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United Nations 61th Session of the Commission on Human Rights
14 March – 22 April 2005, Geneva

The Macedonian Minority in Greece
Report by the Macedonian Human Rights Movement of Canada (MHRMC)

http://www.mhrmc.ca/reports/05/un_greece.html

Table of Contents
Introduction
MHRMC Condemns Statements by Greek President Kostis Stephanopoulos
Greek State Television Airs Previously Banned Program That Exposes Persecution Against Macedonian Minority
International Press Institute World Press Freedom Review: Greece
Radio Station Owner Arrested in Greece for Broadcasting in Macedonian Language
Greece Refuses to Register Home of Macedonian Culture Despite European Court Ruling
Greek Government Harassment of Rainbow/Vinozhito
Greek Neo-Nazis Threaten Macedonian Minority Party (Rainbow/Vinozhito)
Macedonian Political Refugees Denied Entry into Greece
Macedonian Orthodox Church and Father Nikodim Tsarknias
Report on Greece’s Compliance With the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
Conclusion
Contact Information for Macedonian Human Rights Organizations

Introduction

Greece vigorously denies the existence of any ethnic minorities on its territory and attempts to suppress any voices that advocate human rights. Simply raising the issue of the Macedonian minority in Greece causes Greek citizens and politicians alike to react in outrage. The majority of Greek society supports its government's non-recognition and discrimination of its large Macedonian minority. Following are several examples of Greece’s constant abuse of the Macedonian minority’s rights.

MHMRC Condemns Statements by Greek President Kostis Stephanopoulos

February 5, 2005 - Press Release

The Macedonian Human Rights Movement of Canada (MHRMC) condemns the statements made by the President of Greece, Kostis Stephanopoulos, regarding the Republic of Macedonia during his recent visit to Belgium. (see full story below)

The President was quoted as saying that
"FYROM (Macedonia) threatens Greece culturally and nationally with its theories of a wider Macedonia, part of which allegedly belongs to FYROM while another part belongs unjustifiably and illegally to Greece".

Mr. Stephanopoulos went on to reiterate Greece’s position that it rejects a name for
“FYROM which does not belong to it, a name that is purely Greek.”

Mr. Stephanopoulos's unfounded claims are aimed at disguising the real reasons that Greece is opposed to the recognition of the Republic of Macedonia. Greece fears that if the Republic of Macedonia is recognized under its constitutional name, this will undermine Greece’s long-standing position that Macedonians do not exist anywhere and especially not in Greece. Greece particularly fears that recognition of the Republic of Macedonia will force Greece to recognize its own large ethnic Macedonian minority and thus make it accountable for its ongoing human rights abuses against Greek citizens of Macedonian ethnicity.

The MHRMC calls on the international community, and European institutions in particular, to condemn Mr. Stephanopoulos's remarks and to take a stand for the most basic of European values: dignity, respect for diversity, and a recognition that the individual cannot be repressed by the state in which he resides within a free and democratic Europe.

Greek State Television Airs Previously Banned Program That Exposes Persecution Against Macedonian Minority

Naoussa/Negush, 28.3.05

The Greek Member State Committee of the European Bureau for Lesser Used Languages expresses its contentment for the presentation (Sunday, 27.3.2005) of the documentary “Taxidevontas stin Ellada” (Traveling in Greece) by the 2nd channel of the Greek State Television (NET). The initial broadcast of the video (dedicated to Florina/Lerin region) was scheduled for 20.3.2005 but was postponed due to yet unknown-officially- reasons. According to the presenter, though, this decision was taken because inhabitants of a Florina/Lerin village stated on camera that the Greek state banned the use of their Macedonian mother tongue.

After EBLUL’s official protest for the ban of the broadcast and in cooperation with Greek Helsinki Monitor the issue was brought to the UN Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) in Geneva. After the virulent criticism from the members of the Committee, Greece’s representative claimed that the documentary was not broadcasted due to “technical reasons” only and promised it would be aired on the 27th of March, as it eventually happened.

The Greek Member State Committee of EBLUL wishes to thank the Greek Helsinki Monitor for its valuable help that led to the desired outcome, the broadcast of the video at its initial full length and content. Also expresses its gratitude to the UNHRC, the South East Europe Media Organization (SEEMO) and the Macedonian Human Rights Movement of Canada (MHRMC) for their contribution. EBLUL will continue to work closely with all the above mentioned and other international organizations, as well as with the Greek government, to further implement its core mission: the continuous promotion of the Lesser Used Languages in Greece and the European Union.

Athanasios Parisis
President of GMSC of EBLUL

International Press Institute World Press Freedom Review: Greece

On 4 May, the Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM) denounced the decision by Greek state TV ET-3 to cancel the showing of the documentary "The other side," scheduled for 11 p.m. on 3 May. The documentary, produced by the same TV station, presented the events of 1963-1974 in Cyprus from the angle of Turkish-Cypriots and received an honourable mention in the Sixth International Festival of Thessaloniki in March 2004. As the daily Elefherotypia reported on 3 May, the cancellation was the result of pressure from "nationally correct-minded" persons, who consider the documentary "anti- national."

