Interview with Mr. Pavlos Voskopoulos for Utrinski Vesnik (10.07.2008)
A reform to the so-called Greek nationalism is necessary, says Pavlos Voskopoulos, leader of the RAINBOW Party in his interview to Dimitar Culev in Florina (Greece)
Q.: How do you interpret the latest statement of Greek Foreign Ministry’s spokesman in which he called the question concerning the existence of Macedonian minority in Greece “non-existing and ungrounded”?
A.: Kumutzakos’s statement depicts the continual policy of the Greek state against the Macedonian minority since 1912 up-to-date. I would say “ungrounded” and “non-existing” is the claim that Greece is a democratic state.
Greece has a legislative, that is to say a Law from 1981 concerning the repatriation of the “political refugees” of the 1946-1948 Civil War which decisively says who belongs to the “Greeks by origin” category. Why do the state and the Ministry of the Interior mention “Greeks by origin”? Does it mean that the other citizens are not “Greeks by origin”? Does not the state indirectly recognize the existing minority from this Law by mentioning the “non-existing” minority? If Greece clearly declares the expelled Macedonians during the Civil War in Greece as “non-Greeks by origin”, does this mean that their relatives in Greece do not exist? Why does Greece take away the citizenship of members of the “non-existing” minority and forbids the economic emigrants-Macedonians living overseas to enter the villages in which they were born? Today it takes away the Greek citizenship on the base of the Law paragraph 1 g because our co-citizens declare their Macedonian identity in Australia or in Canada, for example. By mentioning the “non-existing” minority, the Greek state sends a message to the Macedonians, and even to their relatives living in northern Greece. The aim of the modern “sophisticated terrorism” is to intimidate the Macedonians from declaring their Macedonian spirit not only in Australia and Canada but also of their relatives in Greece. Why does not the “self-loving” Greek policy implement a census of the population asking about their identity and language in relation to the “non-existing” minority? Is perhaps the continual denial an expression of fear from the “existing” Macedonians?
Q.: Can the census make any changes knowing that is the quantity side of the problem?
A.: If the Greek-Christian minority in Turkey of about two thousand people in Istanbul is respected and recognized by the Turkish state, how many thousand Macedonians should live in Greece in order to be recognized and respected by the Greek state as a Macedonian minority? Let me not speak about the tortures against Rainbow throughout these years in the elections, in forged figures, manipulations with votes…there is only one official figure from Greece regarding the elections – that 5,000 to 7,500 votes were given to Rainbow. How many more “non-existing” should there be for them to have the rights that the Greeks have in Turkey?
The reports of the commissions of international institutions, for instance the ECRI, the Council of Europe, the condemning decisions of the European Court for Human Rights, and dozens reports of international NGOs have for years clearly mentioned the Macedonian minority in Greece and conveyed strong criticisms against Greece for its non-democratic attitude towards the minority. So, the Greek policy about the Macedonian minority is a totally ungrounded argumentation.
Q.: The Greek president placed the question about the differences over the name, a dispute that Greece itself is creating, in the sphere of “de-stabilization” for the Bakans. Is there anythong else behind the dispute that is freightening Greece – not the name but something more substantial?
A.: Aa a part of the destructive general Greek politics in the Balkans there is, first of all, the non-recognition of independent Republic of Macedonia and, normally, the creation of the “dispute” over the name impose by the state. Actually, Greece hopes and wishes to de-stabilize the neighboring state. The denial of the name Macedonia means denial of the national identity and this is clear to all the Maceodnians wherever they are. The reason is the essence of the Greek nationalism. From the position of being a member in EU and NATO, Greece is implementing an aggressive and blackmailing policy, which was demonstrated and evinced in Bucharest and in NATO. Is it not a political nonsense for any Greek politician to claim that the “dispute” over the name is de-stabilizing for the region (a “dispute” that Greece is forcing out), and not the Greek veto against the membership of the Republic of Macedonia in NATO?
Q.: Your party, which is a part of the European Alliance, is trying to push forward the truth about the existence of a different language minority in Greece. How much familiar is Europe with this topic and is it able to understand it?
