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We publish the letter that the Macedonian Education and Cultural Movement of Edessa sent to the organizers of the debate for national minorities in Greece that took place on 12/12/2016.


 


Round table discussion on the occasion of the International Day of Human Rights

Subject: Ethnic minorities in Greece and recommendations of international organizations

3rd floor room of the ESHEA (Journalists' Union of Athens Daily Newspapers) building , in Athens


Ladies and gentlemen,

First of all, I would like to thank the organizers of the debate on "National minorities in Greece and recommendations of international organizations”, which are the Greek Helsinki Monitor and the Equality, Peace and Friendship Party, for the occasion given to me to present the views and proposals of the Macedonian minority in Greece, although only by this letter because of my inability to travel to Athens to attend the event in person.

My name is Eugenia Natsoulidou and I represent the non-profit company "Macedonian Education and Cultural Movement of Edessa", which has, as its key activity, the preservation and promotion of the mother tongue of Macedonians in Greece. Our company is a member of the European Organization, the Network to Promote Language Diversity (NPLD), with headquarters in Brussels.

Voluntary self-determination is one of the basic human rights which, unfortunately, in Greece did not have the protection that the State should provide to its citizens with any diversity, being it national / ethnic or linguistic or religious, etc. The state, being restricted by its very constitution that states «education is a key task of the State and shall aim at the moral, intellectual, professional and physical education of Greeks, the development of national and religious consciousness and at their formation as free and responsible citizens "(Article 16-Paragraph 2), has established, in fact, a situation of rejection of any of its citizens   who do not fall into what the state each time decides that is nationally correct, thus violating the right of voluntary personal and collective self-determination. The right of self-determination is based on the conscience of each individual where a democratic State, that embraces the principles of European civilization, should not interfere.

I will not mention the persecution of all ethnic minorities in Greece in the past, because much time would be needed but also because, more or less, these are well known historical events on this issue. But I want to focus on the present and in the future. Greece has already lost a huge cultural wealth because of the old nationalist, in the bad sense, policy of creating an ethnic homogeneity on its people. It is high time now to change this and try to save, by state’s initiative, what can be saved from this wealth, without discrimination, without fear, without suspicion. Minorities are wealth for a country and as such should be treated. Violence, oppression, discrimination, injustice always has, as a result, the radicalization of a part of the minorities, with tragic consequences for all and for the majority, too.

Greece, as an equal member state of the EU, among other reforms, should take heed to sign and ratify the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. These conventions are the tools that Greece must offer to its minorities, so they can freely decide how and where to use them. Only in this way they will feel that the state actually protects them. If the state persists in violating basic human rights, as by insisting on homogeneity, there will always be risks of social unrest, distrust toward the state, discrimination and exploitation of situations, with unpredictable consequences.

The persistence of the Greek government in stating to international organizations that in the country there are no people who say they belong to national minorities or that they are too few to constitute a national minority, it is at least curious when considering the fact that the very state refuses to make a census of its population based on national/ethnic, linguistic, religious, etc. criteria! What does it has to fear, if this is indeed the situation?

A proper census will give evidence to the state about the minorities, so to make it able to address this issue calmly and with a serious dialogue with them, on taking initiatives towards their protection and on the solution of any problems that exist in their communities. And we must finally stop fearing one another! Fear is a bad counselor, in such cases. But only the state, with the right initiatives, can get us out of this state of fear, rather than the minorities themselves, which, anyway, are always at disadvantage against the state and do not have much room for maneuver.

In closing this text, I would like to point out that in Greece the people must realize that it is not considered a democratic conquest and respect for people just the fact that the oppression of national minorities is not as hard today as it was in the past, when they nearly were wiped out. Instead, respect is required for minorities and protection of their freedom to exist and to be able to exist also in the future, as there existed in the past, for many centuries, and survived until today, together with the riches of their culture, which they want to save and promote word wide.


Thank you for your attention!

 

March 4, 2016

European Parliament Conference Calls for Greece to Recognise and Better Protect its Minorities

On 2 March 2016, Csaba Sógor MEP (EPP), hosted a conference at the European Parliament in Brussels titled ‘Freedom of Association in Greece: A Loophole in European Minority Rights Standards’. The conference, organised in association with the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) and the Federation of Western Thrace Turks in Europe (ABTTF), received unexpected attention as two Golden Dawn MEPs (non-attached) were caught on camera attempting to derail the conversation, immediately denying the existence of any minority other than the ‘Muslim minority’ referred to in the Lausanne Treaty. 

The conference heard speeches from Mr Nils Torvalds MEP (ALDE), Dr Panayote Dimitras (Spokesperson of the Greek Helsinki Monitor), Ms Eugenia Natsoulidou (Founder of the Macedonian Educative and Culture Movement of EDESSA), Ms Melek Kırmacı Arık (International Affairs Director of ABTTF), and Ms Johanna Green (Programme Manager at UNPO).  All speakers mentioned the gap between rhetoric and action, namely, that although Greece claims to protect its minorities’ rights, this is neither true in law or in fact. Indeed, in law, the only minority group recognised by the Greek government is the Muslim minority, thus no legal recognition of ethnic minorities such as the Turks or Macedonians is in place. On this point, Ms Natsoulidou referred to the ‘unsolvable problem’ of the Greek constitution’s Article 16(2) – on the development of national and religious conscience – which enables Greek politicians to dictate how the citizens should think and feel. Dr Dimitras then stressed the fact that the majority of the Greek population (including the politicians themselves) have a very limited knowledge about minority rights and issues, and that without awareness there could be no hope of change.

