Macedonian Human Rights Movement International
Greek Committee of the European Bureau for Lesser Used Languages - Information Bulletin

Greek Committee of the European Bureau for Lesser Used Languages
PO Box 100, 59200 Naousa - Greece
Tel. ++.3850.22570
Information Bulletin

October 2002 - Number 1

Press Release

On 26 January 2002 a meeting was arranged in Thessaloniki by the European Bureau for Lesser Used Languages for representatives of the linguistic minorities of Greece.

This historic meeting ended with a decision to create the Greek Committee of the European Bureau for Lesser Used Languages, in other words a committee of the Greek Section of the EBLUL.

The membership of the Greek Committee of the EBLUL will be as follows:

Chairman: Athanasios Parisis (Member of the Centre for Macedonian Culture)
Deputy Chairman: Sotirios Bletsas (President of the Society for Aroumounic (Vlach) Culture)
Secretary: Ibram Onsunoglu (Member of the Turkish Minority Movement for Human and Minority Rights)
Member: Petros Kazias (Member of the Centre for Macedonian Culture)
Member: Georgios Tsamitros (Member of the Society for Aroumounic (Vlach) Culture)
Member: Abdulhalim Dede (Member of the Turkish Minority Movement for Human and Minority Rights)

The objectives of the Greek Committee of the EBLUL are clearly set out in its charter:

1)To preserve and promote the minority languages of Greece, specifically the Aroumounic (Vlach), Macedonian, Pomak and Turkish languages.
2)To seek the introduction of the minority languages into the Greek educational system, in those regions where these languages are spoken.
3)To endeavour to preserve and promote the cultures of the aforesaid minority languages.

The Greek Committee of the European Bureau for Lesser Used Languages, in association with the Brussels Central Bureau, under the aegis and with the funding of the European Union, will endeavour to realise in tangible form its philosophy, namely the need to save and promote a peaceful and multicultural United Europe.

Report on Helsinki Conference
Creation of Joint Structures for Historic Linguistic Minorities in the European Union

Naousa 16 October
A delegation from the Greek Committee of the EBLUL, consisting of Messrs. Athanasios Parisis, Committee Chairman, and Sotirios Bletsas, Deputy Chairman, attended the Conference held in Helsinki, Finland, on 11-12 October 2002. The Conference was held to discuss the subject: 'Creation of joint structures for the historic linguistic minorities in the European Union'.

The Conference was organised by the Swedish Assembly of Finland, the National Finnish Association of Sweden, the EU Mission and the Ministry for Language of the Welsh Assembly.

Our delegation also participated in the work of the EBLUL Conference.

The Conference was addressed by Bojan Brezigar, President of the EBLUL, Paavo Lipponen, Finnish Prime Minister, Martti Ahtisaari, former President of Finland, Viviane Riding, EU Commissioner for Education and Culture, Asrid Thors, Finnish Euro MP, Ulpu Livari, Euro MP, Jean-Luc Dehaene, former Prime Minister of Belgium, and Colin H. Williams, Minister for Wales.

The theme of the Conference was a timely one, and very relevant indeed to the problems we are facing at the present time. It is connected to two key questions: the impending expansion of the European Union, and the control of developments in south-eastern Europe following recent upheavals.

Mr. Martti Ahtisaari, chairing the Conference, spoke among other things of the necessity of ensuring the protection of human rights and diversity in the current member states.

In discussion of the role of the EU in respect of minority languages, it was agreed that efforts must be made to encourage the development of basic standards, in accordance with which the member states will take appropriate measures, on the basis of their own individual cultures.

Given that in several member states of the EU the protection of linguistic rights is problematic, the Union's role as coordinator in the development of these standards is of great importance.

M. Jean-Luc Dehaene, former Prime Minister of Belgium, stressed that the European Union must play its part when we are discussing the linguistic diversity of a future Europe. He also stressed the need for a strong constitutional basis, which will commit the European Union in its stance on linguistic and cultural difference.

It must be made clear in the future European Constitution that all languages have the same value and the same dignity.

Mrs. Viviane Riding, EU Commissioner for Education and Culture, described current EU plans for future policy on linguistic diversity.

Before the end of the year a consultation document will be published, setting out the future measures on linguistic diversity and the learning of languages in a European perspective.

The result of this process will be an exchange of views and cooperation between the European Parliament and the European Commission on the launching of an action plan.

Mr. Brezigar, President of the EBLUL, stressed the need to define minimum standards for the protection and promotion of regional and minority languages and to include them in future EU legislation.

This will benefit not only the linguistic communities, but the EU itself, allowing it to avoid future tension and possible conflict within the new member states. Mr. Brezigar also referred to the definition of entry criteria, in Copenhagen in 1993, where respect for minorities is a requirement which must be met by the candidate states.

Finally, Mr. Lipponen, Prime Minister of Finland, referred to the state of the linguistic groups in his own country and described the measures being taken to develop linguistic and cultural diversity.

Finland has two national languages recognised by the Constitution, Finnish and Swedish. He reminded his audience that the Swedish linguistic minority constituted only 6% of the population, an indication of the strength and flexibility required. Strength for each person to use his mother tongue; flexibility in the support for this from Finnish-speakers. He also emphasised the demand for the use of Swedish wherever required.

Flexibility is necessary in understanding that the fundamental principle of equality cannot be applied automatically. The Finnish-speakers, who make up 92% of the population, need to be encouraged to learn another language in order to acquire the ability to understand the situation.

The Chairman
Thanasis Parisis


Naousa 21 - October 2002
The 1st International Conference of the Brussels EBLUL (European Bureau for Lesser Used Languages) will be held in Thessaloniki on Friday 15 November 2002.

The Conference will be attended by representatives from the European Parliament, the Council of Europe, the Brussels EBLUL and various foreign experts in minority language issues.

On the Greek side, delegates to the Conference will include representatives of the linguistic minorities, specifically of the Aroumounic, Macedonian, Turkish and Pomak languages.

Finally, there will be addresses of welcome or brief speeches by representatives of Greek Non-Government Organisations.