Macedonian Human Rights Movement International
OSCE Implementation Meeting - Freedom of Association - Statement of the Home of Macedonian Culture

Thank you Mr Moderator.

Today I would like to bring everyone's attention to a case concerning Greece's refusal to respect the right of freedom of association. In fact, the case concerns our organisation, the Home of Macedonian Culture, which remains unregistered due to reasons which I shall briefly outline.

In 1990, a group of Greek citizens decided to form a non-profit making organisation called the "Home of Macedonian Culture.” The group proceeded to register this association with the local court in the town of Florina/Lerin. The court rejected the application asserting that the objective of the association was to promote the idea that, and I quote, "…there is a Macedonian minority in Greece, which is contrary to the national interest and subsequently contrary to the law”. An appeal to the Thessaloniki/Solun court also failed. In 1994 the highest court in Greece upheld these decisions. The applicants then appealed the case to the European Court of Human Rights. In 1998 the court found that there was a violation of Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Following the Strasbourg ruling, the applicants tried once again to register the association. However for the next few years, there was no lawyer in the Florina/Lerin area who would take up the case. Following the intervention of the Greek Ombudsperson, the Florina/Lerin Bar Association appointed a lawyer and a new application was submitted to the court. But if only the matter was that simple. On December 12, 2003, the local court in Florina/Lerin again refused to register the association, thus ignoring the Strasbourg ruling. The case was then appealed to the regional court which only a few months ago upheld the decision of the Florina court, again ignoring the Strasbourg ruling. So deplorably, eight years after the Strasbourg judgment and 16 years after the initial application, our organisation, the Home of Macedonian Culture, remains unregistered.

This raises some serious questions to which the Greek delegation should respond. Following the Strasbourg judgment, why has the Greek government not taken any measures to implement the decision and ensure the registration of the Home of Macedonian Culture? The Greek government may claim that this is a matter for the courts, however when national courts refuse to implement judgments of the European Court of Human Rights, the state has the obligation to take measures to ensure the execution of the judgment. Why has the Greek government not done so? Does Greece consider the execution of judgments to be optional?

Also what about Greece's OSCE commitments and the case of the non-registration of the Home of Macedonian Culture? The right to association is guaranteed in paragraph 10.3 of the Copenhagen Document. Furthermore, the right of a minority, which of course includes the right of the members of the Macedonian minority of Greece, to form cultural associations is also guaranteed in paragraph 32.6 of the same document. Does Greece also consider the implementation of OSCE standards to be optional?

I thank you for your attention.