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Declaration at Popova Shapka regarding the situation of national minorities in the Balkans

30 November, 1997

Adopted at the Conference - "The Situation of the National Minorities in the Balkan Countries", on 30 November 1997 in Popova Shapka, Tetovo, Republic of Macedonia.

I. Following the initiative of the Association of the Macedonians from the Aegean Part of Macedonia - Bitola, Association of the expelled Macedonians from the Republic of Greece, a Conference was held on the topic: "The Situation of the National Minorities in the Balkan Countries".

II. At the conference, representatives from the following organizations were present:

Republic of Albania:
The Society of the Armni (Vlachs) from the Republic of Albania,
The Political Society of the Macedonians from Republic of Albania "MIR" ("PEACE") - Tirana,
The Social-Political Society "Prespa" - organization for protecting the rights of the Macedonians in the Republic of Albania,
The Society of the Egyptians in the Republic of Albania "Nefreta" - Tirana

Republic of Bulgaria:
OMO "ILINDEN" - Democratic Movement - organization for protecting the rights of the Macedonians in the Republic of Bulgaria.

Republic of Greece:
"RAINBOW" - European Movement - political party of the Macedonian ethnic minority in the Republic of Greece,
The Scientific Society of Western Thrace - organization of the Turkish national minority in Western Thrace, Republic of Greece.

Republic of Macedonia:
The Association of the Macedonians from the Aegean part of Macedonia - Bitola, Republic of Macedonia,
The League of the Vlachs from the Republic of Macedonia,
The Association of the Roma (Gypsies) -Tetovo, Republic of Macedonia,
The Association of Serbs, Montenegrins and Macedonians - Tetovo, Republic of Macedonia
The Association of the Bosnians in the Republic of Macedonia

III. At the Conference, representatives of other non-political associations of the following national minorities were also invited: the Greek national minority from the Republic of Albania, the Turkish national minority from the Republic of Bulgaria, the Vlach national minority from the Republic of Greece, the Albanian national minority and the Turkish national minority fron the Republic of Macedonia, and the Macedonian national minority from FR Yugoslavia The Helsinki Human Rights Watch - Greece, The Helsinki Human Rights Watch - Bulgaria, The Helsinki Human Rights Watch - Albania.

The participants deplore the absence of the aforementioned at such a Conference of the minorities from the Balkans. Their very presence would have enriched this Conference.

Also invited were representatives of various international organizations, which have their offices in the Republic of Macedonia:
- The UN - Center for Human Rights - Skopje,
- The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) - Skopje,
- The UNPREDEP - Skopje,
- The UN High Commissioner for Refugees - Skopje,
- The Unicef - Skopje,
- The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies - Skopje,
- The Helsinki Human Rights Watch - Macedonia,

The following foreign Embassies in the Republic of Macedonia were invited:
R.Italy, R.France, USA, R.Germany, Russian Federation, R.Bulgaria, The Liaison Office of the R.Greece, R.Albania, Great Britain, FR Yugoslavia and R.Turkey.

IV. Representatives of all present national minorities actively participated in the work of the Conference, whereby the situation of the minority rights were presented in a very illustrative way, as well as their different status in these four Balkan countries. Hence, the representatives of the national minorities presented the following Conclusions:

The Society of the Armni (Vlachs) in the Republic of Albania:
1. There is no assistance, in the State programs, for developing the identity and culture of the Vlachs in Albania.
2. There is discrimination and prejudice against the Vlachs in their nomination and involvement in the State administration. A flagrant case is the one with the Deputy-Minister, nominated for this position, the only candidate who was refused by the Government of the Republic of Albania.
3. A racist propaganda against the Vlachs still continues in various newspapers in the Republic of Albania. Here should be mentioned the article in the newspaper "Albania", by H.Feraj, in September 1997.
4. Some of the Embassies of the Balkan countries, located in Tirana, hamper the free movement of the members of the Vlachs societies for cultural cooperation with similar societies in other Balkan countries.
5. We demand material assistance to be provided for development of the culture and identity of the Vlachs in the State programs of Albania.
6. We demand no discrimination to be used by the State authorities against the Vlachs, so they can have the possibilities for their involvement in the State institutions.
7. We demand no racist propaganda to be used against the Vlachs in the Republic of Albania.
8. We demand free movement of individuals and societies for cultural activities to be possible among the Balkan countries.

