Macedonian Human Rights Movement International
Eurolang Press Release - Greece and Bulgaria Strongly Criticized on Minority Issues

by Georgios N. Papadakis

Representatives from Macedonian and Turkish minority organizations at the annual Human Dimension Implementation Meeting (HDIM) of the OSCE in Warsaw, ending last Friday (30.9.2005), told the meeting that Greece continues to refuse to recognize any ethnic or linguistic minorities, other than the so-called "Muslim” minority in the west Thrace region.

The minority organisations, represented by Pavle Voskopoulos for Vinozhito/Rainbow and Cemil Kapza from the Turkish Union of Xanthi, also underlined that Greece is unwilling to register, or in some cases stop, cultural NGO's bearing the names "Macedonian”, for example, the 'Home Of Macedonian Culture' case. This also applies to "Turkish”, in the Turkish Union Of Xanthi case. These actions continue despite rulings from the European Court for Human Rights.

Greece also rejects the introduction of the Macedonian language to the educational system, in the regions where it is spoken. The official Greek state's approach on this matter, presented once more in Warsaw, claims that there is no Macedonian language but just "an oral Slavic idiom”, spoken only by a few thousand mainly elderly people in northern Greece.

At the same meeting Stojan Georgiev, representing Macedonians from Bulgaria and vice-president of OMO Pirin, asked Bulgarian state representatives why the country, which is in line for EU accession, refuses to register Macedonian organisations. State officials said that the Bulgarian state is not interfering in purely judicial issues such as the OMO Pirin registration, adding that in any case there are no Macedonians in Bulgaria.
The remarks from Greece and Bulgaria drew the attention of the other OSCE member states and both countries had to face a tough stance from the US and the Canadian delegations.
Officially, but also at informal talks, the two countries were urged to implement all necessary measures for the recognition and protection of ethnic, linguistic and cultural diversity in their territories.

In early September European Free Alliance (EFA) President Nelly Maes wrote to the Prime Minister of Bulgaria Sergej Stanishev requesting that the Macedonian minority be recognised and OMO Pirin alowed to register; that there be a separate question in the census so that that Macedonians can declare themselves; and that "Bulgaria would clarify Article 44 of its constitution” with regard to Macedonians, 'whereby the state defines itself as uninational and homogenous and that all actions against the unity of the nation are banned.” To date Ms Maes has received no reply. (Eurolang 2005)