Macedonian Human Rights Movement International
Rainbow/Vinozhito Presentation at the 48th FUEN Congress on Nationalities

Presentation by Rainbow/Vinozhito
48th FUEN Congress on Nationalities, Bolzano, Italy
May 29-31, 2003

[Background: A delegation from the Rainbow Party attended the 48th FUEN Congress in Bolzano, Italy where its was invited to present the status of the Macedonian minority in Greece. RAINBOW, which is currently an associate member of FUEN, also initiated discussions toward full membership. A delegation from FUEN was invited to Greece to witness for themselves the circumstances of the Macedonian minority.]

Presentation by RAINBOW:

We very much appreciate your invitation and the opportunity to expose the plight of the Macedonian minority in Greece at this 48th Conference of FUEN, here in Bolzano, South Tyrol.

Unfortunately, I must once again indict my country. However, it is my opinion, as a citizen of Greece and as a European citizen, that this will help toward the further democratization of Greece.

It is the official Greek position not to acknowledge the existence of its national minorities. The Turkish minority in Greece is recognized only as a religious minority of "Muslim Greeks," while the Macedonian national minority is not even recognized as an existing entity. Although national minorities are not recognized, their members are persecuted on a national minority basis.

For decades, Greece has practice a policy of forced assimilation and discrimination against its Macedonian ethnic minority. This effort is institutionalized through legislative measures and court prosecutions. Even the public use of the Macedonian language and alphabet are prohibited, as well as their use in the education system.

Greece allows, even encourages, media, religious authorities and para-state institutions to terrorize members of its national minorities (Turkish and Macedonian) in order to intimidate and politically discredit them.

In the recent past, RAINBOW, the political organisation of the Macedonian ethnic minority in Greece, was forbidden by the courts from participating in elections. Thanks to the brave intervention of the European RAINBOW, in Brussels, we were allowed at the last minute to put up candidates, after an urgent decision by the Supreme Court.

In Greece, court prosecutions are undertaken against members of the two national minorities, concerning activities in connection with the protection and promotion of their national and cultural identity.

In 1995, four members of RAINBOW (including this speaker) were prosecuted for displaying a bilingual sign (in Greek and Macedonian) at the entrance to their office in the city of Florina. The public prosecutor charged them with "disturbing public order" and "having incited discord among the citizens by using the Macedonian language in their sign." These charges are in line with the Greek policy of denying the existence of the Macedonian language.

On September 15th, 1998 four members of RAINBOW were taken to court by the authorities. They were eventually acquitted thanks to the vigorous protests of foreign M.E.P.s, the appearance of Greek democrats and human rights NGOs in their defence.

During the same period (September 1995) Greek ultra-nationalists from the city of Florina and the surrounding area destroyed RAINBOW's Florina office. This was done at the instigation of the mayor of the city, the municipal council and the local church, who all issued decrees to this effect.

The lawsuit brought by RAINBOW against these Greek ultra-nationalists, seeking material damages for the destruction of their office, was refused by the courts on the grounds that: "...there is no reason to accept the suit, since the preliminary hearings ascertained the existence of no offence and no culpability..." The sequel of these sad events would be written in the near future at the Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

The Macedonian minority in Greece is being prohibited from establishing a cultural association (The Home of Macedonian Culture), through which they endeavour to preserve and foster their culture. Although there was a judgement against Greece at the European Court for Human Rights (1998), the very same members of the Macedonian minority were still prohibited from establishing the cultural association under the name "ROUSELI" according to a decision of a local court in the region of Koufalia, in the municipality of Thessaloniki.

Ladies and Gentleman,

Should a person claim that there are citizens in Europe at the beginning of the 21st century who do not possess the right to visit the graves of their parents or have the right to live and die in their place of birth, this would sound bizarre.

Unbelievably, this happens to be the case in Greece today. A European country, a member of the European Union, the Council of Europe the OSCE and the UN.

The Greek State prohibits the repatriation of Macedonian political refugees who left Greece during the Greek Civil War (1946 - 1949). Until 1982 ethnic Greek and ethnic Macedonian political refugees were denied return to Greece. However, according to the Greek government's so-called policy of "national reconciliation" (1982) refugees who left Greece during the Greek Civil War are now permitted to return Greece.

