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Forgotten Discrimination in the European Union

October 17, 2005


By Mary Meeker & Steve Gligorov, Esq.

As the European Union struggles to bring multicultural prosperity to the Balkan region of Europe, "the task is proving more elusive than ever," says American legal rights lawyer, Michael Rollins. One reason for the difficulty, says Rollins, is the E.U. policy of preferential avoidance of EU member countries regarding civil and human rights abuses. Rollins says matters between Greece and its neighboring country, The Republic of Macedonia, serve as a good example of how the European Union's policy of benign neglect by its member states has an effect on the socio-economics, trade imbalance, and other limitations to investments in the region.

In the United States the most important expansion of civil and human rights was the enactment of the 13th and 14th Federal Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, especially because the 13th Amendment abolished slavery throughout the United States. Arguably, the most prominent civil rights legislation since reconstruction in the U.S. came from the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibiting state sponsored discrimination based on "race, color, religion, or national origin." Florida based lawyer, Maura Curran, says the EU should act as the U.S. government acted in eliminating discrimination on U.S. territory. The EU can enforce its anti-discrimination policies against its member state Greece under the Maastrich Treaty principle of subsidiarity, which allows the European Community's central institutions to act "only if and insofar as the objectives of the proposed action can not be achieved by the member states."

In reaction to United Nations special envoy, Matthew Nimitz's mediation efforts concerning Greece's name dispute with its neighboring country The Republic of Macedonia, Greece instructed its United Nations representatives to deny the latest settlement offer set forth by the U.N. special envoy. Greek foreign ministry spokesman, George Koumoutsakos, stated that the present Greek government is merely following the same policy as all preceding Greek governments have in the last 10 years; basically, the Greek government takes these steps to reinforce and protect the country's negotiating position, says Koumoutsakos. Civil rights lawyer, Lenny Bush, says it seems unconscionable how a modern European Union member state can, and still does, continue to negotiate a policy of purposeful state sponsored racial, religious, and national origin discrimination against minorities in the region.

Towards the end of June 2005 the American civil rights law firm of Merrit, Bush, Rollins, & Khodorovsky underscored accompanying examples of state sponsored discrimination by the Greek government for United States Secretary of State, Ms. Condoleeza Rice. Included in the action were documented examples of religious, racial, and national origin discrimination by the Greek government against Greek citizen minorities of Macedonian national origin living in Greece. Express human and civil rights violations by the Greek government were noted by the law firm as it quoted Greek citizen representatives, from the Greece based minority Rainbow Party, attesting to the fact that "[t]he problem...the Greek government diligently conceals is its...refusal to recognize the existence and to respect the rights of the Macedonian nation." Moreover, many Greek citizens added that "[t]his of course also entails the refusal to recognize the existence and the rights of the Macedonian minority in Greece."

Today, the dilemma of how to end state sponsored discrimination against minorities in Greece is again revisited by the international community, but the primary focus still fails to connect the Macedonia name issue to the problem of Greek state sponsored discrimination. Repeatedly, Greek commitments to anti-racist provisions as prescribed by the European Union, the Council of Europe, and the OSCE are systematically violated when there is a lack of international intervention.

The latest example of the Greek government's blind eye policy to hatred against religious minorities was apparent from the "First Pan-European Hate-Fest" incident. Only after an aggressive campaign by The Simon Wiesenthal Center to preclude and prohibit the neo-Nazi "First Pan-European Hate-Fest" scheduled for 16-18 September in the Peloponnese, the Greek government finally reacted to international pressure and announced that the "Hate-Fest" was prohibited.

The Macedonia name issue directly involves "the Greek government denying people of ethnic Macedonian national origin the international legal right of self-identification and the Greek government denying the repatriation and restitution of lands, territories, and resources which were occupied, used, confiscated, or damaged without the free and informed consent of marginalized ethnic minorities displaced from their homes by the Greek government," says civil rights attorney, Dmitry Merrit. According to Greek radio, the White House voiced objections to threats made by Greek Prime Minister Karamanlis as to Athens' intention to preclude Macedonia's accession to Euro-Atlantic Structures such as NATO or the EU merely on the premise of denying people of ethnic Macedonian national origin their right to self-identify under a country called "The Republic of Macedonia."

Negotiations as to this issue exceeded the decade mark, with no relief in sight. Many commentators, such as Dmitry Merrit, argue that the time is ripe for the E.U. to step up and act collectively by enforcing the end of state sponsored discrimination in Europe by E.U. member states. Merrit points out that at the end of the day a country's official name, such as The Republic of Macedonia, generally poses very little harm to ordinary people, but the harm posed by turning a blind eye to bigotry, prejudice, and fanaticism allows discrimination to thrive.

     
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