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Macedonian Leader Asks Greece to Recognize Macedonian Minority

July 15, 2008

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Nikola GruevskiSkopje (MIA) - Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski sent a letter to his Greek counterpart Kostas Karamanlis, in which he focuses on the issue involving ethnic Macedonians born in Greece regarding the return of their properties, the possibility of travelling to Greece and obtaining citizenship, as well as on the recognition of the Macedonian minority in Greece to enjoy basic rights in line with international standards.

Dear Mr Karamanlis,

I write to You with respect to two exceptionally important topics. If resolved, I am convinced they will amend many historical injustices; injustices that can be felt even today and will improve the lives of many individuals. Surely, it will positively influence towards bringing the ties between the Republic of Macedonia and the Republic of Greece closer.

Namely, in late 1940s, during the Civil War in Greece, several hundreds of thousands of citizens and entire families in the whirlwind of war abandoned their homes, properties, and the country in which they were born, as refugees.

A huge portion of these people, most of the ethnic Macedonians born in Greece, came to live in then SFRY (Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia), more precisely in the part of present Republic of Macedonia, and stayed here forever, probably due to the fact that they spoke the same language and felt they belonged with the Macedonian people. Some of them had displaced in other European states, and in USA, Australia, and Russia, but those who had moved are also mostly ethnic Macedonians, they speak the same language as our own, they feel they belong to the same Macedonian nation, whereas most of them own double citizenship - Macedonian and from the country they reside in.

Unfortunately, many decades later, after abandoning their birthplaces and residences, even after the war was over, they were not allowed, i.e. forbidden to return to their hometowns, in their own houses and properties. Neither they, nor their successors were allowed to come back. As far as I am informed, during the early 1980s, several laws were adopted in Greece, under which they were deprived of their properties. You would concur that these laws are not in accordance with the standards of EU, NATO, and with international human right standards. Today these citizens, now nationals of the Republic of Macedonia, even though born in Greece, are discriminated on three accounts. Firstly, they are not able to claim back their properties; secondly, they face serious obstacles for travelling in Greece, and thirdly, they cannot, as any other citizen born and raised in Greece, obtain the right of having double citizenship under Greek legislation
- one Macedonian and one Greek - in times when Greece permits the right of double citizenship. Taking into consideration that in the past decades the countries' democracy was developing, whereas your country become a member of EU and NATO - institutions where special attention is paid to human rights and standards for guaranteeing private ownership - I expect that You as prime minister will take measures to right these injustices caused to myriad of people whose destiny was painful.

In the Republic of Macedonia these people are organized in several civil associations. During several joint meetings, they urged me to address You as prime minister of the neighbouring country they feel they are discriminated by.

The second topic for which I would like to ask You, and my belief is that You will be fully engaged in order to assist, is recognizing the Macedonian minority in the Republic of Greece and ensuring basic rights in compliance with international standards on education in the mother tongue (in Macedonian), nourishing cultural traditions and customs through various forms of organizations, regulating the use of the Macedonian language in local institutions in Greek municipalities with significant percentage of ethnic Macedonians, including other possibilities that any other democratic country ensures to their citizens who are of ethnic origin that is different from the dominant one.

Mister Prime Minister,

My belief is that You will review these issues with good will and I hope You will put forward a solution to these bitter issues in a sensible period of time. I, as well as the institutions in the Republic of Macedonia, are at Your disposal regarding any kind of communication on these issues, additional information, whilst a meeting of countries' expert groups may be organized, which I believe will be able to determine all the facts and details in a period of several months, thus contributing to overcoming these problems, which will surely impact the neighbourly relations.

We all know that in order to resolve these problems, first and foremost, a political will is needed, which I believe you possess, since you are a member of EU and NATO. In fact, today, when human standards, guarantees for private ownership, and minority rights are concerned, it is not a question of whether we are or aren't willing to solve them. Instead, we are obliged to strictly abide by international standards.

Mr Prime Minister, both You and I are not able to change history and the past. But with good will, we can right many injustices from the past and certainly we can influence in establishing a much better future for our citizens unless [if] we deal the real issues unbiasedly.

I hope I would hear from you soon,

Nikola Gruevski

Originally published by MIA news agency, Skopje, in English 1301 14 Jul 08.

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