Macedonian Human Rights Movement International
Greek Government Bans Macedonian Cultural Centre

Eurolang - The European News Agency for Minority Languages

by Georgios N. Papadakis

The Greek government has taken a decision not to recognise the formation of a local cultural centre. The Florina/Lerin Court officially rejected the application of the local organization 'Home of Macedonian Culture' (HMC) and refused its right to be legally recognized by the Greek state.

To make this decision, taken a few days ago, the court claimed that: 'the formulation of the associations' articles is unclear and can cause confusion regarding its real goal…The use of the term 'Macedonian culture' intensifies this confusion by connecting this with a non-existent language, described as 'makedonski'…The recognition of such an organization contains a direct danger to public order and provides an opportunity for exploitation by foreign agents, who have tried from time to time, unsuccessfully, to fabricate a historically non-existent 'Macedonian nation'…For all the reasons mentioned above, we reject the application.'

The decision came as a huge surprise to the founders of the HMC. Only a few months earlier, everything seemed to be finally resolved. The former Greek and now European Ombudsman, Prof. Nikiforos Diamantouros, had urged the Greek authorities to recognize HMC, something that was also done by organizations like the Council of Europe, EBLUL, Greek Helsinki Monitor and members of the European Parliament as well. Greek officials then assured all the above that everything had been taken into consideration and suggested that the HMC should apply for normal recognition.

Thanassis Parissis, chairman of the European Bureau of Lesser Used Languages (EBLUL) Committee in Greece, commented to Eurolang that the court's decision contradicts both European laws and common sense but also violates basic human rights. He stressed that immediate actions against the decision will be taken at a European level, since EBLUL believes that HMC's recognition is one of the Bureau's top priorities for the near future.

'Unfortunately, not much can be done at the moment in Greece because the country is in the middle of a long pre-election period. As soon as the new government is elected, though, we are going to undertake all necessary initiatives towards HMC's proper and legal establishment', Parissis concluded.

The first attempt to establish an organization for the preservation and support of Macedonian culture and language was recorded in 1989, when members of the Macedonian minority in the region of Florina/Lerin unofficially created HMC ('Dom za Makedoskata Kultura').

For more than 14 years, the Greek authorities (both administrative and judicial) have successfully blocked HMC's recognition, mostly without proper justification. Even the members of the Florina/Lerin Bar Association were negative, very reluctant or asked unusually high fees to support HMC' s application before court, something which is obligatory in order to be legal.

HMC's application for official recognition also took over three months to process, a long delay in Greek terms.