Macedonian Human Rights Movement International
"Restored Democracy" Celebrates 29th Anniversary in Greece but Civil Society Still Under Construction

Greek Helsinki Monitor

Topic: "Restored Democracy” Celebrates 29th Anniversary but Civil Society Still Under Construction

Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM), on the occasion of tomorrow's celebration for the 29th anniversary for the restoration of democracy in Greece ("metapolitefsi”), brings attention to the fact that even though "restored democracy” is heading towards it's 30th year of existence, civil society, the key ingredient of any democracy, is still under construction and is regarded in a hostile manner by the state. This was obvious from the recent experience of the Greek EU Presidency.

The page dedicated to civil society in the Greek Presidency's web site,, is quite indicative. Even today, despite the completion of the Greek Presidency, site visitors are informed that the page is "Under construction” and that "The content of this page is not available at the moment”. On the contrary, a visit to the site of the previous Danish Presidency ( and reveals a wide range of events and the attitude of the Danish Presidency towards Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs). It has to be said that some, at least apparently, similar events were held with the support of the Greek Presidency. It just happens that those Greek NGOs that record human rights problems and/or represent ethnic minorities were excluded from taking part. These NGOs are a constant source of information for intergovernmental experts bodies (Council of Europe and the UN) when they evaluate whether Greece is acting in compliance with its international commitments. These intergovernmental bodies, in the reports they draft, tend to adopt the positions and proposals expressed by those same NGOs Greece is excluding from the events. Such an exclusion is unprecedented in a democratic country, but common practice in authoritarian regimes.

A characteristic example is the organization of a seminar on the implementation of European legislation against discrimination, held on May 10-12, 2003, in Chalkida. The National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) excluded those Greek NGOs. They even excluded the only NGO which, according to their own expert, deals with litigation on the current legislation against discrimination. Because of this, two out of the three international NGOs that were co-organizers of the seminar, the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) and Interights, withdrew from it. As a result, NCHR's image was tarnished.

Another alarming example is the continuous practice in Greek courts, tolerated if not encouraged of Greek administration, not to register, or insist on the dissolution of, associations named "Macedonian” or "Turkish”, despite Greece's condemnation by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on 1998. In early July 2003, a court in Florina once again rejected the registration of the Home of Macedonian Civilization, an association that had been previously vindicated by ECHR. At the same time, courts in Thrace keep insisting on the dissolution of the Turkish Union of Xanthi.

Finally, is it common knowledge that Greece has stopped the funding from EU projects of NGOs not liked by the state. At the same time, the Greek government funds and/or encourages EU funding of numerous organizations whose belief - contrary to the concept of genuine NGOs - seems to be that "due to the support of the NGOs by the Greek Government, the number and the substantive work of the NGOs has recently increased”, as one of them put it three years ago at an international OSCE meeting.