On 25 May 2004, two political parties, Vinozhito/Rainbow and ultra-left OAKKE, left a round table, which was supposed to settle how the media would cover parties participating in upcoming European Parliament elections. They were protesting the participation of the ultra-nationalist/fascist "Patriotic Front" in the talks, which threatened to violently stop the first Vinozhito/Rainbow congress, scheduled for the 30 May in Thessaloniki. Minister of Internal Affairs Prokopis Pavlopoulos had rejected Vinozhito/Rainbow's request that the "Patriotic Front" be barred from the proceedings.

On 4 June, police stopped transmissions by radio station Makedonikos Ikos (Macedonian Sound) in Naoussa/Negush, northern Greece. They also arrested and fined owner Aris Vottaris for not having a broadcasting license. (see press release below)

SEEMO has urged the Greek government to avoid discriminatory acts and to speed up the distribution of regional broadcasting licenses. The incident led to a common intervention over the licensing issue from both the Greek ombudsman and the Republic of Macedonia. The charged station broadcasts in Macedonian and frequently transmits traditional songs in Macedonian.

Radio Station Owner Arrested in Greece for Broadcasting in Macedonian Language

SEEMO (South East Europe Media Organisation)
www.seemo.org

Press Release: Greece - Vienna, 9 June 2004

The Vienna-based South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South East Europe and an affiliate of the International Press Institute (IPI), is deeply concerned about a recent media development in Greece.

According to information before SEEMO, on Friday, 4 June 2004, police entered the premisses of the private radio station Makedonikos Ichos (Macedonian Sound) in Naoussa, ceased the transmitting and arrested the owner, Aris Vottaris. The official explanation was that this radio station has no licence for local or regional transmission. Vottaris was released after few hours, but there were charges pressed against him because of illegal transmission and lack of documents. Vottaris is a (Slav) Macedonian and was often transmitting traditional songs and dances in Macedonian language, as well as using Macedonian language on air.

In SEEMO’s opinion, it is very surprising that only this radio station was shut down, although, according to our sources, there are many other radio stations operating in the prefectures of Imathia and Pella (N.Greece) under the same conditions. SEEMO asks Greek officials to speed up the process of regulation-making for radio licences, especially for alternative radio stations such as Makedonikos Ichos, which are working on regional or local level.

We would like to remind, that it is crucial for journalists that they can do their job freely and that independent media are very important for democratic development in any country.

Greece Refuses to Register Home of Macedonian Culture Despite European Court Ruling

The European Court of Human Rights convicted Greece for a violation of freedom of association in the case of Sideropoulos and others vs. Greece in 1998 for failing to register the Home of Macedonian Culture. Despite repeated attempts since then, the Home of Macedonian Culture (HMC) has encountered numerous obstacles in trying to register the association. A complete summary of the events surrounding Greece’s refusal to register the Home can be found at the Greek Helsinki Monitor’s special webpage on the subject:
www.greekhelsinki.gr/bhr/english/special_issues/home_of_macedonian_civilization.html

The HMC filed an application with the Single-Member Court of First Instance in Florina in June 2003. After a lengthy delay, the court issued its decision on December 19, 2003, rejecting the application by the Home of Macedonian Culture and making the following outrageous claims: ‘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 European Free Alliance in the European Parliament issued the following press release regarding Greece’s refusal to adhere to the European Court of Human Right’s decisions:

Joan Protests at Greek Human Rights Abuses

Brussels, 20.1.05

Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya Euro-MP Bernat Joan is to protest to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg about ongoing human rights abuses in Greece.

The Catalan Euro-MP and Vice President of the European Free Alliance is concerned about ongoing state backed intolerance and discrimination particularly against the country's Macedonian and Turkish minorities. This follows the recent Greek Supreme Court ruling dissolving the Turkish Union of Xanthi.

This follows previous refusals to register Turkish and Macedonian associations or to force their dissolution in spite of earlier rulings against the Greek authorities by the Strasbourg based European Court of Human Rights. Bernat Joan MEP commented:

"I was very concerned to hear this news of ongoing intolerance by Greek authorities. It seems to me a flagrant abuse of basic human rights, not to mention treaty commitments. Greece has fallen foul of the European Court of Human Rights in the past yet this seems to have had little impact on the attitude of the Greek authorities.

They must recognise the right to peaceful and free association without interference or oppression. It is ironic that at a time when the EU is asking countries who want to join to implement the so-called 'Copenhagen criteria' which includes the protection of minorities, some existing EU members behave in such a way.

That's why I'm writing to the European Court of Human Rights to draw their attention to these ongoing human rights abuses by Greek authorities."