The Societies of the Macedonians in the Republic of Albania:
1. Albanian authorities recognize Macedonian minority in Mala Prespa, region populated only with Macedonians. The Macedonians from the regions of Gora, Golo Brdo, and in the interior of Albania, are not recognized as Macedonians. Their national identity has been denied by administrative measures.
2. The Macedonian minority in the Republic of Albania is subject of cultural, ethnic and language discrimination.
3. The Macedonian minority has been persecuted and prosecuted for its national feelings.
4. The Macedonian minority is prevented from taking part in the administrative, political and legislative life of the Republic of Albania.
5. We demand recognizing of the Macedonian identity, by the Albanian State, for the Macedonians in Gora, Golo Brdo, and in the interior of Albania.
6. We demand creation of real conditions for education in mother, Macedonian language for the Macedonians in Gora, Golo Brdo and through out the Republic of Albania, if that is possible by material and structural conditions. Education in Macedonian language in Mala Prespa region should be at the level of secondary schools.
7. We demand no persecution and prosecution of the Macedonian minority for its national feelings. We demand conditions for saving and development of the cultural and national heritage of the Macedonian minority in the Republic of Albania.
8. We demand Albanian State to be engaged in the economic plural development in the regions inhabited by the Macedonian minority.
9. We demand opening of new border crossings between the Republic of Macedonia and Republic of Albania in the regions of Gora and Golo Brdo.
10. We demand institutions for an inter-ethnic relation in the Republic of Albania where problems on the relation national minorities -- Albanian State.
11. We demand legal and legislative space for participation of the Macedonian minority in the political and legislative life in the Republic of Albania. We demand activities of the organizations be financed by the State budget.

The Society of the Egyptians from the Republic of Albania:
1. They have been forgotten by the Albanian State.
2. The Egyptian minority from the Republic of Albania is wrongly identified with the members of the Gypsies Community.
3. A racist discrimination is carried out by the mass media.
4. The Egyptians in Republic of Albania are not equal in employment, scholarships, education and so on.
5. They are maltreated by the police authorities without any particular reason.
6. We demand efficient implementation of the laws and international norms with regard to the human and minority rights for the Egyptians in the Republic of Albania, as it is the case with all others citizens in the Republic of Albania.
7. We demand discrimination by the mass media to be stopped.
8. We demand to be allowed to use the media so that we can manifest our cultural, historical and folklore traditions of the Egyptians and to secure funds for their realization.
9. We demand legal and administrative measures to be created for integration of the Egyptians in the life of the Republic of Albania, as all other citizens of this country.

OMO "ILINDEN" - Democratic Movement Organization of the Macedonians in the Republic of Bulgaria:
1. Despite the democratic changes in the Republic of Bulgaria, nothing has been changed for the national minorities. Bulgaria still considers it self to be a one nation state. It neither recognizes the Macedonian nation and language in the Republic of Macedonia, nor the Macedonian minority in Republic of Bulgaria. The Macedonians are not permit to be educate in their Macedonian language, to establish associations on national basis, meetings, and access to the electronic media and press.

2. We demand Republic of Bulgaria to stop its assimilation of the Macedonian minority and recognize it as a national minority in the Republic of Bulgaria. We demand Macedonians in the Republic of Bulgaria, be given the right of education in their mother tongue, associating on national basis and participating in the political life, as well as access to the media.
3. We demand the material and economic situation of the Pirin part in the Republic of Bulgaria be improved.
4. We demand free celebration of the Macedonian national holidays and honoring of the Macedonian national heroes.

