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POLITICAL PARTY OF THE MACEDONIAN MINORITY IN GREECE
Member of the European Free Alliance - European Political Party (EFA-EPP)
Member of the Federal Union of European Nationalities (FUEN)

Stefanou Dragoumi 11 .. 53100 .. 51 Greece; Tel/fax 0030 23850 46548
Website:
www.florina.org; E-mail: rainbow@florina.org



Press Release

Letter to Matthew Nimetz

Florina/Lerin - November 5, 2007




To:
Matthew Nimetz
United Nations Special Envoy on the Name Dispute between Greece and Republic of Macedonia

Into Attention of:
General Secretary of UN - Mr. Ban Ki-Moon
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Greece - Mrs. Dora Bakogiannis
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Republic of Macedonia - Mr Antonio Milososki


Dear Mr Nimetz,

As members of the ethnic Macedonian minority of Greece, we would like to take this opportunity to express the views of our party* in relation to the opposition of the Greek state to the use of the name "Republic of Macedonia" by its northern neighbour.

In our opinion there are two main aspects to this issue. The first is a purely technical one regarding the general use of the term "Macedonia" by Greece and the Republic of Macedonia. The second aspect is a political one which can be viewed in the context of the so-called "Macedonian question" in south-eastern Europe which is well known to us and which has existed since the beginning of the last century.

In relation to the political aspect of the issue we tried in our last letter to you to shed some light on some aspects of this question. As members of the ethnic Macedonian minority of Greece we have the opportunity to analyse the issue from a unique position because we are also citizens of Greece. We understand very well the situation 'on the ground', the 'system within the state', Greek society and the general political viewpoints from 'within', as our education and life is no different to the rest of Greek society to which we belong.

1. THE POLITICAL ASPECT

1.1 The denial by the Greek state of the right of a neighbouring people and state to be called by the name which it has chosen for itself indirectly influences our Macedonian identity. As members of the ethnic Macedonian minority of Greece, we feel it is of crucial importance for our continued existence that our national identity and distinctiveness is respected. We believe that we too should be able to freely choose our identity, to enjoy that right and to be respected. If Macedonian identity is denied generally, then so is the case with our own identity. Unfortunately such a denial is being done by the state which we are citizens of. The right to self-determination and choosing one's own identity is based on universal principles of respect for human and minority rights. As ethnic Macedonians we respect the right of any of our fellow Greek citizens to self-identification.

1.2 We believe that the political aspect of the problem is an internal problem of the Greek state. Unfortunately the majority of the Greek public (and indeed the public in other countries in the region) have never had the opportunity to be fully and objectively informed about questions related to respect for individual and collective self-identification of a people or a nation. As a result of this factor we are pessimistic with respect to the perspectives for the region when we speak of the so-called "Macedonian question" in general. Our pessimism increases when we see the position of not only Greek, but also Bulgarian nationalism in relation to this question. However this is a topic for another time.

1.3 Greek nationalism has the following main characteristic: it has created a 'national myth' that modern Greek citizens are descendants and the direct inheritors of Ancient Greece. For decades now, the Greek state has accordingly educated its citizens in such a manner. This is the dominant ideology not only today, but ever since the formation of the modern Greek state in 1827. When the Greek state acquired a part of the territory of Macedonia in 1912/1913, it extended this 'myth' to the new territories. In other words, the average Greek citizen and indeed the vast majority of Greek politicians have the following views:

"We are Greeks, descendants of the Ancient Hellenes. The Ancient Macedonians were also Greek. Ancient Macedonia was a Greek (Hellene) district. Therefore we are the inheritors of this ancient world as a whole and nobody else has a right to this."

This is the ideological construction which continually dictates the political standpoint of the Greek political elite in relation to the "Macedonian question". This construction is also dominant in Greek society. Of course, as members of the Macedonian minority of Greece we REJECT all 'ancient' approaches when we speak of modern nation-states. We are ethnic Macedonians on the basis of the right to self-identification and self-determination as is understood by today's progressive world.