Unfortunately, the common decision (106841 / 29.12.1982 - L. 1266/1982) of the Greek ministries of Internal Affairs and Public Order states:

"... can return to Greece all Greeks by genus* who left Greece during the Civil War 1946 - 1949 and because of which went abroad as political refuges even if they lost their Greek citizenship..."

* The word genus is synonymous with the word race and was deliberately used to discriminate against the Macedonian political refugees based on their ethnicity.

It is alarming that such racist terminology (Greek by ethnicity) was used by the Greek government to determine who is Greek and who is not, classifying citizens as "pure Greeks" and "non-Greeks".

This discriminatory policy is implemented against Macedonian political refugees. These individuals are not permitted to return to Greece. Today they temporarily reside in European countries as well as in the United States, Australia and Canada.

Macedonians who left Greece at that time were stripped of all rights of repatriation (which is allowed only for ethnic Greek refugees according to the decision of 1982) and many have been placed on a black list. This act deprives them of the right to even visit their relatives and birthplaces. In the eyes of Greece, they are "persona non grata."

Ladies and Gentleman,

I am sure that by the term refugee you have in mind the relatively recent pictures from Kosovo and the Kosovars or maybe from Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Bosnian refugees.

I hope these people will not suffer the same fate as the Macedonian refugees from Greece. About 60,000 Macedonian political refugees (among them 30,000 children), former Greek citizens have spent the last 50 years of their lives in a forced exile. This has come about because the Greek government refuses to allow their repatriation on the grounds that they declare themselves ethnic Macedonians and not ethnic Greeks.

May I ask? Which Convention or international agreement gives a state the right to prohibit a former citizen from visiting his family home and birthplace merely because his ethnic identity is politically undesirable?

What is this policy of Apartheid that is still in practice today in Greece, a member of the European Union, the Council of Europe and also a member of OSCE and UN?

In addition to the aforementioned measures, "modern ethnic cleansing" of the Macedonian minority is done in another perfidious manner: by taking away one's citizenship in a way provided for by Article 20 of the Law on Citizenship of the Republic of Greece.

Many Macedonians who have gone abroad to work have become victims of this discriminatory policy. Greek authorities in the Ministry of Internal Affairs are using the Law of Citizenship against the Macedonian national minority of Greece. Article 20, Paragraph 1g, states, among other things:

"...may lose their citizenship, a Greek citizen who is abroad and works or is active against the national interests of Greece"

Greek authorities use this article exclusively against the Macedonian population, focusing on those Macedonians who are identified as expressing their Macedonian identity, culture and language by participating in Macedonian associations. This is especially true for Macedonians in the United States, Canada and Australia.

Greek authorities, through their embassies and consulates in foreign countries, inform the Greek Ministry of Internal Affairs about the activities of Macedonians who are citizens of Greece. They even spy on Macedonians in order to identify those who visit or participate in any Macedonian cultural events or groups.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs works in collaboration with the Council of Citizenship to determine who shall be deprived of their Greek citizenship. Once such a decision has been made it is printed in the government journal and local officials at the victim's home municipality are informed. Upon receipt of this document the municipal leader orders the community council to delete the former citizen from their registration records. Parallel with this the border stations are informed that the victim is placed on the so-called inadmissible list.

This discriminatory policy of Greece is presented in the last report of the ECRI Commission (European Commission against Racism and Intolerance) of the Council of Europe as well as in reports from the US Dept. of State.

This policy, based on race, implemented by the Greek government, demonstrates the doctrine of promoting the notion of national "purity" and national "homogeneity" as a constitutional segment of the state and as a prerequisite for its development. This view has, unfortunately, been nurtured by the state and its agents over decades - a view which has become the creed of the majority in Greek society.

Dear friends,

We usually speak about the policy of states against minorities but we do not often talk about the policy of the national minorities themselves.

Our organization believes the policy of national minorities in the Balkan countries should be to remove any fear among the general population that these minorities wish the gradual change of existing borders or that the demand for rights is just a pretext for this. This is a distraction designed to draw attention away from the central issue.

National minorities should not be subjected to manipulation and interstate antagonism nor become a reason for the meddling by one state into the affairs of another.

Minorities should cooperate and help deepen the ties with the constituent nation and with all nationalities that live in the state. In this way they will become a powerful factor for peace, cooperation and friendship in the Balkans and Europe.

National minorities in the Balkan states should make use of the positive examples of the European experience and aim for the gradual union of all European countries with respect for minority rights and the overcoming of nationalistic prejudices and antagonisms.

Thank you all for your attention.