Note: In the Sidiropoulos and others v. Greece judgement of 10 July 1998, the European Court of Human Rights found that the refusal to register the association "Home of Macedonian Culture" in Florina constituted an interference with the freedom of association as guaranteed by Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Five years after the decision of the European Court of Human Rights, this association has still not been registered despite the repeated applications made by its members (see recent decision 243/19/12/03 of the Florina Single-Member Court of First Instance one more time negative; the applicants have applied again to the Appeal Court in Kozani).

Steven Cornelius
EFA Press Officer

Greek Government Harassment of Rainbow/Vinozhito

Greek Government Harassment of Rainbow/Vinozhito The Rainbow Party has been the subject of attacks, both verbal and physical, by the Greek public, media and even government officials. The Rainbow Party hung a bilingual sign in Macedonian and Greek outside their office in Lerin/Florina in 1995, which caused a huge uproar in the city. Greek nationalists, led by the mayor of Florina, attacked and destroyed the office. Four members of Rainbow were subsequently put on trial for "causing and inciting mutual hatred among the citizens" under Article 192 of the Greek Penal Code. Rainbow was essentially put on trial for publicly using their mother tongue. Following worldwide condemnation of the trial, the Rainbow members were finally acquitted in 1998. However, the perpetrators of the crime were never charged and Rainbow has initiated a European Court of Human Rights case against them.

Greek media and government officials constantly refer to Rainbow members as “agents of Skopje”, “separatists” and “enemies of Greece.” Rainbow does not receive coverage in the media when participating in elections and instead get slandered at every opportunity.

The following are questions posed by Greek M.E.P. Mr. Stavros Xarhakos to the European Parliament on March 19, 2003. The submission by Mr. Xarhakos was titled, “EBLUL and the Systematic Defamation of a Member of the E.U.”

“It is well known that in Greece democratic freedoms and cultural difference are fully protected in law. This is the context in which the Muslim minority lives in Greek Thrace … its mosques built and restored with money from the Greek state’. ‘What are the activities of EBLUL in countries where the cultural identity of minorities is suppressed, as is the case, for example, with the Greeks … in Turkey?’

‘Similar freedom is enjoyed by the other minority groups, however few they may be, such as the small Slav-speaking community in the region of Florina, which has set up a political party that enjoys complete freedom of action (it has offices, newspapers, is free to disseminate its ideas and does not fail to abuse Greece and the Greeks)’.

‘Does the Commission (which appears to provide financial support for the activities of the EBLUL office) share the historically groundless views of M. Brezigar concerning the alleged existence of a ‘Macedonian’ language?’

Greek Neo-Nazis Threaten Macedonian Minority Party (Rainbow/Vinozhito)

Rainbow/Vinozhito, the political party of the Macedonian minority in Greece, was forced to cancel its congress twice because of threats received from Greek Neo-Nazi organizations. Vinozhito is a legal political party in Greece and did not receive any guarantees of security by Greek police, nor did the Greek government intervene despite repeated appeals by Vinozhito and the European Free Alliance in the European Parliament (of which Vinozhito is a member). Please see
www.mhrmc.ca/issues/congress.html for the letters ignored by the Greek government and other issues surrounding the congress. No Greek media or politicians denounced the threats by the Neo-Nazi organizations. Moreover, several media outlets actually praised the Neo-Nazi threats! For photographs of the demonstrations and the newspaper articles please visit the link above. Following are examples of Greece’s racist advertising against its Macedonian minority:

“Anti-Greek Provocation in Edessa: On November 30, 2003, there will be a congress of filoskopjans in Edessa. One by one events are published which create a web that threatens to destroy everything national in our country. (Golden Dawn – November 13, 2003)

“Three weeks ago “Free World” uncovered the complete program of the first congress of the filoskopjans of the “Rainbow” party in which is stated the non-Greekness of Macedonia... fortunately, there were residents in the area who became alarmed by our publication and took action and denounced them and finally not one owner of any hall in the town of Edessa would welcome the congress of the filoskopjans.. It seems crystal clear that the sly plans of some in our Macedonia are coming from high places. And when they found themselves in a difficult place and were unable to hold their congress in a private room they used a public hall. Well since they pursue this course they will get the intimidation they asked for and next Sunday we will find Greek patriots who will stop them. (Free World – Weekly Newspaper, November 30, 2003)

“We will oppose it, all of those who are Greek must demonstrate Sunday, 7th December at 11:00am. They must be in Edessa to put an end to the propaganda of ‘Rainbow’. All together with one voice yell loudly ‘Macedonia is one and it is Greek’” (Golden Dawn, Dec.4, 2003)

“Stop the Provocation by the Filoskopjans: The foreign interests of "protectors" are to be found here from these marked internal agents of every kind who are anti-Greek and filoskopjan and work to create by force an issue of a skopjan minority in our Macedonia. We must react now because tomorrow will be too late. We do not forget the traitors or those who work for foreign interests. We cannot accept the sellout of Macedonia to the Slavo-skopjans. We claim national dignity. No compromise of any kind for our Macedonia. Rally Sunday, December 7th, 2003 at 11:00 AM In Central Edessa. Everyone Must Be There!
(Golden Dawn, December 4, 2003)

In its press release of December 8, 2003, the Rainbow Party describes the events surrounding the postponement of its Congress:

“The guilty silence of competent authorities also raises reasonable questions and so is the refusal of local party representatives to condemn those phenomena of racist and Neonazist behavior in the city of Edessa. Within the context of those incidents, the Congress Organizing Committee decided to postpone the event, taking into consideration public safety, after authorities failed to guarantee the security of the event, since holding the event could potentially cause friction and spark off fights.