1.4 According to our opinion, it is unfortunate that Greek nationalism (and indeed Bulgarian nationalism) has still yet to come to terms with the fact that a separate ethnic Macedonian nation exists. This is precisely the key to the Macedonian question. Therefore it is no coincidence that Greece has consistently argued for a name for the neighbouring state which will not be of a national character, but rather of a geographic one. A similar policy is being pursued by Bulgaria. This idea today is being promoted by Greek diplomatic representatives as a "comprise solution". So for the Greek side, the national abandonment and denationalisation of the majority of the citizens of the Republic of Macedonia and indirectly the ethnic Macedonian minority of Greece is a "compromise" and somewhat of a "democratic" offer, representing a "huge concession" from its initial and fundamental position that Greece has the exclusive right to the term "Macedonia". In other words, the Greek position denies the right of a people and a nation to exist as such, as well as the right of that nation to choose its own name, identity, symbols, etc.

1.5 The essence of the internal problem of this question for Greece is the denial of the recognition and the respect of a separate and distinct Macedonian ethnic/national identity different from the Greek one, because to do so would result in the collapse of the Greek myth of national homogeneity that the state has imposed for decades now.

1.6 As we pointed out in our last letter to you, the Macedonian question represents a problem for Greece, above all because of the fact that a Macedonian minority exists on its territory. This is the 'secret' which exists in the Greek argumentation about the supposed "irredentism of Skopje". We are convinced that if an ethnic Macedonian minority did not exist in Greece, it is almost certain that the term "Macedonia" by the neighbouring state would not have been a problem at all for Greece. The argument which could theoretically be placed on the European and world scene in relation to this 'irrational' dispute could read something like this:

'Respected persons of the international community... if the state to the north of our border is called 'Macedonia' we fear that in future there will be irredentist aspirations on northern Greece by the ethnic Macedonian minority of Greece.'

However such a thing could not be said by Greece because it knows all too well that the answer to such an assertion could be nothing other than:

'Well, respect the rights of the minority and recognise it, so that no such irredentist problems will appear.'

Due to the fact that it is difficult to convince the international community about "Skopje's irredentism" if one takes into consideration the fact that the Republic of Macedonia is a small and relatively weak state in relation to Greece. The Macedonian minority of Greece is the 'weak link' in the chain of Greek arguments regarding the question of "irredentism" and indeed on the Macedonian question in general.

2. THE TECHNICAL ASPECT

2.1 Here, we must state that as a matter of principle, it is not 'fair' for the "first" party (i.e. Greece) to demand that the "second party" (i.e. the Republic of Macedonia) change its name when the "second" party side has not demanded this from the "first" party.

2.2 The starting point of the technical part of the question is based on the fact that the wider region of Macedonia, as it is known to us all at the least in the last century, comprises of territories which today forms the Republic of Macedonia, parts of Bugaria (Pirin Macedonia), Albania (the Prespa region) and of course as well as northern parts of Greece which carry the name "Macedonia". In relation to Albania and Bulgaria, these states do not have any objections to the use of the term "Republic of Macedonia".

2.3 What are the facts? In Greece there is no single official administrative province called "Macedonia". Of the 13 administrative regions of Greece, three of them carry the name "Macedonia". They are, the "Region of Western Macedonia", the "Region of Central Macedonia" inclusive of Thessaloniki/Solun, and the "Region of Eastern Macedonia" all located in northern Greece. Despite the fact that more than one administrative entity carries the name "Macedonia", there is no absolutely no confusion between one or more of these three regions. This is because self-evidently each region has a prefix ("Region of Western", "Region of Centra" and "Region of Eastern") before the word "Macedonia", thus distinguishing one from another. In this context and having this logic in mind, there can also be no confusion between one or more of these administrative regions of Greece and the independent and sovereign state called the Republic of Macedonia which has the prefix "Republic of" before the word "Macedonia".

