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Rainbow/Vinozhito Letter to Matthew Nimitz -
UN Special Envoy on the Name Dispute between Greece and Republic of Macedonia


May 5, 2005


EUROPEAN FREE ALLIANCE – RAINBOW
POLITICAL PARTY OF THE MACEDONIAN MINORITY IN GREECE
Member of the European Free Alliance – European Political Party (EFA- EPP)
Member of the Federal Union of European Nationalities (FUEN)
ST. DRAGOUMI 11 TK. 53100 P.O 51
TEL/FAX 0030 23850 46548
http://www.florina.org/
E-mail: rainbow@florina.org

--- --- ---

Rainbow/Vinozhito - Press Release

To: Mr. Matthew Nimetz
United Nations Special Envoy on the name dispute between Greece and Republic of Macedonia

To the attention of:
1. Mr. George Bush - President of the USA
2. Mr. Kofi Annan United Nations Secretary-General
3. Mr. Charles P. Ries United States Ambassador in Athens

Your Excellency

On 11 April 2005 the Greek newspaper Eleftherotypia (p. 7) published the statements and proposals put forth by you in your capacity as UN Special Mediator between Greece and the Republic of Macedonia on the issue of the name Macedonia. The article in question reports you as having proposed a 13-point referendum to the UN General Assembly for resolution of the issue, together with your own interpretive statement on these points.

In our dual capacity as citizens of Greece as well as members of the Macedonian minority in Greece, we believe that we have a right to comment on the content of your statement and proposals, given that we are directly concerned with the peace of the greater region. In addition to this significant reason, we also feel that your statements – which, as they are presented in the press, constitute a resolution proposal – are rudely insulting not only to our cultural, linguistic and ethnic identity but also to our unalienable right to self-definition.

Specifically, in a section of your interpretive statement you mention inter alia: “As yet another example, the Republika Makedonija-Skopje must recognize that there is an administrative province in Greece with the name “Greek Macedonia” (and not Macedonia of the Aegean or Aegean Macedonia under Greece) and that those who live in Greek Macedonia commonly define themselves as Greek Macedonians in the Greek regional and cultural sense of the name, and that such names have to be used and respected.”**

With all due respect, Mr. Nimetz, we are obliged to inform you that this province of Northern Greece, or Greek Macedonia, is also inhabited by Greek citizens who define themselves as ethnic Macedonians. They are the members of the indigenous ethnic Macedonian minority, who in no way adopt the Greek regional and cultural sense of the name you refer to.

Could you kindly inform us: on the basis of what data did you assume that Northern Greece is inhabited solely by Greeks, so that when the neighboring Republic of Macedonia refers to the inhabitants of this region it should use the exclusive term “Greek Macedonians” for everyone, including us?

Could you kindly inform us of any UN Treaty, Convention or Directive that states that one country can or must define/distinguish the members of a minority of another country, without taking into consideration the minority’s own choice of cultural, linguistic, national or ethnic identity?

Over the past decades the United Nations has shown its concern for minority rights through resolutions, declarations and missions. It is not happenstance that when the General Assembly ratified the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, it was decided that the UN could not remain indifferent to the fate of minorities (Decision 217 C III of 10 December 1948). Comparable examples in recent years include the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities ratified by the UN in 1992, the establishment of the Human Rights Commission (HRC), and the Working Group on Minorities (WGM) in 1995. We presume that you agree that all this demonstrates the UN’s ongoing concern for the rights that persons belonging to minorities must enjoy. It is precisely for these reasons that your statement so unpleasantly surprised us.

How, then, are we able to enjoy our rights as members of the ethnic Macedonian minority of Greece when, in addition to suffering decades of repression and the Greek government’s refusal of recognition, we are now at risk of being deprived of even the fundamental right of self-definition? Because, if the resolution is adopted on the basis of your proposal, a third party will be defining us as something else.

We fear that your reference in the interpretive statement comes into conflict with the spirit and philosophy behind the protection of minority rights, a sensitivity that the UN has demonstrated from its founding to the present day.

With all due respect, Mr. Nimetz, in another point of your interpretive statement you say: “…I believe it would be helpful if the two governments took into special consideration the internationally recognized conventions and practices concerning the use of toponyms in other states and begin bilateral discussions in good faith on this issue. [Their efforts should include] the use of a proper definition of toponyms in their respective educational systems, official maps and calendar events, and [an attempt] to encourage private companies, tourist agencies and similar organizations to adopt the internationally respected toponyms and names.”**

We would like to believe that your reference to “internationally respected toponyms and names” includes the respect that governments must demonstrate for the use of toponyms used by minorities in their own language. As members of the ethnic Macedonian minority in Greece we know that international practices lean towards respecting and using minority toponyms in the places where minorities live. We would like to inform you that in Northern Greece there are a plethora of toponyms and minor place-names in the Macedonian language, which are currently unofficially used by the members of the minority in their colloquial speech but which, unfortunately, are not officially recognized by the Greek government. We believe that, albeit in this indirect manner, your proposals on the aforementioned issue will finally bring about the accepted use of dual nomenclature (both in Greek and Macedonian languages) for toponyms in the regions of Northern Greece inhabited by the Macedonian minority. The fact is these toponyms comprise the linguistic and cultural wealth not only of the minority or the country, but also of the region at large.

