Macedonian Human Rights Movement International
Symbolic Reception at the Macedonian/Greek Border to be Held August 10, 2003

Source: Rainbow/Vinozhito

Regarding the question of exceptions *(N 1266/1982) relating to the repatriation of the Macedonian political refugees from the Greek Civil War (1946 - 1949), many of whom, as small children, were forced to abandon their homes and many of which after the end of the war were deprived of their Greek citizenship and had their properties confiscated; recent statements from Greek authorities regarding this issue declare the following:

On 8-6-2003 in the Newspaper "Sundays Eleftherotipia" the Greek Deputy Foreign Minister, Mr. Andreas Loverdos, in an interview regarding Greece's political relations with other Balkan countries stated the following:

Journalist: There is, however, a political and humanitarian question, on the level of society. We mean the political refugees of the Civil War, who were excluded from the general repatriation and live mainly in the FYROM, having the citizenship of this state.

A. Loverdos: "we do not consider this a subject of our bilateral relations. I repeat that only unresolved issue in our bilateral relations is the questions of name. However, there are through the historical political developments, certain thorns of the past that are related mainly to people that we should uproot. Our political will is to uproot also the last thorns that have remained. I appreciate that one of them is one you mentioned. And our own disposition is to offer a solution, and in particular not in the distant future but immediately. This solution should not involve the question of the name, from either side, but simultaneously will not put onto center stage this torn that comes from the past. I think that there is, technically, ways for this to be overcome. It requires overcoming this problem with goodwill from both sides. And from our own side, this disposition exists. For example: what functions as obstacles for the visit of these persons to Greece could very well be overcome in a simple but technical way. We are looking for a technical solution and there are a number of them."

Journalist: This concerns the freedom to visit and have contacts, which is the primary question?

A. Loverdos: "There exist intense sentimental relations among people. There also exist historical reasons. Now that we have overcome all these problems of the past and the Civil War, we cannot maintain these remnants, which may be political remnants but, on a personal and sentimental level, function in a very hard way. We are disposed to overcome them. I repeat that we seek a technical solution. There has been heard interesting and feasible thoughts, that will not offend in any way the unresolved problem of the name, which requires a solution of mutual compromise by the two sides that will lead to an acceptable result. This will not become, however, a prelude for the resolution of the name".

Journalist: Does there exist a time limit or horizon for resolving the problem of the refugees?

A. Loverdos: "We determine it to by within this summer".

The representative of the Foreign Ministry of Affairs, Mr. Panagiotis Beglitis, made the following statement on 1-7-2003:

"After instructions from the Foreign Minister, Mr. Georgios Papandreou, the undersecretary of Foreign Affairs analyzed the issue of granting re-entry to the political refugees who left Greece during the Greek Civil War and became established in FYROM. During the meeting a decision was made to grant them permission to enter and stay in Greece for twenty days, during the period of August 10th to October 30th, 2003 and the proper instructions were given to the responsible authorities".

In Mr. Beglitis' announcement he does not specify what these "proper" instructions to the authorities are "regarding the refugees" who live in the Republic of Macedonia. Therefore, we asked the representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to clarify how this re-entry is to take place without obstructions. Specifically:

1). How will permission to enter Greece be granted to the Macedonian political refugees who are currently on the "unwanted / black" lists of the ministry of Foreign Affairs and who haven't been allowed into Greece to visit their villages and relatives for over half a century?

2). How will permission to enter Greece be granted to the Macedonian Political refugees, whose place of birth on their travel documents (passports) is written using the old Macedonian names. These names are still used orally in our country as well as in official documents, on maps of public unions, organizations such as topographical services and on the military maps, which belong to the Greek Ministry of Defense?

3). How will this affect the entry of political refugees -- that now reside in other European countries as well as Canada, Australia and the U.S.A. -- who want to visit their paternal homes, when in this category there are still prohibitions and restrictions regarding their entrance into Greece?

We note that the aforementioned manner of writing village names (e.g., the village of Meliti using the old name of Voshtarani) in travel documents issued by the countries in which the political refugees now reside constitutes, for Greece, a reason to deny them entry. This is unacceptable for a country about to host the Olympic games and who prefixes the motto of the Greek Ministry of Culture with: "for a civilization of civilizations".

We believe the civilization of a country includes the different linguistic, religious, cultural and ethnic groups thereof. Part of the linguistic-cultural heritage is the toponyms and we consider it an insult to our democracy that Greece forbids entry into its territory to those former citizens who use an element of this cultural heritage.

Greece should establish a record of toponyms (both old and new), a practice and a policy carried out in many democratic countries, especially since there is such a provision in international texts related to the protection of the heritage of linguistic, religious or ethnic minorities.

Let every democratic citizen of Greece consider how he or she would judge similar behavior from another country acting against its Greek minority. Let us assume, for example, that the Albanian government forbids entry to one of its former citizens, a member of the Greek minority, who abandoned Albania in the course of the Greek-Italian war in 1940, was stripped of his Albanian citizenship and had his property confiscated by the state. Assume that person today resides in Canada or Australia and in his Canadian or Australian passport, his place of birth is not mentioned as 'Drach' (the Albanian name of a city in Southern Albania), but "Dirahio" (the name of the same city in Greek).

How would we judge such an action of the Albanian government? How would we judge the placement of other such citizens in a list of "personae non grata" by the Albanian Foreign Office, because in Melbourne or Toronto they participate in Greek and not Albanian cultural associations? What would we say if the Albanian government stripped them of their citizenship and forbade them as long as they lived to visit their families and their places of origin in Southern Albania? Would we not correctly characterize such behavior as racist and inhuman?

Such is, unfortunately, the policy of the Greek government toward the Macedonian political refugees of the Greek Civil War, most of whom were small children when they were forced to leave Greece.

We call upon the Greek government to abolish this inhuman and racist decision that exempts the repatriation of Macedonian political refugees, to give them back their citizenship and to apply the same procedures for them as were used in the case of the political refugees who declared themselves "Greeks by genus" and returned to Greece after 1982.

Because we consider it our obligation as Greek and European citizens to contribute to the adoption of a European identity and the furtherance of democracy in our own country, we declare that from today and until the beginning of the Olympic Games in co-operation with every democratic citizen we shall make the best use of the Olympic Games of 2004 for the promotion of our points of view both at a national and at an international level.

Regarding the most recent developments and having considered the statements made lately by the spokespersons of the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs, whom we also cite, the Committee for the Reception of Refugees in Greece, consisting of members of 'Rainbow', that acts as a political organization of the Macedonian minority in Greece, including the relatives of the political refugees, decided to organize a symbolic reception at the border crossing at Nikki (Negochani), between Greece and the Republic of Macedonia on Sunday, August 10th 2003, at 11 a.m.