2.4 When we speak about the Greek political system, it should be noted that Greece does not have a federal structure, nor does it have a decentralised state akin to a federal system. Moreover, we wish to point out that mainly in the last 15-20 years, there has been an introduction (read: renaming) of a number of Greek public bodies incorporating the word "Macedonia". The most typical example is the "Ministry of Northern Greece" which in 1988 the Greek government renamed the "Ministry of Macedonia and Thrace" when it became evident that the dissolution of Yugoslavia was imminent and as a result there was a possibility that an independent Macedonian state would be declared. Another such examples were the "Industrial School of Thessaloniki" which was renamed the "University of Macedonia" in 1990 and the airport "Thessaloniki-Mikra" reamed "Thessaloniki-Macedonia" in 1992, etc, when the Republic of Macedonia had already declared its independence.

2.5 The above mentioned example have been cited to demonstrate that behind all this "renaming" stood, above all, a political motive. The purpose was to "consolidate" and to some extent to "promote" the Greek side of "Macedonian-ness" as an integral part of Greek world, i.e. to acquire a type of "copyright" on the use of the term "Macedonia".

2.6 On the other hand, we have a state entity which is called the "Republic of Macedonia". From 1944 - 1991 the "People's Republic of Macedonia" and later the "Socialist Republic of Macedonia" existed as one of the six constituent units of the former Yugoslavia. As of 1991, this federal entity became an independent sovereign state called the "Republic of Macedonia". The term "Macedonia" was used by Greece's neighbouring state continuously for almost half a century from 1944 until the beginning of the 1990's with a problem, i.e. without any "reactions" by the Greek side. In fact, many official documents exist regarding bilateral cooperation between the then "Socialist Republic of Macedonia" and Greece (as a federal unit of Yugoslavia, the Socialist Republic of Macedonia, in certain conditions, had the right to conclude such agreements).

2.7 There are also a number of Greek documents which long before 1945 defined "Macedonian" as something different to "Greek." These include the primer in the Macedonian language, the "Abecedar", printed in 1925 for the Macedonian minority of Greece which we recently had the pleasure of sending a copy to you. Another telling document was the 1920 Greek census document, which explicitly lists the existence of the Macedonian language in Greece.

2.8 As has been the case in the past, we strongly believe that there cannot be any objection or rejection at the international level on the use of the name "Republic of Macedonia". This term purely and clearly, describes and defines an international state. The naming of certain regions in northern Greece with the name "Macedonia" is for internal use of Greece. In fact, the expressions "Republic of Macedonia" and the "Region of Western Macedonia" for example are different from each other with the exception of the word "Macedonia".

2.9 In relation to universities, airports, ministries, etc, in Greece which have acquired "Macedonian" characteristics to their titles in the last 15-20 years, they can just as easily be called something else or their old names can be restored in order not to create any "confusion" if the Greek state feels this is necessary. Even if the abovementioned retain their existing names, there is no problem or confusion with this, as these are internal names, the use of which is largely confined to domestic use within Greece.

2.10 In this context, it is interesting to note that there is not a single region and place in Greece which is called "Republic of Macedonia". Nor are there any other Greek citizens which self-identify as "ethnic Macedonians" other than those belonging to the Macedonian minority of Greece. Therefore, there can be no confusion even in this area about the issue.

2.11 As was stated previously, before the term "Macedonia" there is a prefix "Republic of". The regions of Macedonia in Greece also have the prefixes "Region of Western" "Region of Central" and "Region of Eastern" before the term "Macedonia". If Greece feels that further a differentiation is needed to distinguish it from the Republic of Macedonia then it is logical for Greece to further define the regions with additional prefixes or suffixes.

2.12 Generally, we feel that the technical aspect of the question can easily be solved if experts from both sides conclude an agreement (if at all it is necessary) in regards to the naming of articles, products, services, etc in bilateral relations between the two states.