Organizations of National minorities from the Republic of Greece:
1. The existence of national minorities is not recognize in the Republic of Greece. The Turkish national minority is recognized only as a religious minority, while the Macedonian national minority is not recognized as an existing entity. Although national minorities are not recognized, their members are prosecuted on national minority basis. The Turkish national minority is excluded from all fields of human activity. A policy of economic suffocation is maintained, legislative measures are introduced for discrimination, the religious autonomy is under control, there is retrogression concerning the rights to education in the mother tongue.
2. A policy of brutal assimilation of the Macedonian ethnic minority is under way by legislative measures and court prosecutions. The public use of the Macedonian language and alphabet is prohibited, as well as their use in the educational system.
3. Court prosecutions are undertaken against the members of the two national minorities, concerning activities in connection with the manifestation and protection of the national and cultural identity.
4. The State allows, sometimes even encourages the mass media, the Church authorities and the para-state institutions to be against the members of the national minorities in order to terrorize and politically discredit them.
5. In addition to the aforementioned measures, ethnic cleanings of the two minorities have been done in previous manner, by taking away the citizenship in a way provided by the Articles 19 and 20 of the Law on Citizenship of the Republic of Greece.
6. The repatriation of the Macedonians political refugees are prohibited.
7. Selective immigration is done in the regions of Western Thrace and Macedonia in order to create a new wave of hate towards national minorities.
8. We demand the indispensable recognition of the national minorities, the abolition of all aforementioned measures by which discrimination is done, and the stopping of all court prosecutions. We demand the introduction of measures where by the consequences of the executed policy against the national minorities be removed, in accordance with the international norms and the European Framework Convention for the Rights of the National Minorities.

The Situation of the Armni (Vlachs) in the Republic of Macedonia:
1. The individual rights are guaranteed by the Constitution and the education laws, which treat equally all citizens of the Republic of Macedonia.
2. There are programs on the State TV, two times a week with 30 minutes per program, with the possibility and intention of their extension.
3. On the State radio there are everyday program of 30 minutes. With regard to the fact that the programs are broadcast on the frequency of the Third Radio Channel, they cannot cover the entire territory of the Republic of Macedonia. It is necessary to expand the program and to create conditions for its broadcasting all over the State.
4. It is necessary to pass legal provisions whereby one Member of Parliament would be elected upon proposal by the League of the Vlachs from the Republic of Macedonia.
5. We demand the Council for Inter-ethnic Relations of the Parliament of the Republic of Macedonia finally to begin its work as it should.
6. We demand complete conditions to be allowed for performing optional education and for securing the necessary educational means and literature in the Vlach language.

The Situation of the Macedonians - Citizens of the Republic of Macedonia - expelled from the Republic of Greece:
As expelled citizens, we are discriminated, our citizenship has been taken away, our property has been confiscated and given to settlers-new comers, and our free entry into Greece has been prohibited.

The Association demands:

1. Recognition of the Status of political refugees for the Macedonians banished from the Republic of Greece during the 1945-1949 period and later.
2. Free entry into Greece without prior conditions.
3. Recognition of every person as a legal subject and acceptance of his or her passport with all the personal particularities entered, issued by the country of their present residence.
4. Free return-repatriation on our born places, possessing and managing ours ancestors, fathers properties.
5. Our repatriation to be exclusively as ethnic Macedonians because we cannot be of other nationality, with the right of using the Macedonian language, to open Macedonian schools and Macedonian Orthodox Churches where the service will be performed in Macedonian language, the right to radio and TV programs in Macedonian language, the Right of newspapers and other magazines also in the Macedonian language.
6. Council of Europe to send observers at the border crossings between Republic of Macedonia and Republic of Greece, so they may be informed with the visa and passport system that is applied for the citizens of the Republic of Macedonia, originating from the Aegean part of Macedonia in the Republic of Greece.
7. The UN, the Council of Europe and the OSCE to request from the Republic of Greece to respect and implement completely the signed Interim Accord between the Republic of Macedonia and the Republic of Greece, as well as all conventions on human rights and freedom.
8. Republic of Greece to return the original names of the people and the toponyms of our villages, mountains, rivers and lakes because they were changed by the 1926 Decree from the Macedonia into Greek language.
9. European Union to use its influence in those states, which don't recognize national minorities in accordance with international conventions.
10. Republic of Greece should be stopped in her way of colonization, that is under way in the Aegean part of Macedonia - Northern Greece, settling population from other parts of Greece and from Euro-Asiatic region, in order to change the ethnical structure of the population.

V. The Association of the Roma (Gypsies), Association of the Serbs, Montenegrins and Macedonians, and the Association of the Bosnians from the Republic of Macedonia, actively participated in the discussion of the Conference. Due to their absence during the adoption of the Declaration, their proposals were not included in the Declaration itself. A possibility has been left for making additional consultations with the aforementioned representatives. Their proposals can be expose to all other participants of the Conference, in order to come up with an agreement that such proposals can be part of this declaration as an Annex.

