Macedonian Human Rights Movement International
Eva Bidania (European Free Alliance Youth) Visits the Macedonian Minority in Greece

Macedonian Minority in Greece: FIGHTING AGAINST THE TIDE

A report by Eva Bidania


I have just returned from a visit to the Macedonian minority in Greece. I stayed in a pretty city called Florina/Lerin that is in a province in the north of the Greek state and where the majority of the population is Macedonian. However, due to my experience there, I am not sure any more if this is the EU I thought I knew or a century where the minimum civil and human rights of an individual/community are enshrined in law (in Europe, at least!)

I spent four days in the region and this was enough to get a glimpse of how the Macedonian minority in Greece live in their everyday life.

When I arrived in Greece (Thessaloniki/Solun) I met some Rainbow representatives, who are also members of the EFA. They briefly explained to me the political situation.

They provided me with some ideas of what to expect, so that I could understand a little of what the every day reality was like of being a Macedonian minority member living under the Greek government. They tried to explain to me how the Greek government actively pursues an effective assimilation policy that makes the Macedonian population feel ashamed and scared to be who they are - including the identification of themselves as Macedonians!

The Greek assimilation policy has obvious visible effects - from the personal/individual level through to the public sphere. The Greek government does not even recognize the existence of the Mecedonian minority, so their lack of democratic, civil and human rights acquires enormous magnitude. This assimilation process is designed to be as effective as possible.

During my trip to the region I tried to talk with as many people as possible in order to discover for myself the reality of the situation and to compare what I discovered to what I had been told by the representatives of Rainbow and other information I had collated from international NGO's and their representatives.

It's hard for me to grasp the idea that people would refuse to even talk about their own identity. It was even harder for me to understand that the Macedonian minority were afraid to even air their most basic rights (e.g. recognition of identity, freedom to speak their own language etc.), because of the risk that it could lead to bitter conflict and maybe war!! The shadow of the manipulated lie that spreads from the Greekgovernment, which says that the recognition of the Macedonian identity and the subsequent rights is a tool to achieve the liberation of the region from Greece and the unification with Macedonia, was becoming only too apparent to me. It was becoming obvious that this was not only an excuse to avoid the recognition of the Macedonian minority in Greece, but also an excuse to continue to pursue an aggressive assimilation policy. It became clear to me that this was the reason why many Macedonians refuse to uphold their identity and language rights.

The representatives of Rainbow are doing a fantastic job of denouncing the unjust policies of the Greek government towards the Macedonian minority. But as is often the case with minority group issues, their incredible effort to bring their plight to the attention of the international community is not always met with the response that they perhaps expected. Therefore, the Macedonian minority must once again expendhuge effort in attracting the attention of international agencies that may be able to help their community to live a 'normal' life. They are certainly fighting against the tide.

The European Union and all the supra state institutions seem to be ignoring the problem. Once again the EU is turning a blind eye to those unjust realities that take place within the domestic sphere of the 'untouchable' member state. How can Europe accept and tolerate such abuse of its people's? How is it possible to happily accommodate a state such as Greece in the EU, when it is obviously mistreating itsMacedonian population to such an extent that it is often denounced for human rights violations by international NGO's? How can it be possible that the EU accepts as a member, a state that pursues racist and xenophobic laws? I continually asked myself during my visit, what does "Hellenic Democracy" mean to the people living on the border of Macedonia and Greece? Hellenic democracy, rather than being theaffirmation of the democratic status of the state, must therefore be, according to the Greek view of it, THE LACK OF ELEMENTAL DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS OF A REGIME.

The EU should change its overly tolerant attitude and ask the Greek government to change its assimilationist policy towards the Macedonian minority and demand that the Macedonians in Greece are given the democratic and human rights they deserve.

Topli pozdravi!

Warm greetings!”

European Free Alliance Youth
EFA Youth Co-ordination at the European Parliament
60 rue Wiertz, PHS 02C26, 1047, Brussels, Belgium
tel: 0228 41711 fax 022841771