3. GOOD NEIGHBOURINLY RELATIONS AND THE ROLE OF INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY

3.1 We believe in order to have a lasting peace, good neighbourly relations and solidarity between the Balkan countries, the larger nation-states, specifically, Serbia, Greece and Bulgaria, must finally come to terms with the right of the Macedonian people to full self-determination, respecting at the same time the rights of the ethnic Macedonian minorities within their borders. At the same time, the minorities in the Balkans should reject to be instruments for irredentist policies of states, which unfortunately was the case in the last decades with the wars in the former Yugoslavia.

3.2 It is true that when the international community constituted that there were violations of basic human rights in the wars in Bosnia and Hercegovina, and Kosovo, it decisively took action and intervened by military means with UN consent. The purpose of this intervention was to protect the local population, to stabilise the region and also to teach a 'lesson' to the totalitarian and undemocratic regime as was the Milosevic regime in the former Yugoslavia.

3.3 In the case of the Macedonian question we feel that the international community can (in this context, the UN too) play a key role when it comes to peace, stability and the future of the region. Greek policy, unfortunately, in the last decade or so, has been extremely destabilising in the Balkan region, firstly by giving support to the Milosevic regime in the 1990s and secondly by denying the right of is neighbouring country, the Republic of Macedonia and people to choose its own name, i.e. its identity.

3.4 Such behaviour, luckily, has not had any negative consequences in relation to the cohesion and stability of the Republic of Macedonia, thanks to the support of the international community towards this relatively young state. However it is a fact that Greek policy indirectly in the last 15-20 years was an 'obstacle' on the road of the Republic of Macedonia to European and world integration.

3.5 In this context, we trust that the international community will not make the mistake of supporting aggressive Balkan nationalisms, specifically in this case Greek nationalism, by denying Macedonian identity. We know that this state antagonism at the beginning of the last century together with the denial of Macedonian identity by the Balkan states 'fed' this antagonism for the purpose of territorial expansion of the Balkan states at the time. Unfortunately, the international community back them did not respect the will of the Macedonian people for national and state emancipation which would have resulted in the formation of a Macedonian state with a separate ethnic and national identity. As a consequence of those Balkan policies there was much hardship and suffering occurred, as documented and described by international reports such the Carnegie Commission. We sincerely hope that history will not be repeated.

3.6 For these reasons, we believe that the international community should finally send a clear political message in relation the existing negative position of our state, Greece, regarding the Republic of Macedonia. We believe that such this will assist in the task of beginning a progressive ideological reform of the Greek state and indeed of Greek society, which are essential in order to make Greek policy in the region positive and constructive. This is particular importance for the peace and stability of our region, especially given that the "Yugoslav crisis" is coming to an end with the imminent decision on the future status of Kosovo.

Yours sincerely,
On behalf of the Members of the Party
THE POLITICAL SECRETARIAT OF THE EUROPEAN FREE ALLIANCE - RAINBOW

Anastasiadis Stavros
Parisis Athanasios
Voskopoulos Filipov Pavlos
Vasiliadis Petros
Dimtsis Petros
Kazias Petros
Kligkatsis Pantelis
Mantzas Levteris
Boules Anastasios

Letter to Matthew Nimetz, May 2005:
http://www.florina.org/news/2005/may05_e.asp


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to read the Abecedar!

Promotion of the
Macedonian Language
Primer at the OSCE HDIM

English Greek Macedonian

Greek irredentism and expansionism officially sanctioned by the Greek Parliament
English Greek Macedonian

Letter to Carla del Ponte,
Chief Prosecutor for the UN International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia

English Greek Macedonian

The Yugoslavian Crisis
English Greek Macedonian

Document of the Ministry
of Foreign Affairs

Related to the article - The obvious linguistic particularity - Eletherotypia, 18/11/2006

English   Greek

The ten Greek myths
on the “Macedonian issue”

By IOS team – Eletherotypia, 23/10/2005

Who says there are no
minority languages in Greece?

The "secret" census
in north Greece, in 1920

Map showing the Cultures and Languages in the E.U.

Council of Europe
Framework convention for the Protection of national minorities


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