Point 8 of the proposal that, according to the Greek press you put forward for a possible Security Council resolution, states that: “…Macedonia has significance and has been linked to the heritage, culture and history of the Hellenic Republic and the Greek people since antiquity, that ‘Macedonia’ is a name widely used in the region of Northern Greece, and that the inhabitants of the province inside the Hellenic Republic commonly call themselves Macedonians.”**

Mr. Nimetz, with all due respect, could you please explain how it is possible for one country alone, such as the Hellenic Republic, to be linked to the culture, heritage and history of a region that throughout time is known to have been multinational and multicultural, as is the region of Northern Greece today?

For sake of veracity we would like to invite you and your colleagues to make a personal visit to Northern Greece so that you can see the living reality for yourselves.

Mr. Nimetz, we have every respect for the task you have undertaken and wish you every success. However, please permit us to express our views on the issue of the name. As minority Macedonians in Greece as well as members of the Rainbow political party, which has participated in the Greek political arena since 1994 and in the European Parliament as a member of the European Free Alliance (5 EMPs), we believe we can assist you in your endeavor.

The Macedonian issue, and by extension the issue of the name, is as complex as it is simple.

Our political position on the issue of the name of the Republic of Macedonia is based on the democratic principle that every individual and every people has the right to choose the name by which it wishes to define itself. We believe that this individual and collective democratic right is a European as well as a universal value. After all, it is on the basis of this principle that we call ourselves ethnic Macedonians in Greece.

Concerning the name per se of the state of Republic of Macedonia, it is already a composite since “Republic of Macedonia,” which denotes statehood, differentiates from “Macedonia.” Besides which, no province of Greece carries the name “Republic of Macedonia,” to create confusion with the use of the above term.

Concerning the term Macedonian, the majority of inhabitants of Northern Greece commonly call themselves Greeks or “Greek Macedonians,” because they are Greek citizens and also because they have chosen to belong to the Greek nation. The use of the term “Macedonian” by ethnic Greeks is either a geographical or an ethnic designation with the addition of the prefix “Greek” in front of the word “Macedonian.” Only the members of the Macedonian minority in Northern Greece use the term “Macedonian” as an ethnic definition, as in the term “ethnic Macedonian,” to define themselves. Those in Northern Greece who have chosen to belong to the Greek nation use the term “Greek” or “Greek Macedonian,” and those who belong to the Macedonian minority use the term “Macedonian” or “ethnic Macedonian.”

The Greek government’s objections to the use of the term are on the surface a technical problem, since the key to the so-called “Macedonian issue” lies elsewhere. The problem in the region as far as the Macedonian issue is concerned is, in essence, the refusal of the Balkan countries, including Greece, to recognize the existence and to respect the rights of the Macedonian nation. This of course also entails the refusal to recognize the existence and the rights of the Macedonian minority in Greece. The problem is not as the Greek government presents it; it is not about cultural heritage, or that a portion of territorial Greece bears the administrative name Province of Macedonia, or that the neighboring state calls itself Republic of Macedonia. What the Greek government stubbornly refuses to admit is that it does not agree with the ethnic use of the terms “Macedonia,” or “Macedonian” because of the existence of the Macedonian minority in Greece, whom (according to Greek nationalists) could potentially rise up in the future with separatist demands. This is the real problem for the Greek government, and not its neighboring country’s name. However, if the Greek government admits this, then it must also proceed with proper measures to recognize and respect the rights of the minority. However, we believe that it is precisely through this way and practice, as implemented in the democratic countries of Europe, that peace and stability can be strengthened in the region. The latter is certainly not achieved by suppressing the rights of minorities such as the Macedonian minority, or by questioning the right of a neighboring state to use the name Macedonia.

In our activities as political officials we have repeatedly proclaimed that all Balkan borders must be respected as unalterable by the Balkan states for the sake of the peace and prosperity of the region’s inhabitants. Likewise, in our political practice throughout the years we have endeavored through democratic and peaceful means to pressure the Greek government to respect our rights, as would any civilized and democratic state in today’s Europe. After all, today and in the world to come, Europe is and will always be our common homeland.

We wish you success in your efforts.

THE POLITICAL SECRETARIAT
Anastasiadis Stavros
Mpoules Anastasios
Parisis Athanasios
Dimtsis Petros
Mantzas Elevtherios
Voskopoulos Pavlos
Kazias Petros
Kligkatsis Pantelis

** Translator’s note: All statements in quotation marks, which are attributed to Mr. Nimetz, have been translated from a text in Greek, published Eleftherotypia, 11/4/2005, p. 7

     
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