This is the situation in Greece, at the dawn of year 2004. Most probably, Greece is only European country where Neonazism is a lawful political parole, where racism, anti-Semitism, xenophobia and discrimination against minority groups are frequent, making part of everyday reality, both at the level of society and at the level of political parole and implementation. This is the situation in Greece, the country hosting the 2004 Olympic Games, promoting rather hypocritically the motto “for one single culture of all cultures”; a country member of the European Union that vigorously refuses to ratify the Council of Europe Convention-Framework on Minority Rights; a country that refers to the members of Turkish minority as “Muslims” and does not recognize the existence of a Macedonian minority; a country that refuses to sign the Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, while only discussing the rights of Greeks in Istanbul / Konstandinoupoli and Southern Albania.”

Bartlomiej Swiderek of the European Free Alliance made the following conclusion after a visit to Greece on December 11, 2003:

“The Rainbow Party --Vinozhito, which has excellent links with minority groups and human rights organisations in Greece copes with several problems most of them linked with a lack of official recognition of the Macedonian national minority in Greece. I have an impression that any activity of the party, however peaceful, causes strong reactions from the far-right groups and a part of Greek society very much linked to the myth of a "Hellenic purity of the country" and scared of a "Slavo-Turko-European" plot directed against Greece.

It really strikes me that the congress of a democratic and legal party had to be cancelled for security reasons, while the far right groups can organise their events without any problems. It is noteworthy, that openly Nazi organisations like the mentioned "Golden Dawn" is legal in Greece and can disrupt political activities of a minority party. I suggest that EFA monitors developments in Greece and gives all necessary assistance to the Rainbow-Vinozhito party in their activities.”

The Rainbow Party was finally able to hold their Congress on May 30, 2004. Following are excerpts from their press release:

30 May 2004 marked the successful conclusion of the 1st Congress of the Rainbow Party, which as of 26 March 2004 is a founding member of the European Free Alliance (EFA). Henceforth, it will participate in the Greek political arena with the name European Free Alliance-Rainbow (Evropa?ki Eleftheri Symmahia-Ouranio Toxo / Evropska Slobodna Alijanca-Vinozhito). Elections were held for the new Central Council, composed of twenty-four (24) members, and for the expanded Political Secretariat, composed of nine (9) members. On behalf of the Central Council and the party members, the new Political Secretariat wishes to commend the Greek government, the Hellenic Police Authorities in Thessaloniki, and Prime Minister Konstantinos Karamanlis, personally, for granting the request of our party president Nelly Maes and taking all the necessary measures to protect the Congress participants, particularly our European guests, and facilitate its smooth proceedings. A jarring note, however, in the behavior of the authorities was the Nea Demokratia party deputy and current Prefect of Thessaloniki, Panayiotis Psomiades, who prior to the Congress publicly stated inter alia that: “[It] is a flagrant violation of every principle of national dignity, national consciousness and minimum sense of national pride that our city agreed to host a Congress organized by Rainbow, an agency known for its anti-national views, views that directly trigger our national reflexes and offend Hellenic sensibilities everywhere on earth, particularly those of Macedonians. For these reasons we deem these known circles and their delegates undesirable in Thessaloniki.” We believe that the Prefect’s statements gave neo-nazi elements the green light to stage violent demonstrations. These remarks were an affront to the city’s democratically minded citizens, the Prefect’s own faction, as well as our country’s Prime Minister. EFA-Rainbow regrets that a member state of the European Union was forced to take extreme security measures to protect the proceedings of a Congress of a legally recognized European political party such as ours. We also regret that, with very few exceptions (e.g. the NGO Greek Helsinki Monitor and the leftist party AEKA-Thessaloniki), no other political parties or organizations took a public stand against Mr. Psomiades’ statements and the violent protests by neo-nazi elements. This is proof of the democratic deficit in Greece. We are also distressed by the fact that Greece is the only country in the EU where neo-nazism, under the guise of patriotism, is a legitimate form of political expression. We hereby state our willingness to put our political efforts towards assisting in the broader democratization and Europeanization of Greece. We wish to add our presence by joining the political race and the process of shaping a United Europe as our common homeland. We therefore ask voters to support our candidates in the upcoming European Parliamentary elections on 13 June 2004.

