The United Macedonian Diaspora (UMD) and Macedonian Human Rights Movement International (MHRMI) applaud the Prime Minister of the Republic of Macedonia, Nikola Gruevski, for his recent letter to the Prime Minister of the Hellenic Republic Kostas Karamanlis.
The letter officially sheds light on the plight of Aegean Macedonians; exiled from their homes in what is now Northern Greece, and disallowed from returning to their birthplaces unless they declare themselves as ethnically Greek. This is a first concrete step by any Macedonian government to resolve this issue conclusively. For too long and for various reasons has this issue been avoided.
The response of Prime Minister Karamanlis to Prime Minister Gruevski’s letter is farcical. Athens continues to stonewall and deny these people their birthright. Karamanlis went as far as denying that a Macedonian minority in Greece exists or has ever existed!
Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the United Nations all recognize the existence of a sizable Macedonian minority in Aegean Macedonia/Northern Greece. The Macedonians of Greece have their own political party (Rainbow Party Vinozhito) and many other obvious proofs (e.g., documentaries, pictures, history books). The flight of 28,000 Macedonian child refugees during the Greek Civil War is equally incontrovertible.
Even today, in 2008, the Macedonians of Northern Greece continue to experience systemic discrimination by the Greek government. In countless documented instances, they have been arrested, threatened and attacked by government officials or Neo-Nazi groups.
In fact, these Macedonians must publicly renounce their Macedonian consciousness in order to obtain favorable standing in employment, education, and other spheres of their daily lives; a condition that was clearly documented in the 1994 Human Rights Watch report entitled Denying Ethnic Identity: the Macedonians of Greece.
Furthermore, Macedonians that were exiled from Greece during the Greek Civil War in the late 1940s are still banned from returning to their birthplaces. They are routinely denied restitution of property by the Greek government, and cannot obtain Greek citizenship despite being born on in Greece.
UMD and MHRMI appeal to the Greek government to meet all obligations under EU regulations, UN conventions, and international human rights law. It is Greece’s responsibility to respect the rights of its Macedonian citizens and to honor the numerous international treaties it has signed.
These demands do not have a nationalistic agenda, but rather, are based on simple belief in the justice system, and the desire for a favorable outcome for these Macedonians. The legal and democratic principles upon which the European Union exists must be respected by all members, including the Hellenic Republic.