VI. The State borders among the Balkan countries are inviolable and guaranteed. We accept this Balkan reality, thereby proposing liberalization of the visa and passport regime facilitating the traveling form one Balkan state to another.

VII. It is joint assessment that the status enjoyed by the national minorities in republic of Macedonia, should be an example for other Balkan states concerning the way for solving the minority issue in their own states.

VIII. The Republic of Albania only partially fulfills its obligations towards the national minorities in the country.

IX. The Republic of Bulgaria does not recognize the existence of any national minority on its territory.

X. The Republic of Greece recognize the existence of a religious minority, a Moslem one, but denies the existence of national minorities.

XI. The policy of the national minorities in the Balkan countries should be in order to determine all fears of the majorities in the countries they live from gradual changing of the existing borders.

XII. National minorities in the countries, where they live, should not allow to be subject of manipulation and interstate antagonism and to become a reason for interfering by one state into the affairs of another. They should cooperate and deepen the ties with constituent nation and with all nationalities that live in the state. In this way they will become a powerful factor of peace, cooperation and friendship in the Balkans and Europe.

XIII. National minorities should make use of the positive examples from the European experience for gradual union of all European countries with respect for the minority rights and overcoming the national prejudices and antagonisms.

XIV. The multinational and multicultural character in the Balkans countries should be respected and creation of inter-ethnic tensions should be prevented.

XV. A joint request of all present representatives of the national minorities from these Balkan countries is that experts from international and European institutions make a scientific research on the rights of the national minorities in the Balkan countries and prepare a comparative study on the situation of the national minorities.

XVI. We call upon the Balkan countries to join in a competition in respect of the human rights and freedoms and the rights of the national minorities.

XVII. We propose the year 2000 be accepted by the UN as the year of the Rights of the National Minorities in the World.

XIII. It is proposed that in 1998 this Conference be held in a country which would provide hospitality. If this is not case, then the mandate wold be again given to the Association of the Macedonians from the Aegean part of Macedonia - Bitola, Republic of Macedonia, for the next year.

XIV. The Declaration was unanimously adopted and signed by all representatives of national minorities from the Balkans countries present at this adoption.

XX. The list of signatories signed by the authorized representatives of the organizations of the national minorities from the Balkan countries is deposited with the Records Keeping Department of the Association of the Macedonians from the Aegean part of Macedonia - Bitola, Republic of Macedonia, while proposal given in paragraph V has been dully taken account of.

XXI. The Declaration contains 20 paragraphs.

30 November 1997
Popova Shapka, Tetovo
Republic of Macedonia


The List of Signatories of the Declaration, adopted at the Conference - "The Situation of the National Minorities in the Balkans, which was held on 29 and 30 November 1997, in Popova Shapka, Tetovo, the Republic of Macedonia:

1. The Social - political Society "Prespa" - Organization for protecting the rights of the Macedonians in the Republic of Albania,
2. The Political Society of the Macedonians from Republic of Albania "Mir" (Peace) - Tirana,
3. The Society of the Armni (Vlachs) from the Republic of Albania,
4. The Society of the Egyptians in the Republic of Albania "Nefreta" - Tirana,
5. OMO "Ilinden" - Democratic Movement - Organization of the Macedonians from the Pirin Macedonia - Republic of Bulgaria,
6. "Vinozhito" - (Rainbow) - European Movement - Organization of the Macedonian ethnic minority in the Republic of Greece,
7. The Scientific Society of Western Thrace - Organization of theTurkish national minoritry in Western Thrace, Republic of Greece,
8. The Association of the Macedonians from the Aegean Part of Macedonia, with its seat in Bitola,
9. The League of the Vlachs from the Republic of Macedonia,
10. The Association of the Rhoma - Tetovo, Republic of Macedonia,
11. The Association of the Serbs, the Montenegrins and Macedonians - Tetovo, Republic of Macedonia,
12. The Association of the Boshnyaks (Bosnians) in the Republic of Macedonia.

30 November 1997
Popova Shapka, Tetovo
Republic of Macedonia

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