Macedonian Human Rights Movement International
Vinozhito - Press Release, After Greek Neo-Nazis Force Cancellation of Macedonian Minority Party Congress

Rainbow/Vinozhito Press Release

On December 7, 2003, the Rainbow Party Congress was scheduled to be held in the city of Edessa/Voden, in view of the upcoming national and European elections 2004. One of the main topics on the agenda was going to be the political line of the party within the political reality shaped by the formation of new political parties, such as the European Free Alliance (EFA). This is a process in which RAINBOW (OURANIO TOXO) actively contributed as a member of the alliance since 2000. However, the Congress is now postponed and we feel obliged to expose the reasons and the events behind our decision.

The Party Congress was scheduled to take place on November 30, 2003. The owner of the conference room at "Xenia” Hotel refused to hire it out, thus the Organizing Committee came to an agreement with a different private party in order to hire another conference room. When the location of the Congress venue was published in various far-right publications, "unknown” perpetrators damaged the owner's car, they smashed part of the conference room front, and the owner received threats against his life and against his family.

Following those incidents, and fully respecting the justifiable fears and concerns of the owner, the event was postponed. We asked local authorities and the Mayor of Edessa / Voden Giannis Siontras, to help us organize the Congress in a public conference room. The Mayor suggested the room being managed by the cultural association "Alexander the Great", however, the date had to be switched to December 7 instead of November 30. The Rainbow Organizing Committee accepted the alternative suggested by the Mayor.

This particular conference room is used for hosting similar events organized by the cultural association "Alexander the Great” of Edessa / Voden, the Municipality, other organizations, political parties and remaining groups active in the city. Changing the Congress date was mandatory because another event was scheduled for November 30. The event was held by the far-right racist party "Hellenic Front”; members of the Neonazi group "Chryssi Avgi” (Golden Dawn) and other far-right extremist groups were to participate as well. The counter-event was scheduled by the organizers in order to impede holding the Congress, as they had proclaimed in propagandist publications only the week before. It should be noted that Periandros Androutsopoulos, second in command of the Neonazi group "Chryssi Avgi", is still on absconder status, being charged for the attempted murder attack and serious wounding of a civilian in Athens, a few years ago.

On November 30, the Neonazis along with far-right racists, after their meeting in the "Alexander the Great” room, hold a rally in the streets of Edessa / Voden against the Rainbow Congress, threatening that on December 7 they would be present to stop it from taking place. At the same time, certain board members of the cultural association "Alexander the Great” received "business visits” at work by individuals that could be described as "extra-governmental” and "security enforcers", while in the streets of Edessa Voden, racist Neonazis spread inflammatory pamphlets employing relevant phraseology and slogans.

Following those events, Nelly Maes, Deputy Chairman of the European Parliamentary Group "European Free Alliance-Greens" (of which Rainbow is a member), addressed a letter to the Greek Prime Minister, Kostas Simitis, on December 1, requesting the Government to take all necessary measures in order to ensure the uneventful holding and the safety of the participants, since several representatives of the European Parliamentary Group were invited to the Congress.

The President of the cultural association, also managing the conference room "Papas Vasileios", under the negative conditions created, rejected our request to hire the association's room; he even refused meeting with the cadres of Rainbow. PASOK MP for Pella, Christos Vosnakis, was fully informed of the situation and so was Deputy Minister of Sports, Georgios Lianis. At the same time, following a new meeting between the Rainbow Organizing Committee and the Mayor, the latter refused to assign any public space as a new Congress venue.

On December 3, Nelly Maes faxed another letter addressed to the Prime Minister's Office, asking for the Government to intervene; however, the Government, by means of the local authorities (administration, police), failed to take any measures in order to ensure the proper and secure holding of the Congress, refusing to respond to any of those letters up to this day. On December 4, the board of "Alexander the Great" association emailed the Rainbow offices in order to finalize the cancellation of the conference room reservation, while propagandist announcements about group excursions to Edessa, organized for December 7 on the sole purpose of stopping the Congress appeared in printed material and newspapers issued by the racist and Neonazi groups that had rallied the week before in the streets of Edessa.

Unfortunately, all this time, the democratic reflexes of city authorities were not expressed out in public, essentially refusing to stand up for fundamental democratic rights, such the right of a political vehicle, i.e. Rainbow, to hold its own Congress.

The guilty silence of competent authorities also raises reasonable questions and so is the refusal of local party representatives to condemn those phenomena of racist and Neonazist behavior in the city of Edessa.

Within the context of those incidents, the Congress Organizing Committee decided to postpone the event, taking into consideration public safety, after authorities failed to guarantee the security of the event, since holding the event could potentially cause friction and spark off fights.

This is the situation in Greece, at the dawn of year 2004. Most probably, Greece is only European country where Neonazism is a lawful political parole, where racism, anti-Semitism, xenophobia and discrimination against minority groups are frequent, making part of everyday reality, both at the level of society and at the level of political parole and implementation.

This is the situation in Greece, the country hosting the 2004 Olympic Games, promoting rather hypocritically the motto "for one single culture of all cultures”; a country member of the European Union that vigorously refuses to ratify the Council of Europe Convention-Framework on Minority Rights; a country that refers to the members of Turkish minority as "Muslims” and does not recognize the existence of a Macedonian minority; a country that refuses to sign the Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, while only discussing the rights of Greeks in Istanbul / Konstandinoupoli and Southern Albanian.