Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Skopje Ups Ante on Macedonian Minority

Macedonia’s Parliament Speaker has urged the EU and the international community to up the pressure on Greece over its ‘unrecognised’ Macedonian minority.

Trajko Veljanovski sent letters to his counterparts in European Union countries and other countries round the world as well as international organisations asking for their involvement in the matter, local media reported on Saturday.

In his letter, Veljanovki points out that Macedonians in Greece are subjected to “systematic discriminatory politics” such as prohibiting the use of the Macedonian language and practicing their culture, changes to the names of their settlements and a ban on organised activities for Macedonians.

“Athens’ practice violates the European Human Rights Convention and the Framework Convention for Protection of National Minorities, which Greece has signed,” Veljanovski wrote.

The speaker sent the letter to countries such as the United States, Russia, China, Brazil, Canada and Australia as well as to the Council of Europe, NATO, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the European Parliament among others.

This is the latest in a series of attempts by Skopje to highlight its concern at an international level.

In July and August, Macedonia’s Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski sent a similar letter to the United Nations, the European Union and NATO as well as to the Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis.

“There is no Macedonian minority in Greece,” the Greek Premier replied to Skopje’s letter.

Skopje is also asking for the inclusion of its concerns in the ongoing UN-sponsored talks between the two countries for resolving their differences on Macedonia’s name.

In April, Greece blocked Macedonia’s bid to join NATO arguing that the name of its smaller neighbour implies Skopje’s territorial claims over Greece’s own northern province, which is also called Macedonia.

Since then the talks have intensified but so far have failed to provide a solution.

The UN mediator in the talks, Matthew Nimetz, who media in Skopje say is to visit the country this week, has said that his mandate does not cover the issue of the Macedonian minority.

The Government’s initiative to include this issue into the ‘name row’ talks has been criticised by Macedonia's President Branko Crvenkovski as "counterproductive."

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