Macedonian Political Refugees Denied Entry into Greece

On June 8, 2003, Greek Deputy Foreign Minister, Andreas Loverdos, made an historic announcement pledging the free return of Macedonian political refugees, evacuated from Greece as children during the Greek Civil War of 1946-1949. The child refugees (Detsa Begaltsi) have consistently been denied entry into Greece simply because they assert their Macedonian ethnic identity. They were excluded from the 1982 law that allowed the free return of political refugees that were “Greek by genus”. Answering a question on the free visit of "non-ethnic Greek" political refugees, Mr. Loverdos, stated that
"since we have overcome all these problems of the past and of the civil war... we want to overcome this vestige too sooner rather than later...during this summer."

The events that followed Loverdos’ “historic” announcement were indicative of a country that views itself as a Western democracy but consistently proves itself to be the very antithesis of one. Following a nationalistic uproar by a large segment of Greek society, who were worried that the political refugees would “incite” the local Macedonian population into a heightened sense of nationalism, the Greek government reversed its decision and chose to impede the reunion in any way possible. It then proceeded to announce, on July 3, 2003 that the political refugees will be allowed to enter the country from August 10 to October 30, and would only be allowed to stay for 20 days. The date of the Detsa Begaltsi's Third World Reunion was well-publicized and was originally going to take place from July 15-20, 2003. The Greek government's announcement forced the organizers to reschedule the event to August 10-15, which caused a large number of political refugees, particularly from Canada, the United States, and Australia, to miss the event as they originally planned to enter Greece before July 10.

It is remarkable that Greece, a European Union country, would reverse a humanitarian decision in favour of state-sponsored racism that has been widely endorsed in Greece.

Out of the people who tried to enter Greece for the reunion, it is estimated that approximately two hundred Macedonians were denied entry into Greece during the summer of 2003.

On July 20, 2003, Australian citizen Janko Kalinchev, born in the village of Ovcharani (Meliti in Greek), and Canadian citizen Georgi Kizovski, born in Gabresh (Gavros), attempted to enter Greece from the Republic of Macedonia in order to visit their birthplaces. However, Greek border officials denied them entry and refused to give them an explanation, instead saying that they were denied entry for "other reasons".

According to Mr. Kizovski, "The Greek government keeps a blacklist of people who are active in Macedonian organizations abroad and who openly declare themselves as Macedonian. We were obviously returned at the border because of our membership in the Association of Refugee Children from the Aegean Part of Macedonia (Detsa Begaltsi) in Australia and Canada." Greek officials have publicly stated that 80 Macedonian activists living abroad are on a “blacklist”. In its press release of August 10, 2003, the Greek Helsinki Monitor stated,

“Preventing their entrance on grounds of their activism directly contravenes the special UN, OSCE, Council of Europe and EU provisions for the state's responsibility to respect and even defend NGOs and human rights activists.”

In July, 2002, a border document proving the existence of this blacklist, which had been denied by the Greek government, was given to Steve Pliakes, a well-known Canadian-Macedonian activist. Furthermore, the Governor of the Prefecture of Florina, Mr. G. Stratakis, publicly acknowledged the existence of this blacklist on July 23, 2003. The ultra-nationalistic Greek newspaper, Stohos, even published the names of approximately half of the Macedonians on this list in a recent issue. In its press release of August 10, 2003 the Rainbow Party describes the reunion:

Unfortunately, this “humanitarian measure” turned into a farce. Once again, the large majority of Macedonian political refugees were denied entry into Greece even for a simple visit. On 10 August 2003 a delegation from Rainbow was present at the Niki – Negochani border station in Florina – Lerin. No political refugee was permitted to enter Greece (of more than 20 individuals appearing between 11.00 and 13.00) whose travel document recorded the bearer’s place of birth with its former (Macedonian) name. Entry into Greece was forbidden to those Macedonian political refugees with Republic of Macedonia passports, as well as to those with passports from other countries, such as Australia, Czech Republic, and Hungary. The border officials did not note on the forms the actual reason why entry was denied (this, they explained to us orally), but instead cited other reasons.

The absurdity of the matter of Macedonian political refugees holding travel documents (passports) from the Republic of Macedonia is that Greece does not recognize these passports because they record the name of country as the “Republic of Macedonia.” Yet it asks the Macedonian refugees holding these passports to change the name of their birthplace in a passport that Greece doesn’t recognize. For this reason, following the interim agreement between the two countries in 1995, the travel document that Greece recognizes is not the passport, but rather a sheet of white A4 paper bearing the visa. Perhaps our country ought to change its stand and finally accept Republic of Macedonia as the name of our neighboring country? As for the Macedonian refugees from other European countries that have signed accession agreements with the EU (Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Poland, Slovenia), how will Greece explain such a refusal of entry to these governments? How will it behave in April 2004 when these countries become full EU member-states? How will it then explain the refusal of entry to equal and law-abiding European citizens, who have the right to enter Greece simply by presenting their personal identity cards? Will Greece then blacklist these citizens as persona non grata?

Perhaps the Greek government and the Greek Foreign Ministry can explain – if the reason for barring entry into our country is, indeed, the use of place names, which are aspects of the linguistic and cultural heritage of both Greece and Europe – why the use of these names should to be a reason to bar entry? Can it provide us with an example of another European country that has barred entry to its former citizens for the same reason?

