July 26, 2012 – Washington, D.C. and Thessaloniki (Solun) – The European Union (EU) appointed its first “Special Representative for Human Rights” yesterday, an office which would ostensibly fight on behalf of the victims of bigotry in the EU and would be independently operating from their national governments. The choice of nationalistic former Foreign Minister of Greece, Stavros Lambrinidis, undermines any such goal and is unacceptable to the United Macedonian Diaspora (UMD). According to numerous human rights reports by Amnesty, Human Rights Watch, the United Nations, the OSCE, and the U.S. Department of State, Greece has one of the worst human rights records in the entire European Union.
“The advent of this high-level EU position ought to have been a positive development, in principle. Because Lambrinidis is so strongly connected to the government of his own country, it could be very difficult for him to separate his role as human rights envoy from his role as an agent of Greek government policies, and thus, human rights in Greece will most probably take a backseat,” said UMD President Metodija A. Koloski. “Lambrinidis’ track record as a primary agitator in the Greek government’s propaganda war against Macedonia should have also disqualified him, this decision is highly inappropriate.”
UMD Regional Representative for Greece Eugenia Natsoulidou stated: “Candidates for such a position might be expected to have a renowned international reputation in human rights advocacy. However, not only does Lambrindis have no such background, he actually served as one of the highest-ranking ministers of a country with arguably the worst human rights record in the entire European Union.”
Human Rights Watch recently reported on the rising tide of xenophobic violence in Greece, detailing how the Greek police routinely fail to respond to emergency calls about ethnic violence, how perpetrators are not held to account, and how victims are discouraged from filing complaints. HRW was especially critical of attacks against migrants and refugees in Greece, stating: “Xenophobic violence is a pervasive, shocking and a well-known fact (in Greece). We are not seeing an adequate response from the Greek state. We found arrests are rare and police inaction the general rule.”
On the international stage, Lambrindis has been a key leader of the Greek government’s vehemently anti-Macedonian policies, such as the “name dispute.” However, in 2011, during the European Parliament’s annual general debate, Lambrinidis admitted the Greek government’s dispute against the Republic of Macedonia’s name: “is not really, and never has been, a ‘name’ issue per se, but instead an effort to “put behind us notions of irredentism, of attempting to rewrite history and borders.”
UMD Director of Communications Mark Branov responded: “The Greek government’s ‘irredentism’ argument against Macedonia has to be one of the most shameless red herrings in the history of international relations… any genuine fears of the Greek government about an armed invasion from the Republic of Macedonia are non-existent. These empty accusations from Lambrinidis are really about forcing a highly falsified Greek government version of Macedonian history on the world, to further oppress the unrecognized Macedonian minority in Greece, and to bolster the Greek government’s official myth of ethnic homogeneity.”
“Not only does the so-called name dispute have nothing to do with the Republic of Macedonia’s name, which Lambrinidis openly admits, but it actually has nothing to do with the Republic of Macedonia at all. It has everything to do with the ethnic Macedonians of northern Greece,” added Branov.
Greece does not recognize the civil rights or identity of any of its indigenous ethnic minorities, such as Macedonians, Albanians, or Turks, or newly arrived ethnic minorities from the Middle East and South Asia. Any religions other than Greek Orthodoxy are routinely suppressed, as well. Non-Greeks do not enjoy even the most basic legal protections or civil liberties. They live under constant threat of government interference, as well as violence from radical groups, such as the newly mainstream Chrysi Avgi (Golden Dawn), an openly neo-Nazi political party that recently won 18 seats in the Greek Parliament.
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