MEETING WITH EUROPEAN COMMISSION ON RACISM AND INTOLERANCE
(October 20, 1999)
On Wednesday, October 20, 1999, a delegation from RAINBOW met with representatives of the European Commission on Racism and Intolerance (ECRI). The meeting took place in Athens.
The Secretariat of ECRI is part of the Directorate of Human Rights of the Council of Europe (CoE) and is authorized to investigate activities undertaken by member states vis-à-vis the regulations and policies of the CoE. It focuses on such issues as racism, xenophobia, intolerance and anti-Semitism, among others. It advises member states how to implement concrete policies in regard to such questions on a local, national and European level.
ECRI's work is quite thorough, and it produces reports on all the member states of the CoE. This is the first time representatives of the Macedonian national minority in Greece have met with delegates of the ECRI. RAINBOW was privileged to meet with the following representatives: Mr. Michael E. Head, 2nd Vice-Chair, Mrs. Isobelle Jaques and Mr. Giancarlo Cardinale, both of the Secretariat, as well as Ms Lauri Channikainen, a member of the ECRI.
Representatives of RAINBOW were able to give a detailed explanation of the situation with regard to the discriminatory policies practiced by successive Greek governments against ethnic Macedonians. It was stressed that denying basic rights to the Macedonian minority was not acceptable of Greece given that it enjoyed all the privileges of a member state of the Council of Europe.
This meeting took place a few days after the meeting between representatives of RAINBOW and Mr. Max van der Stoel, High Commissioner on National Minorities for the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). These two meetings with such high-level officials are indicative of the seriousness with which European institutions regard the problems faced by the Macedonians in Greece. The concerns have developed to a point that such meetings have now taken place within the borders of Greece itself.
RAINBOW wants to emphasize that respect for ethnic minorities, (Macedonian and Turkish) is the most important factor in the future Europeanization of Greece and in the further development of its political democracy.
It is unfortunate that we must continue to raise our concerns before international institutions. However, the ongoing refusal by Greek authorities to start a dialogue in regard to these concerns leaves us with no other alternative.