Vana Niczowski and her husband Chris, both Canadian citizens of Macedonian ethnicity, who had fled to Poland following the Greek Civil War, attempted to enter Greece on July 21, 2003. Mrs. Niczowski was born in Statitsa (Melas in Greek), Kostur (Kastoria) region and her birthplace was spelled “Kosturia” on her passport. The Greek border official insisted that this was “not the Greek name of the city and sounded too Slavic” and therefore, denied her entry.

Greece has consistently refused entry to people who use the original Macedonian village/city name on their passports, instead of the new Greek toponyms applied after 1926. In its press release of August 1, 2003, the Rainbow Party, political party of the Macedonian minority in Greece, stated:

“Greece should establish a record of toponyms (both old and new), a practice and a policy carried out in many democratic countries, especially since there is such a provision in international texts related to the protection of the heritage of linguistic, religious or ethnic minorities.”

The Greek government has used this as an excuse to deny entry to dozens of Macedonian political refugees. The Rainbow Party goes on to say:

"Let every democratic citizen of Greece consider how he or she would judge similar behavior from another country acting against its Greek minority. Let us assume, for example, that the Albanian government forbids entry to one of its former citizens, a member of the Greek minority, who abandoned Albania in the course of the Greek-Italian war in 1940, was stripped of his Albanian citizenship and had his property confiscated by the state. Assume that person today resides in Canada or Australia and in his Canadian or Australian passport, his place of birth is not mentioned as 'Drach' (the Albanian name of a city in Southern Albania), but "Dirahio" (the name of the same city in Greek).

How would we judge such an action of the Albanian government? How would we judge the placement of other such citizens in a list of "personae non grata" by the Albanian Foreign Office, because in Melbourne or Toronto they participate in Greek and not Albanian cultural associations? What would we say if the Albanian government stripped them of their citizenship and forbade them as long as they lived to visit their families and their places of origin in Southern Albania? Would we not correctly characterize such behavior as racist and inhuman?”

The following are comments made by Greek parliamentarian Evgenios Haitidis regarding the Macedonian political refugees. They are indicative of Greek society’s attitude towards the Macedonian minority:

“They are contemptible separatists, who appear to act undisturbed not only outside Greece but inside Greece as well, under the tolerance or even the assistance of government members”,

“Their primary goal is the recognition of a “Macedonian Ethnic Minority in Greece”, while their ultimate goal is self-rule namely, the detachment of Greek territory”.

Mr. Haitidis claims that the Macedonian political refugees “have been found guilty in regular courts of law of being enemy collaborators and criminals and are being characterized by strong anti-Greek activity abroad”.

On January 7, 2004, the Greek Deputy Foreign Minister, once again, announced that the issue of the blacklist and Macedonian political refugees would finally be solved. He pledged that the blacklist would be abolished and that no conditions would be placed on ethnic Macedonians who wanted to enter Greece.

George Saragil, an ethnic Macedonian from Lerin/Florina, Greece, immigrated to Canada in 1969 and became a Canadian citizen. He had travelled to Greece several times in the 1980’s and 1990’s but was denied entry in July 2000 and was told that he was on Greece’s blacklist. They instructed him to consult the Greek Consulate in Toronto for more information. Following Mr. Loverdos’ second announcement, Mr. Saragil sent a letter (
www.mhrmc.ca/press/04/saragil.html) to the Greek consulate in Toronto asking him to confirm the announcement and whether he would be allowed to enter Greece. He has yet to receive a response.

Greece must be pressured to stop making empty promises and to finally solve the issue of the Macedonian political refugees and blacklist. The European Union must demand that one of its member nations stop discriminating against citizens of other countries based solely on their Macedonian ethnicity.

Macedonian Orthodox Church and Father Nikodim Tsarknias

Father Nikodim Tsarknias has been harassed, beaten, fined, jailed and expelled from the Greek Orthodox Church for advocating human rights for the Macedonian minority in Greece. He has also been the subject of several court cases, in which he has been found guilty in absentia, for promoting Macedonian human rights. He has started building a Macedonian Orthodox Church in the city of Sobotsko (Aridea in Greek) and is holding religious service in the Macedonian language there every Sunday. Because of this, he was sentenced to three months in prison on May 11, 2004 by the Aridea Criminal Court of First Instance on charges of establishing and operating a church without authorization. For more information, please see the press release issued by Father Tsarknias (
www.mhrmc.ca/news/04/tsarknias.html) and the US State Department’s 2004 International Religious Freedom Report (www.mhrmc.ca/news/04/statedept_religious.html)

Report on Greece’s Compliance With the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

The following are excerpts from the Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM) and Minority Rights Group-Greece’s (MRG-G) report that was submitted to the United Nations’ Human Rights Committee (HRC) as a contribution to the consideration of the Initial Report of Greece (CCPR/C/GRC/2004/1) during the HRC’s 83rd Session (14 March – 1 April 2005). It addresses mainly HRC’s List of Issues on Greece (CCPR/C/83/L/GRC/Rev. 1).