Another important topic raised throughout the conference was a number of cases brought against Greece in the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), by minority groups in Greece who had not been allowed to register their organisation because they used minority terminology in the name. In these cases the Court found Greece to have violated the groups’ right to freedom of association (Article 11) under the European Convention on Human Rights. Significantly, none of these judgments have been acted on, and the speakers all pushed for the recognition and implementation of these rulings.

The conference confirmed that more dialogue and debate is needed both at the national and European levels to overcome the politics of fear that continue to hamper progressive reform of minority rights legislation. As Ms Kırmacı emphasised, the non-implementation of the ECtHR judgments is not due simply to procedural reasons, but rather linked to the political question of recognising the Muslim minority of Western Thrace as Turkish. Finally, the conference called for the establishment of a policy framework or instrument to protect minority rights at the EU level. The European Union prides itself on its core values of respect for human rights and promotion of democracy; therefore to continue to allow Greece, a Member State since 1981, to violate the rights of its minorities in untenable.  

To access the photos from the event click here

 
 

13/1/2016 - ANNOUNCEMENT


Education and Cultural Movement of Edessa” was founded in 2009 as a cultural non-profit organization and since then the activity has been high in several levels.


We began by organizing literacy course of the Macedonian language for adults who already are speakers of the local Macedonian dialect.
The following period, we started issuing the magazine "Zadruga" with many interesting issues, going from information on the activities of our organization to many other subjects, too, such as history and culture.


Since 2012, the “Education and Cultural Movement of Edessa" is a member of the organization "Network to promote linguistic diversity “ (NPLD), based in Cardiff, Wales - UK that promotes the rights at EU level of the regional or minority languages in the European Union.
Through our organization we published and translated books on the Macedonian culture and history.


However, the title of our organization did not specify its identity. It was too general and confusing, especially to foreigners, about the character of our cultural identity.


Thus, on January 12, 2016, following a decision of our members, the title of our non-profit organization was legally changed to become the "Macedonian Education and Cultural Movement of Edessa" which accurately describes the character and identity of the culture our organization promotes.


We are committed to promote, also in the future, each element of Macedonian culture, from the language, the history, the tradition to the most modern expressions of this civilization.




15/5/2015 - The Educational and Cultural Movement of Edessa attended the Congress of FUEN (Federal Union of European Nationalities), after the invitation received by the Bureau of the Federation. The conference took place in Komotini from 14 to 17 May and was co-organized by organizations and associations of the Turkish Minority of Western Thrace.





The speech by Eugenia Natsoulidou, representative of the Education and Culture Movement of Edessa, at the Congress.

 


1/02/2014 - We participated in the first joint party for cutting the New Year's Pie, organized by 20 Macedonian Cultural Associations from Imathia, Pella, Thessaloniki, Serres, Florina, Kastoria and Kozani. The event took place Saturday, February 1, 2014, in the dancing Hall 'Moments' in the outskirts of Edessa and it had a great success!





 

3/2/2013 - This year, too, we cut our New Year's Pie (Vasilopita) in Volkojanovo-Vodensko, involving new friends and young people who honored us with their presence to our party.




19/2/2012 - The party for Cutting the Vasilopita of the "Educative and Cultural Movement of Edessa" in the village Volkojanovo-Vodensko (Lykoi Edessas) was very successful.






1/5/2011 -  Although there was little participation because of the bad weather (it rained all day almost the entire region of Macedonia) for an event in the open, we had the best party in Aegean Macedonia! For a few hours, in the old village of Cegan, Macedonians from the 4 parts of Macedonia had the opportunity to celebrate May the 1st having fun together, dancing and singing!

The party started around 12:30 (noon) and ended at about 21:30! We had a musical band from Neret (Lerinsko), a wonderful group of musicians from Sandanski (Pirin Macedonia) and, at the end, the younger participants at the party played music with an accordion and a small drum and sang the best Macedonian patriotic songs. During the event, some young men came to the area and we found out they were Macedonians from Golo B'rdo (Albania), who work in Greece during the summer! And they had also the opportunity to dance some Macedonian dances and drink some rakija with us!

We had members of the Association "Cegan" from Skopje who traveled by bus a so long way to attend the event in their old village, with us. Among them there was the great singer Marija Dimkova which sang for us some beautiful songs! She had the opportunity to meet also with some people from Pozar, her village of origin.

The event was great and unique! The Educational and Cultural Movement of Edessa will organize the May 1st party from now on, each time in a different Macedonian village where the Macedonians united will be free to have fun by the best Macedonian way!





MACEDONIAN LANGUAGE CLASSES

19/12/2009 -  We would like from this website to thank our Macedonian friend from Sweden who was so kind to donate us about 100 (one hundred) books of Swedish children's tales ("Ia poznavas li Pipi dolgiot corap?" and "Prikaznata za crvenoto jabolko» ) translated from Swedish into Macedonian. 

Participants in the literacy courses of our language, to whom the books were distributed for free, accepted them with great joy.



MACEDONIAN LANGUAGE CLASSES

16/12/2009 - Our our program for learning the literacy of the Macedonian language for speakers of it was successfully completed.

The program included courses of the Cyrillic alphabet and a grammar for people who already speak the local dialect so they can read and write to it.

Due to a great interest for these courses, we hope to repeat our program next spring.
The program of the courses has a two-month duration and is free.