The Forum will meet annually for two working days allocated to thematic discussions. The independent expert on minority issues, Ms Gay McDougall, shall guide the work of the Forum and prepare its annual meetings and shall report on the thematic recommendations of the Forum to the Human Rights Council. In 15th and 16th Dec 2008 at Geneva we had the annual gathering with the participation of the Greece and the Rainbow (partie of the Slavamcedonian community).
Forum on Minority Issues
Geneva, 15-16 December 2008
Statement by the Representative of the Hellenic Government
Deputy Permanent Representative of Greece
Ambassador M. Diamessis
Thematic focus on “Minorities and the Right to Education”
- We thank the Independent Expert on Minority Issues for her work and her leadership as well as you, Madame President, for chairing this meeting. We also thank the High Commissioner for Human Rights Ms Navi Pillay for her insightful remarks
- Now, allow me some brief comments:
- Greece believes that it is of utmost importance to promote the integration of minorities into the societies they live in while respecting their particularities. We strongly support the recommendation provided for in paragraph 9 of Chapter III of the draft Recommendations entitled “Essential requirements for an effective strategy”. We do believe that state or local policies of educational segregation through special classes or special schools for minority pupils should be discouraged;
- We do, however fully respect the status of minority schools as established by the Lausanne Treaty of 1923, both in Greece and Turkey.
- I thought, Madame President, that we are here to comment on the draft recommendations, not to issue political declarations, such as the one delivered by Mr. Voskopoulos, a Greek civil servant himself, who represents Rainbow, a political party that has freely participated in a series of previous elections in Greece. Nonetheless, allow me to point out that the Greek citizens to whom he referred to who speak both Greek and a slav dialect, do not meet the group of criteria for minorities, as accepted by the UN. The same applies for Vlachs, who have been mentioned by Mr. Voskopoulos, and for Greek Romas who consider themselves not as a minority but as a vulnerable group.
- Regarding some allegations concerning the extension of compulsory education in Greece from 9 to 10 years and the subsequent exclusion of the Muslim minority, it has to be pointed out that children at kindergartens do not have Greek textbooks, actually they do not have any textbooks, and do not follow any specific curriculum. Activities and games are the only means used in
Kindergartens which serve as a smooth introduction to primary education and help to avoid segregation of the Muslim minority from the rest of the Greek society. Moreover, we also encourage kindergarten teachers coming from the Muslim minority to work at kindergartens in areas where there are many Muslims.
Rainbow party, a political party claiming to represent the so-called “Macedonian minority” in Greece, called the “Rainbow” party, was set up in 1994. Since then it participates freely in both National Elections as well as in the Elections for the European Parliament. In the 1996 National Elections it was voted by)13.476 people (percentage of 0,05%). During the April 2000 parliamentary elections the party joined other minor parties into a coalition called OAKKE (“Organization for the Reconstruction of the Communist Party of Greece”) which received overall a percentage of 0,017% (namely, 1139 votes). During the elections for the European Parliament of 2004, the coalition of parties to which the Rainbow Party belonged, received the percentage of 0, 10 (6.138 votes). Most probably, due to the fact that in the course of the last years the party’s number of votes has decreased significantly, it decided not to participate in the National Elections of 2004 and 2007. The small number of votes this party is receiving at elections taking place in Greece could serve as a proof that it does not manage to win the support of the people it is claiming to represent.