A.: In the past few years we have been politically active as Rainbow through the membership in the European Free Alliance – European Political Party (ESA-EPP). On the one hand, we have “protective wings”, which means basic protection from the Greek nationalism. On the other hand, we have the opportunity to make Europe familiar with our problems and with the non-recognition of the Macedonian minority. The member-parties of the ESA-EPP are composed of 30 small minority parties and parties of bigger peoples, for instance the Flanders from Belgium and the Catalonians from Spain. We have made them very well familiar with the essence and the deficit of democracy in Greece. At the same time, we are informing our partners about the destructive anti-Macedonian policy against the Macedonian minority in Greece, the denial of the Macedonian identity or the Maceodnian language. For instance, at the General Assembly Plenary session of the ESA-EPP in the European Parliament and in the presence of hundreds Euro-parliamentarians and others, we imposed official translation from Macedonian ino other languages and vice versa. There was “Macedonian language” written on the plates of the European Parliament, which means that we de facto imposed the naming of the language as it is. It seems that we had predicted that Greece would have posed the aggressive question at this time even concerning the language of the Republic of Macedonia and whether it would be called Macedonian language.
Q.: Five years ago, when the 55th anniversay of the exodus of the children-refugees after the Civil War was in preparation, your party tried to initiate the question about the taking away of citizenship of the expelled at that time because they were not “Greeks by origin”.
A.: As Rainbow we constantly pose the question of the Macedonians expelled from the Greek state. Not only the children-refugees, but all the expelled in general. We have asked the European Parliament and the Council of Europe to make political pressure over Greece. We do this in principle on all levels, even in UN commissions and at all OSCE conferences. Unfortunately, mildly speaking the Greek politics is rasist and discriminatory against its former citizens becase it took away their Greek citizenship and property by force. In 1981 and 1985 Greece decided to give back the citizenship and the property confiscated after the Civill War, including compensations, but only to the Greeks.
Q.: At which stage is it and are there any possibilities for resolving this question?
A.: This problem is a big political question. Greece ignores any attempts for a positive resolution not only regarding compensatations for the property, but also for restoring the citizenship. As a matter of fact, with this it wants to eliminate a part of the Macedonian minority. It does not want to restore the citizenship and rehabilitate the Macedonians, because all this people, their descendents and familites are aware that they are Macedonians, with Macedonian identity, and with good knwledge of the Macedonian language. Thsi is exactly why Greece does not want to give back their citizenship, so that they cannot have the right to the status of a Greek citizen, something they had before the Civil War. Under such circumstances, the Macedonians would have the same duties, but also the rights like all the their Greek co-citizens.
Q.: Thousands of children, who were totally innocent, were taken outside the Greek borders.
A.: This is another aspect that is not just a detail of the general question of the discriminatory Greek politics against the Macedonians. Let us, as Rainbow, ask the following question: have all (formerly eastern) states demonstrated decades-long hospitality to these expelled Macedonians who used to be Greek citizens? It is a fact, for instance, that the then Socialist Republic of Macedonia within the SFRY was hosting the Macedonians for decades, providing conditons for them and spending money from the Budget for Greek citizens deprived of their citizenship. Or, in other words, can any of these states ask for compensation from Greece for spending budgetary funds for over 60 years? Does Greece have to give compensation not only to the expelled but also to the states hosting these Greek citizens?
Q.: Can Greece and Macedonia, in spite of the tense relations, close down the question that burdens their mutual relations?
A.: This is a big and a deep question. The most important of all is to make (and it needs time) a reform in the so-called Greek nationalism. No matter how good a neughboring state is and with good-intentioned people, the problem of good relations with the neighbors depends on the general attitude created by the political elites.
Unfortunately, the Greek society has been closed down for decades, self-loving because of the nationalist myth as a selected people. The dominating views of the majority are anti-Turkish, anti-Albanian, and anti-Macedonian, with negative feelings, with even openly anti-western and anti-American feelings. From te psychological point of view, it is true that most of the Greeks, due to the complex incorporated in them by the system, are developing relations that cannot be called sympathy for the neighboring peoples.
There are exceptions and individuals, small parts in the Greek society, non-parliamentarian political currents, including us from Rainbow, who are trying to work on the elimination of the deficit of democracy in the field of human rights in Greece, for a good quality society for all the others, for all the citizens.This is how I see the future.
Q.: Now the question concerning the properties of the expelled is becoming current...
A.: The key to the question is the citizenship, and not the properties and the compensations. In the end, Greece might accept to give some compensations or return the properties. Substantially, however, Greece is continually doing its best for all of them to die with time, that is to say to exterminate and finally erase the Macedonians. It is necessary to speak loudly about the restoration of the citizenship. The question of compensations and returning back the properties is secondary. The political emigrants, who were ethnic Greeks, were rehabilitated by the state, they received back their Greek citizenship, and then their confiscated properties were given them back, including construction sites and facilities used by the state institutions, as well as compensations. And this was not all: they also received favorable construction credits and similar, including pensions, because those who participated in the Civil War had previously participated in the war against the occupiers, that is to say in the anti-fascist alliance. And there are also Macedonians who participated in the Civil War who prior to that had participated in the resistance against fascism. Have they not been discriminated again?