Macedonian Human Rights Movement International
MILS News: ECRI Report Asks Greece to Recognize Macedonian Minority

The Macedonian Government will have to change its restrained behavior, and Greek authorities will have to accept the report of the European Commission for Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) of Council of Europe in which the existence of a Macedonian minority in Greece is acknowledged, say representatives of the Union of Association of Macedonians from the Aegean part of Macedonia.

"We are encouraged by the report of the ECRI, which still has our status classified. Greece, as a member of the EU will have to accept the document and the recommendations that come from it. No member of the EU can be an exception when it comes to the respect and acknowledgement of the rights of minorities, says Gjorgji Donevski, General Secretary of the Union.

The Union points out that Macedonian authorities do not offer enough protection to their interests and hide these problems although they are aware of them. "We feel the authorities are restrained, especially when it comes to solving the status of our properties in Greece. We do not agree with that approach, we will always insist on resolving our problems. Regardless how many we are and how small our country is, the authorities are obliged to protect the interests of its citizens.

We have addressed many international institutions and organizations which most often asked us whether we have informed our Government of the problems, what has the Government undertaken, how far have they gone, so they would be able to help us, says Metodija Tosevski, president of Commission for ownership issues of the Union.

Macedonians live in Greece and they must have all the rights guaranteed by international documents, this is written in the report of the ECRI, which is going to enter into debate in the Council of Europe on June 3rd, 2004, when countries can offer comments for evaluations by experts.

"The Greek side's response to the report is that allegedly it does not corresponds with the reality," stated Zvonko Jankulovski, the Macedonian Ambassador in the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. The Macedonian minority in Greece is acknowledged in the report and Greek authorities are encouraged to improve the condition of the minorities. The ECRI notices that Macedonians are exposed to difficulties that they are target of prejudices and sometimes they are discriminated, especially on labor market, if they declare themselves as Macedonians. ECRI recommends to Greek authorities start a dialogue with representatives of the Macedonians in order to find solution for tensions and to achieve cohabitation and mutual respect in interest of all.

"Athens will not react to the report. Especially the Greek media who never dedicate any attention to it, as always when something negative for Greece is written," evaluated Pavle Voskopulos, president of "Vinozhito". He explained that the report is the result of a meeting by "Vinozhito" with a delegation of the ECRI held in Athens. "Vinozhito" then highlighted to the ECRI that this issue is the most important factor for the further Europeanization of Greece and for the future development of its democracy.

On may 30th, 2004, "Vinozhito" as a legally registered party in Greece, is going to carry out its first congress in Thessaloniki. "After a few cancellations in order to avoid conflict with Greek nationalists and not to cause problems, at end of this month "Vinozhito" is going to carry out its congress for the first time.

Greek police, the government and the EU have been informed about this. Everything is prepared", says Gjorgji Volcevski, a member of Union of Macedonians from the Aegean part of Macedonia. "We have filed a lawsuit to the European Court of Human Rights of Council of Europe in which we request the annulment of all provisions which discriminate against us.

Those regulations are the return of our citizenship, all expelled persons to be able to return -- this is currently only allowed for ethnic Greeks -- and our confiscated properties to be returned to their real owners and to allow them to manage the properties" says Donevski.

The Union informs that they have asked the Greek Prime Minister, Kosta Karamanlis, to establish contact with the Greek authorities and according to the information they have, Athens has accepted the request. In the letter sent to Karamanlis they say that "existing problems have to be solved in a civilized way in the interest of the two nations and countries".

Gjorgji Donevski - Macedonia, Metodija Tosevski - Macedonia and Gjorgji Volcevski -Macedonia are the names that were written on the badge given to them by the Greek host on the Balkan conference for return of properties in Thessaloniki. "We were surprised. We could not believe when they gave us the badges. FYROM was not written on them, but the name Macedonia was there", stated participants of the conference in Thessaloniki.