Peaceful Assembly and Freedom on Association (Articles 21 and 22)

I-19. Please comment on the alleged non-registration of associations which include the words “Macedonian” or “Turkish”.

GHM & MRG-G Contribution

There are currently no associations in Greece operating legally with their names including the words “Macedonian” or “Turkish” to reflect the ethnic or national identity of their members. This situation reflects the refusal of Greece to acknowledge the presence of a Macedonia and a Turkish minority in its territory.

There is only one (ethnic) Macedonian association that attempted to register with the courts, the “Home of Macedonian Civilization” (Stegi Makedonikou Politismou). It was originally denied registration as an organization by the Greek courts, between 1990-1994. Its appeal to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) was successful as, on 10 July 1998, Greece was cited for the violation of article 11 on freedom of association.

However, the “Home of Macedonian Civilization” has not been able to register for over six years. All lawyers of Florina (where the “Stegi” has its seat) had initially repeatedly refused to take up the case. While courts had twice refused the association’s request to appoint a lawyer, despite Greece’s report to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe indicating that courts had been instructed to execute the judgment, and the Ombudsman’s written opinion that there is “enough evidence that ‘no lawyer is found’”. Only following the sustained pressure by the Greek Ombudsman, a lawyer was finally appointed in February 2002.

The new application was again rejected in December 2003, with the following justification:

“The word ‘Macedonian’ – defining the culture to be preserved – implies that this culture is something particular and self-contained, so that it is not clear whether the word is being used in its historical sense to refer to an integral part of Greek civilisation with its local specificities, or in its geographical sense, in which case it is left undefined which part of the broader region of Macedonia is meant, as its territory took shape after the Balkan Wars. This lack of clarity is not only not removed by the name of the association, which insists on the indiscriminate use of the term, but is in fact exacerbated by the association of this culture with a non-existent language, claimed to be ‘Macedonian’, despite the fact that in the geographical area of Macedonia it is the Greek language which is spoken, except by a small portion of the population, which also speaks – in addition to Greek – an idiom which is essentially Slavic. Thus the confusion caused by the general use of the terms Macedonia and Macedonian, without distinction as to geographical or historical reference – a confusion existing in the mind of the states with which the association will be dealing, in pursuit of its objective through demarches to and collaboration with these states, and in the mind of persons interested in participating in the work of the association in pursuit of this objective – contains a direct danger to public order and provides an opportunity for exploitation by external agents who have tried from time to time, unsuccessfully, to create a historically non-existent “Macedonian nation”. It is therefore our decision, in the light of the above, that the application be rejected.”

The applicants’ appeal was filed in September 2004 in Florina, but lawyers in Kozani, seat of the competent Appeal Court, had refused to take up the case through the end of January 2005.

Right to Take Part in Public Affairs; Protection of National Minorities (Articles 25, 26 and 27)

I-21. Please explain whether the requirements for the naturalisation of non-citizens provided by law no. 2910/2001 differ depending on whether the person is of Greek origin.

GHM & MRG-G Contribution

ECRI expressed indeed a related concern:

“The distinction between non-citizens of Greek origin and other non-citizens

60. ECRI notes that in a number of spheres Greek law draws a distinction between non-citizens of Greek origin (sometimes called “homogeneis”) and non-citizens of another origin (sometimes called “allogeneis”). This difference in treatment generally takes the form of a privileged status for persons of Greek origin.

61. For example, in 1982 a regulation permitted the return to Greece of people having fled the country during the 1946-1949 civil war, together with their families. However, this regulation applied solely to persons “of Greek origin”, thus excluding persons of non-Greek, and particularly Macedonian, origin who had nonetheless left Greece under the same conditions.

62. The formalities for naturalising non-citizens provided by law no. 2910/2001 on foreigners’ entry to and residence on Greek territory, acquisition of citizenship and other provisions are very different depending on whether or not the person is of Greek origin. For instance, the condition of having resided for 10 years in Greece before becoming eligible for naturalisation does not apply to persons of Greek origin. Nor are they required to pay the 1,500 euros fee for processing the application.

Recommendations:

65. Considering that the creation of an intermediate “non-citizen of Greek origin” status between that of Greek citizen and non-citizen not of Greek origin might cause discrimination based on ethnic origin, ECRI strongly recommends to the Greek authorities to reconsider the foundations and the implications of their policy in this respect. It must be ensured that non-citizens who are not of Greek origin can receive the same advantages as non-citizens of Greek origin.”

