratification would mean more work for Mr Ayfantis and his well-paid colleagues, as he so naively admitted?

"...The FCNM was a useful tool for the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the fall of the Milosevic regime but is irrelevant today."

In other words, Greece signs, ratifies and implements international conventions only when they serve Greek interests. When this is not the case, Greece degrades, forgets and defames the conventions.

"...The few (Slavophones) who are represented by (the Macedonian minority party) Rainbow are people who want to get secession from Greece and join FYROM, supported by people in FYROM."

When the total absence of arguments to justify what cannot be justified leads to libelous imputation and defamation, the answer should be clear. EFA-Rainbow will file a denunciative complaint against Mr Ayfantis and his superiors. This way, they will be forced to prove their outrageous allegations so shamelessly uttered while Greece is continuously sitting on the "accused dock" of the international community. They must realize, at last, that modesty, patience and tolerance cannot be interpreted as weakness.

The Press Office of EFA - Rainbow

"Slavophones" is a widely tolerated Greek vulgarism for ethnic Macedonians
"FYROM" is a temporary UN designation for the Republic of Macedonia

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