Rainbow Congress Postponed Due to
Extremists and the Lack of Public
December 8, 2003
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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
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
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
To: Rainbow Party
Stefanou Dragoumi 11
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
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
Nov. 13 | Nov.
27 | Nov.
30 | Dec.
4 | Dec.
4 | Dec.
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