Macedonian Human Rights Movement International
Eurolang: Rainbow Party Congress Cancelled Twice Following Threats From Greek Far Right

The European News Agency for Minority Languages

Brussel / Bruxelles, by Davyth Hicks

The Rainbow Party Congress, which represents the Greek Macedonian national minority, campaigns for the language and is a member of the European Free Alliance group (EFA) in the European Parliament, has had to cancel its Congress twice following threats from the Greek far right.

In a press release EFA President Nelly Maes MEP stated that: 'We are appalled by the fact that the Rainbow Congress was cancelled twice owing to personal threats and pressure from the extremist circles. In a fully democratic society any practices resulting in political discriminations should be despised and prosecuted'.

'We are concerned by the fact that openly xenophobic, racist and neo-nazi organizations are legal and their ideologies are tolerated in Greece which is a member of a European Union. Such movements were involved in intimidations that occurred in the city of Edessa / Voden [mid-western Greek Macedonia] where the Rainbow party was to hold its Congress'.

She continued that: 'Our two letters to Greek Prime Minister Mr. Kostas Simitis, asking for an assistance to the Rainbow party in preparation of the congress as well as for safeguarding security to all the participants of the event, remain without any response'.

'However, we would like to express our hope that the Olympic Games which are to be held in Athens in 2004 under a motto 'For a civilization of the civilizations' will have a positive impact on Greece to ratify the European Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and the Charter for Regional or Minority Languages'.

'We believe that this would enable the Macedonian national minority in Greece to find its proper place within Greek society and to contribute in strengthening democracy in your country', she added.

The party Congress was originally scheduled to take place on November 30th in the Xenia hotel, Edessa. However, the owner refused to rent it after the Congress venue was announced in various far-right publications. The owner's car was damaged, part of the conference room smashed and the owner and his family received death threats. Following these incidents the event was postponed.

On November 30th, after a meeting in the town, far-right groups held a rally in the streets of Edessa. They criticized the Rainbow Congress and threatened that on December 7th they would be present to prevent any meeting from taking place. Meanwhile, on the streets of Edessa, the far right distributed inflammatory pamphlets employing derogatory language against the Rainbow Party.

Following these events, on December 1st, Nelly Maes, wrote to the Greek Prime Minister, Mr. Kostas Simitis, requesting the Greek Government take the necessary measures to ensure the Rainbow Congress was able to take place without incident including protecting the safety of its participants, since representatives of the EFA Group were invited to the Congress.

Given the circumstances, the President of the local cultural association 'Alexander the Great', decided not to rent out the association's room. The town's Mayor, also refused to assign any public space for the Congress.

On December 3rd Nelly Maes faxed another letter to the Greek Prime Minister asking that the Greek Government intervene. Authorities, however, did not take any action to ensure the proper and safe undertaking of the Congress and refused to respond to any of the letters. On December 4th, the conference room was cancelled by the cultural assocation.

At the same time announcements advertising excursions to Edessa for December 7th appeared in printed material and newspapers issued by the far-right groups that had rallied against the Congress the week before.

The Rainbow Party press release states that: 'Whereas Greek authorities, both state and local, allowed the rallies and propaganda of the far-right, they refused to ensure the safety of those who wanted to participate in the Rainbow Congress. Within the context of these incidents, the Congress Organizing Committee decided to postpone the event'.

They add: 'Greek officials constantly demand basic rights for Greek minorities in Turkey and Albania, yet, Greeks do not seem to notice that these are the very same rights Greece denies its own minorities'.

The Greek Government has still not responded to Nelly Maes. (© eurolang)