GHM & MRG-G would like to add a significant clarification. Even among “homogeneis” the state differentiates, with those originating from the former Soviet Union successor states having more rights than those originating from Albania. As the Ombudsman has stated in reviewing Law 2910/2001, “homogeneis” from the former Soviet Union receive special “homogeneis” identity documents and Greek citizenship upon acknowledgment of their Greek origins, even if they have not become residents of Greece. “Homogeneis” from Albania on the other hand receive the “homogeneis” identity documents only if they reside in Greece; while they can apply for Greek citizenship only through the naturalization procedure and such applications are not often approved. Following the revision of the Greek citizenship code in November 2004, the special procedure to promptly grant citizenship to the “homogeneis” from the former Soviet Union was codified in article 15.

I-22. According to information before the Committee, although there is only one officially recognized minority in Greece (para 895 of the report), there are other ethnic groups seeking that status. What measures are being taken by the State Party to identify, and protect the rights of, ethnic groups in the State party’s territory? What is the percentage participation of minorities (other than the Muslim minority referred to in para 906 of the report) in the public service and at all levels of Greek government?

GHM & MRG-G Contribution

ECRI summarizes very well the situation of the minorities in Greece:

“Macedonians and other minority groups

80. In its second report, ECRI encouraged the authorities to ensure that all groups in Greece, Macedonians and Turks included, could exercise their rights to freedom of association and freedom of expression in accordance with international legal standards.

81. ECRI notes that the Greek authorities are more ready to recognise the existence of minority groups in Greece, such as the Pomaks or the Roma, including the fact that certain members of these groups have a native language other than Greek. However, other groups still encounter difficulties, the Macedonians and Turks for example. Even today, persons wishing to express their Macedonian, Turkish or other identity incur the hostility of the population. They are targets of prejudices and stereotypes, and sometimes face discrimination, especially in the labour market. In the Sidiropoulos and others v. Greece judgment of 10 July 1998, the European Court of Human Rights found that the refusal to register the association “Home of Macedonian Civilisation” constituted an interference with the freedom of association as guaranteed by Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights. ECRI deplores the fact that, five years after the decision of the European Court of Human Rights, this association has still not been registered despite the repeated applications made by its members. ECRI notes that similar cases are currently before the Greek courts concerning registration of associations whose title includes the adjective “Turkish”.

82. ECRI stresses that the authorities took a first positive step on the path of reconciliation by opening their borders for a few days during the summer of 2003 to persons of Macedonian origin compelled to leave Greece in the civil war when most were only children. ECRI nevertheless deplores the fact that persons holding a passport in which the name of their birthplace in Greece was indicated in the Macedonian and not the Greek form were refused entry to Greek territory.

83. ECRI notes that representatives of the Macedonian community have asked the authorities to recognise their right to self-identification, as well as the existence of a Macedonian national minority in Greece. They have also called for the ratification of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, considering that this step could improve their situation in Greece .

Recommendations:

84. ECRI encourages the Greek authorities to take further steps toward the recognition of the freedom of association and expression of members of the Macedonian and Turkish communities living in Greece. It welcomes the gesture of reconciliation made by the Greek authorities towards the ethnic Macedonian refugees from the civil war, and strongly encourages them to proceed further in this direction in a non-discriminatory way.

85. ECRI also recommends that the Greek authorities closely examine the allegations of discrimination and intolerant acts against Macedonians, Turks and others, and, if appropriate, take measures to punish such acts.

86. ECRI strongly recommends the Greek authorities to open a dialogue with the Macedonians’ representatives in order to find a solution to the tensions between this group and the authorities, as well as between it and the population at large, so that co-existence with mutual respect may be achieved in everyone’s interests.

Conclusion

The Macedonian Human Rights Movement of Canada calls on the international community to apply pressure on Greece to immediately recognize its large Macedonian minority and grant it the human rights that it is guaranteed by all international human rights conventions. The MHRMC specifically asks that the European Union end its hypocrisy in demanding that new member states respect human rights standards while ignoring human rights violations within the EU.

Bill Nicholov, President
Macedonian Human Rights Movement of Canada
Address:
P.O. Box 44532, 2376 Eglinton Ave. East, Toronto, Canada M1K 5K3
Tel: 416-850-7125 Fax: 416-850-7127
e-mail:
office@mhrmc.ca website: www.mhrmc.ca

Contact Information for Macedonian Human Rights Organizations

For more information, please contact the Macedonian Human Rights Movement of Canada or the following organizations of Macedonians in Greece:

Rainbow Party/Vinozhito
Stephanou Dragoumi 11
PO Box 51, 53100 Florina, Greece
Tel/Fax: ++ 23850 46548
Email:
rainbow@florina.org
Website: www.florina.org

Home of Macedonian Culture
Stephanou Dragoumi 11
PO Box 51, 53100 Florina, Greece
Tel/Fax: ++ 23850 46548

European Bureau for Lesser Used Languages - Greece
Greek Member State Committee of EBLUL
Parisis Athanasios
Mazaraki 7a 59200 Naousa/Negush - Greece
Telefon: ++306972844412
E-mail:
parisis@nao.forthnet.gr

Father Nikodim Tsarknias
Aegeas Sophias 13
Aridea, Pellas, 58400 Greece
Tel: ++23840 23271
Fax: ++23840 21778
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