Greece: Public Appeal for the Recognition of National Minorities and the Reactions


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Subject: Greece: Public Appeal for the Recognition of National Minorities and the Reactions

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Greece: Public Appeal for the Recognition of National
Minorities and First Reactions


PUBLIC APPEAL FOR THE RECOGNITION OF NATIONAL MINORITIES BY 3 MINORITY
DEPUTIES AND 13 MINORITY OR NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS ON THE
OCCASION OF THE 25TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE RESTORATION OF DEMOCRACY (24
JULY) 

To the Speaker of the Greek Parliament and the Party Leaders 

23 July 1999 

We welcome tomorrow's 25th anniversary of the restoration of democracy
in Greece. We would like to note, however, that, in spite of the
unquestionable improvements in the domain of human rights during the
last 25 years, the Republic of Greece has an important weakness: it
does not recognize the existence of national minorities on its
territory, regardless of the fact that many Greek citizens identify
themselves nationally as Turks or Macedonians. The undersigned, who
either belong to these minorities, or defend as non-governmental
organizations their rights, call upon the Greek state:

1. to recognize the existence of a Macedonian and a Turkish minorities
 
2. to ratify promptly the Framework Convention for the Protection of
National Minorities of the Council of Europe without any conditions
for its implementation
 
3. to implement the principles of the Convention, as well as of the
related OSCE documents, so that all forms of discrimination or
persecution against members of these minorities cease and, on the
contrary, their rights be respected.
 
Deputies and Organizations of the Turkish Minority (10)

- Birol Akifoglu, Deputy of New Democracy, Xanthi
- Galip S. Galip, Deputy of PASOK, Rhodope
- Mustafa Mustafa, Deputy of the Coalition of the Left, Rhodope
- Advisory Committee of the Turkish Minority of Western Thrace
- Cultural and Educational Minority Association of Chilia
- Turkish Union of Xanthi
- Turkish Youth of Komotini
- Union of Turkish Teachers of Western Thrace
- Western Thrace Minority Scientists' Association
- Western Thrace Minority Young Academicians' Club
 
Organizations of the Macedonian Minority (3)

- Home of Macedonian Culture
- Macedonian Movement for Human Rights
- Rainbow - European Movement [political party of the national
Macedonian minority]
 
Non-Governmental Organizations (3)

- Committee for Human Rights and Against Racism (Kalamata)
- Greek Helsinki Monitor
- Minority Rights Group - Greece
-------------------------------------

Moslem deputies want Greece to recognise minorities 
05:21 p.m Jul 23, 1999 Eastern 
By Costas Paris 

ATHENS, July 23 (Reuters) - Three Moslem deputies asked Greece's
leaders on Friday to recognise that the country had Turkish and
Macedonian minorities, prompting an angry reaction from across the
political spectrum. 

"Despite clear improvements in human rights issues in the past 25
years, Greek democracy has a serious shortfall," the deputies said in
a letter sent to the president of parliament and the leaders of all
political parties. 

"It does not recognise the existence of national minorities despite
the fact that many Greeks consider themselves as ethnic Turks or
Macedonians," the letter, which was also signed by a number of
minority groups, said. 

"We call on the Greek state to recognise the existence of a Turkish
and a Macedonian minority," it said. 

Greece says it has a 120,000-strong Moslem minority in the northern
Thrace region bordering Turkey, remnants of the Ottoman empire. It
says they have Turkish, Gypsy and Pomac origin and therefore cannot be
identified ethnically but only by religion. 

It does not recognise a Macedonian minority, saying the issue was
artificially created by nationalist circles in the former Yugoslav
republic of Macedonia who had territorial ambitions on Greece's own
northern Macedonia region. 

"Greece is a democracy respecting human rights and personal liberties.
The Moslem minority is equally treated... unhistoric and unrealistic
fabrications (the existence of ethnic minorities) will not be
realised," government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said in a statement. 

The main conservative opposition New Democracy party attacked the
letter, saying it would find no support among Greeks regardless of
their religion." 

The letter came on the 25th anniversary of the restoration of
democracy after the collapse of a seven-year dictatorship. 

It was the first time that Greece's Moslem parliamentarians,
representing three different parties, had officially asked for ethnic
rights. 

The question of a Moslem minority is a major issue dividing
arch-rivals Greece and Turkey, also at odds over territorial rights in
the Aegean Sea and the divided island of Cyprus. 

Ankara says the minority are ethnic Turks. There have been occasional
incidents in Thrace between minority Moslems and Orthodox Christians
who make up the vast majority of Greeks. 

In the run-up to the Kosovo war, Greece expressed concern that demands
for independence by ethnic groups in the Yugoslav province, if
encouraged, could spread throughout the Balkans. 

Greek and Turkish officials are due to start talks next week on a
series of relatively non-controversial issues such as tourism and
immigration to try to build better links between Athens and Ankara. 

The attempt at dialogue has been already marred by accusations by
Athens that Turkish fighters harassed a Greek plane carrying Transport
Minister Tassos Mandelis from Cyprus to Athens on Wednesday. 

On Friday, the Greek Defence Ministry said Turkish fighters had
violated Greece's airspace over the Aegean 10 times and that they had
been intercepted by Greek planes. 


Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication and
redistribution of Reuters content is expressly prohibited without the
prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters shall not be liable for any
errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance
thereon. 


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