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Rainbow Congress Postponed Due to
Neo-Nazi Extremists and the Lack of Public Safety

Press Release

Read this page in Greek | Read this page in Macedonian

 

Florina/Lerin 8-12-2003

The Rainbow Party Congress, scheduled for December 7, 2003, was to be held in the city of Edessa (Voden) to consider, among other things, the upcoming national and European elections for 2004. One of the main topics on the agenda was going to be the political platform of the party within the current political reality shaped by the formation of new political parties, such as the European Free Alliance (EFA). This is a process to which Rainbow (Ouranio Toxo) has actively contributed as a member of the alliance since 2000. However, the Congress is now postponed and we feel obliged to expose the reasons and the events behind our decision.

The party Congress was originally scheduled to take place on November 30, 2003. However, the owner of the "Xenia" Hotel, which we had initially hoped to use, refused to rent it to us. The Organizing Committee eventually came to an agreement with a different private party in order to rent another conference room.

When the Congress venue was subsequently printed in various far-right publications, "unknown" perpetrators damaged the owner's car, they smashed part of the conference room and the owner received threats against his life and against his family. Following those incidents, and fully respecting the justifiable fears and concerns of the owner, the event was postponed.

We asked local authorities, including the Mayor of Edessa, Mr. Giannis Siontras, to help us organize our Congress in a public space typically used for such events. The Mayor suggested a hall managed by the cultural association "Alexander the Great", however, the date would have to be changed to December 7th instead of November 30th. The Rainbow Organizing Committee accepted the alternative suggested by the Mayor.

The hall suggested is used for hosting similar events organized by the cultural association "Alexander the Great" of Edessa, the Municipality, other organizations, political parties and groups active in the city. Changing the date of our Congress was necessary because another event had hastily been scheduled for November 30.

A far-right racist party, the "Hellenic Front", was holding that event; members of the neo-Nazi group "Chryssi Avgi" (Golden Dawn) and other far-right extremist groups were to participate as well. This counter-event was scheduled to impede the Rainbow Congress, as was explicitly proclaimed in propagandist publications the week before. It should be noted that Periandros Androutsopoulos, second in command of the neo-Nazi group "Chryssi Avgi", is a fugitive and has been charged with the attempted murder and serious wounding of a civilian in Athens.

On November 30, 2003, after their meeting in the "Alexander the Great" room, the neo-Nazi group, along with the other far-right groups, held a rally in the streets of Edessa criticizing the Rainbow Congress and threatening that on December 7th they would be present to prevent it from taking place.

During this time, certain board members of the cultural association "Alexander the Great" received "business visits" at work from individuals who could be described as "extra-governmental" and "state security personnel". Meanwhile, in the streets of Edessa, neo-Nazis were distributing inflammatory pamphlets employing derogatory language.

Following these events, on December 1st, 2003, Nelly Maes, Deputy Chairman of the European Parliamentary Group, "European Free Alliance-Greens" (of which Rainbow is a member), addressed a letter to the Greek Prime Minister, Mr. Kostas Simitis, requesting the Greek Government take the necessary measures to ensure the Rainbow Congress was able to take place without incident including protecting the safety of its participants, since representatives of the European Parliamentary Group were invited to the Congress.

Given the negative circumstances, Mr. Vasileios Papas, the President of the local cultural association and manager of the conference room, rejected our request to rent the association's room; he even refused a meeting with the organizers of the Rainbow Congress.

PASOK MP for Pella, Mr. Christos Vosnakis, was fully informed of the situation and so was Deputy Minister of Sports, Mr. Georgios Lianis. At the same time, following a new meeting between the Rainbow Organizing Committee and the Mayor, the latter refused to assign any public space for the Congress.

On December 3, 2003, Nelly Maes faxed another letter to the Greek Prime Minister asking that the Greek Government intervene. Authorities, however, failed to take any action whatsoever to ensure the proper and safe undertaking of the Congress and refused to respond to any of the letters.

On December 4, 2003, the board of the "Alexander the Great" association sent the following e-mail to the Rainbow offices cancelling the conference room.

Progressive Cultural Association Edessa
"Alexander the Great"
Agiou Dimitriou 7
58200 Edessa

Edessa 4-12-2003
Tel: 23810-23377
A.F.M. 099245599

To: Rainbow Party
Stefanou Dragoumi 11
53100 Florina

In reply to your fax message, we make known to you the following:
The administrative council of our association has decided not to allow the use of its congress hall for the reception - organization of your Congress.

The Administrative Council of the Cultural Association

At the same time announcements advertising group excursions to Edessa for December 7th -- with the sole purpose of blocking the Rainbow Congress -- appeared in printed material and newspapers issued by the far-right groups that had rallied against the Congress the week before.

(Greek Neo-Nazis Protest Against the Rainbow Congress)
Pic 1  |  Pic 2  |  Pic 3  |  Pic 4  |  Pic 5

(Examples of Greek Racist Advertising to Block the Rainbow Congress)
Nov. 13 | Nov. 27 | Nov. 30 | Dec. 4 | Dec. 4 | Dec. 4

Whereas Greek authorities, both state and local, tolerated without criticism the rallies and printed slogans of neo-Nazi groups and far-right extremists they refused to ensure the safety of those who wanted to participate in the Rainbow Congress. The silence among Greek authorities and the refusal of party representatives to condemn such racist phenomena raises serious questions about Greece's commitment to democracy.

Within the context of these incidents, the Congress Organizing Committee decided to postpone the event.

This, unfortunately, is the situation in Greece, at the dawn of 2004. Greece is probably the only European country where neo-Nazism is tolerated among officials, where racism, anti-Semitism, xenophobia and discrimination against minority groups are commonplace, marking part of everyday reality, both at the level of Greek society and its politics.

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 officially refers to its Turkish minority as the "Muslim" minority and refuses to acknowledge the existence of its Macedonian minority; a country that refuses to sign the Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.

Greek officials constantly demand basic rights for Greek minorities in Turkey and Albania, yet, Greeks do not seem to notice that these are the very same rights Greece denies its own minorities.

The Rainbow Political Secretariat

 

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Συνέντευξη: Ευάγγελος Κωφός, Έλληνας ιστορικός
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