RAINBOW Participates in the General Assembly of the European Alliance
August, 30 and 31, 2001
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Members of the European Parliament from the EFA/GREENS Group,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As members of Greece's ethnic Macedonian minority, and as the sole minority party from the Balkan region represented in the European Parliament through the European Free Alliance, we are compelled in response to the crisis in the Republic of Macedonia to express our profound concern with regard to current developments in the Balkans.
We believe that everything we in the Balkan region have been living through for the past ten years is rooted in the nationalistic and irredentist ideologies that have been paramount in the Balkans from the creation of the region's nation states to the present. Permit me to point out that in the Balkans the term "nationalistic" has a negative connotation, associated both with the irredentist concepts that have led and continue to lead to armed conflict as well as with the chauvinist policy of ethnic cleansing.
The hypocrisy of the Balkan leaders with regard to events in the former Yugoslavia during this past decade has been entirely typical.
Serbia, which refers to Kosovo as an integral part of Yugoslavia and opposes its independence -- opposes, that is, any change in existing borders -- had previously engaged in ethnic cleansing operations both in Kosovo and in Bosnia in pursuit of its vision of an "ethnically pure" "Great Serbia". Today, Serbia is progressing towards the conclusion of a "special association" agreement with the Serbian Republic of Bosnia with the ultimate aim of annexing that state, thus in effect working towards the dismemberment of Bosnia-Herzegovina: a border change, that is, within the Balkans. Croatia, meanwhile, is working towards a similar agreement with the Croatian community in Bosnia.
Bulgaria, whose President thunderously declared on the first day of the crisis in the Republic of Macedonia that the country would send troops to Macedonia to defend its territorial integrity, as if it were a Bulgarian province, thus reviving visions of turn-of-the-century Bulgarian nationalism, continues at the same time to refuse to recognise the particular ethnic identity of the Macedonians, regarding them as Bulgarians.
The Albanian government, despite declaring its respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Macedonia, refused at the Balkan summit held in Skopje to discuss events on the Macedonia / Kosovo border to sign a declaration condemning the armed Albanian terrorists of the so-called "National Liberation Army", because the joint communique referred to "Albanian terrorists". At the same time, the Albanian Parliament condemned all the Balkan states and NATO, because it supported the Macedonian government in the measures it was taking to defend the country's territorial integrity, while talk of "Greater Albania" is frequently heard from Albania's political leaders.
Greece, which publicly proclaims its support for the territorial integrity of the Republic of Macedonia, has for the past ten years been implementing policies based on embargo and economic pressure to try to force its northern neighbour to change its constitutional name, systematically preventing its accession to European institutions and thus fostering destabilisation rather than stabilisation, and even anticipating territorial gains from the country's eventual dissolution. The various Balkan nationalisms, in other words, have been flirting with irredentist ideologies, and in implementing analogous policies have not hesitated to use minority populations as sovereign levers. The Milosevic policy of exploitation of the Serbian population in Bosnia is just one recent characteristic example.
With regard to the Albanian minority in the Republic of Macedonia, a country which is a functioning parliamentary democracy, we hold that an ethnic minority (or part of one) cannot use terrorist methods and armed violence in the name of human or minority rights, since it has the possibility of peaceful use of the country's institutions to raise problems and seek whatever rights it wishes. Just imagine what might happen in the Balkans, or in any European country for that matter, if in the name of minority or other rights armed groups were to set themselves up to use violence in order to impose their views! Seeing how the NLA has by the use of armed violence provoked the intervention of the international community in the Republic of Macedonia, why would members of other minorities or ethnic groups not consider employing similar means?
The international community's legitimisation of armed behaviour may spark similar phenomena in neighbouring Balkan states. Has anyone considered what might happen if, for example, the Turkish minority in Bulgaria, or the Greek minority in Albania, or the ethnic Macedonian minority in Greece, were to adopt the policies of the NLA? How would the international community react in that case?
At this point we would like to highlight the double standard used by the international community to monitor respect for human and minority rights. What happens in the countries that belong to the European Union, for example? How are they controlled and what sanctions are imposed when they fail to respect minority rights? As a result of the recent crisis in the Republic of Macedonia and the "framework agreement" that has been signed, there will be constitutional changes in that country that will further expand the rights of its Albanian minority. Indeed, the European Union even sent a special mediator, in the person of Mr. Leotard, to take part in the talks.
Why, one might ask, has the EU never appointed Mr. Leotard or anyone else as a special mediator to bring about constitutional changes in France: to broaden, for example, the rights of the Corsicans?
Why is there no EU special mediator or envoy in Greece, to talk about the rights of the Turkish minority, or about the ethnic Macedonian minority, which is not even recognised by the Greek government and does not enjoy even the most rudimentary of rights?
Why, for example, does the European Union not send a special mediator to Italy, to see that the language rights of the ethnic and linguistic minorities in that country are firmly entrenched?
Should the EU perhaps be taking initiatives in that direction?
RAINBOW, which is well aware that ethnic minorities have been used as destabilising factors in the past, and may well be so used in the future, has repeatedly proclaimed the inviolability of existing borders, particularly here in the Balkans, where history has bequeathed us a mosaic of ethnicities and cultures that have co-existed for centuries in the same geographic areas. At the same time, it has adopted the principle that the political behaviour of a minority or ethnic group should be such as to reassure the entire population of the country it lives in that it is not seeking any immediate or gradual change in the borders through the implementation of its rights.
Ethnic minorities must refuse to become the object of international rivalries and interventions in the domestic affairs of the country they live in, but should rather develop relations of friendship, collaboration and solidarity with all the citizens of that state.
The essential preconditions for this, of course, are condemnation of any policy of oppression of ethnic minorities, entrenchment of minority rights by the state authorities, and respect for ethno-cultural identity.
This being the case, the political behaviour of Albanian democrats in the Republic of Macedonia should be based on creating alliances with Macedonian democrats in order to resolve the problems facing them, together with condemnation of any form of armed or terrorist action. And Macedonian democrats should be thinking along the same lines: that is, they should be condemning any action that violates human rights, not only on the part of the Albanian minority but of any minority, thus making a major contribution to the democratisation of their country.
These are the principles that we believe must underlie the behaviour of all Balkan democrats in their own countries, if we are to have genuine friendship, solidarity, collaboration and peace in the Balkans.
In conclusion, we believe that the Balkan states and the minorities and ethnic groups that live in them should look to the lessons of the European experience with regard to gradual unification of the European states, with respect for ethnic minority rights overcoming ethnic prejudices and rivalries.
Thank you for your attention.