United Nations Tells Greece To Recognize Its Macedonian And Turkish
18 February 2009
HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL
Agenda item 3
PROMOTION AND PROTECTION OF ALL HUMAN RIGHTS, CIVIL, POLITICAL, ECONOMIC,
SOCIAL AND CULTURAL RIGHTS, INCLUDING THE RIGHT TO DEVELOPMENT
Report of the independent expert on minority issues, Gay McDougall*
MISSION TO GREECE**
(8-16 September 2008)
* Late submission.
** The summary of the present report is circulated in all official
languages. The report itself, contained in the annex to the summary,
is circulated as received, in the language of submission only.
The independent expert on minority issues visited Greece from 8 to
16 September 2008, inter alia, to promote implementation of the Declaration
on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious
and Linguistic Minorities. She travelled to different regions and conducted
extensive consultations with senior government representatives and public
officials at the national and regional levels. She consulted civil society
organizations, religious leaders, academics and community leaders.
Greece recognizes only one minority, the Muslim religious minority
in Western Thrace, which is protected by the terms of the Treaty of
Lausanne of 1923. Greece does not recognize the minority status of other
communities. The Government is convinced that the claims of the existence
of other minorities are unsubstantiated and politically motivated. However,
whether a State officially recognizes a minority is not conclusive with
respect to its obligations toward minority populations.
The independent expert is concerned with matters solely within the
domestic jurisdiction of the Government of Greece relating to its treatment
of minorities and disadvantaged groups inside the country. Her concerns
focus on the degree to which legislation, policy and practice fulfil
obligations under international human rights law, including minority
rights, which have precedence over bilateral treaties and agreements.
The decision that a certain group should receive the protections due
to minorities does not have implications for inter-State relations.
Minorities are constituent groups of Greek society, not a foreign element.
The independent expert urges the Government of Greece to withdraw from
the dispute over whether there is a Macedonian or a Turkish minority
in Greece and focus on protecting the rights to self-identification,
freedom of expression and freedom of association of those communities.
Their rights to minority protections must be honoured in accordance
with the Declaration on Minorities and the core international human
rights treaties. Greece should comply fully with the judgements of the
European Court of Human Rights, specifically those decisions that associations
should be allowed to use the words Macedonian and Turkish
in their names and to express their ethnic identities freely.
Discrimination against Roma exists in Greece as in other European countries.
The independent expert visited Roma communities which lacked basic facilities
and faced the constant threat of eviction. Many Roma children are either
in segregated schools or do not have access to education owing to their
identity. The independent expert commends government efforts to develop
positive policies coordinated at the inter-ministerial level by the
Minister for the Interior through the Integrated Action Programme on
Roma. However, there are serious problems of implementation at the local
level, particularly regarding living conditions and the segregation
of Roma in certain public schools. The Government should continue its
efforts to ensure that national policies are not subverted or defied
by local authorities that are responsive to local prejudices. It should
comply with European Court judgements with respect to the segregation
of Roma children.
REPORT OF THE INDEPENDENT EXPERT ON MINORITY ISSUES MISSION TO
(8-16 September 2008)
I. INTRODUCTION .............................................................................
II. LEGAL FRAMEWORK AND IMPLEMENTING INSTITUTIONS .......4-9
III. RELIGION, LANGUAGE, CULTURE AND NATIONAL IDENTITY ..........................................................................................................10-49
A. The Religious Minority: Muslims in Western Thrace .................
B. Minority religions ........................................................................
C. Ethnic identity in the region of Florina .......................................
IV. DISCRIMINATION AGAINST THE ROMA .................................
A. Housing and employment ..........................................................
B. Education ...................................................................................
C. Denial of justice .........................................................................
D. Integrated action plan regarding Roma under the Ministries of the
Interior and Education ....................................................................
V. EXCEPTIONAL ISSUES FACING MINORITY WOMEN ............ 73-75
VI. POLITICAL PARTICIPATION OF MINORITIES ........................
VII. CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS ...................... 80-104
1. The Independent Expert on minority issues visited Greece between
08 and 16 September 2008, inter-alia to promote implementation of the
Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic,
Religious and Linguistic Minorities (hereafter the 1992 Declaration
on Minorities). She conducted extensive consultations with senior
government representatives, including the Ministers of Foreign Affairs,
Interior and Justice, Parliamentarians and numerous public officials
at the national and regional level. She consulted civil society organizations,
religious leaders, academics and community leaders. The Independent
Expert visited Athens and its environs, including Roma settlements,
the region of Thrace and the city of Thessaloniki and the Prefecture
of Florina in the Macedonia region of northern Greece.
2. The Government provided exemplary cooperation, support and openness
throughout the preparation and conduct of the mission. Senior officials
gave generously of their time and answered questions fully. Numerous
individuals, non-governmental organizations and civil society groups
provided valuable information, and facilitated additional aspects of
3. The Independent Experts evaluation of minority issues in Greece
is based on the 1992 Declaration on Minorities and other relevant international
standards, from which she has identified four broad areas of concern
relating to minorities globally. These are: (a) the protection of a
minoritys survival, through combating violence against them and
preventing genocide; (b) the protection and promotion of the cultural
identity of minority groups and the right of national, ethnic, religious
or linguistic groups to enjoy their collective identity and to reject
forced assimilation; (c) the guarantee of the rights to non-discrimination
and equality, including ending structural or systemic discrimination
and the promotion of affirmative action when required; and (d) the guarantee
of their right to effective participation of members of minorities in
public life, especially with regard to decisions that affect them.
II. LEGAL FRAMEWORK AND IMPLEMENTING INSTITUTIONS
4. Greece is a state party to the major international human rights
instruments of particular relevance to the rights of minorities including:
the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International
Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the International
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against
Women, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms
of Racial Discrimination, the Convention on the Prevention of the Crime
of Genocide, and the International Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Article 28.1 of the Constitution provides that international treaties
ratified by Greece have supra-statutory force and take precedence over
other Greek law.
5. Greece became a member of the European Union in 1981 and subject
to its Race Directives in regard to
non-discrimination and equality. Greece is a member of NATO and of the
Council of Europe (CoE) and has signed (in September 1997) but not ratified
the Council of Europes Framework Convention for the Protection
of National Minorities. Greece has not signed or ratified the European
Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.
Anti-Discrimination Law, Law 927 of 1979 (racial hatred)
6. Article 5.2 of the Greek Constitution relating to non-discrimination
states that: All persons living within the Greek territory shall
enjoy full protection of their life, honour and liberty irrespective
of nationality, race or language and of religious or political beliefs.
Until 2005, Greeces anti-racism legislation was limited to Law
927/1979 (as amended by Law 1419/1984 and Law 2910/2001) of the Penal
Code and aimed at the punishment of overtly discriminatory practices
on racial, ethnic or religious grounds (incitement of racially/religiously
discriminatory activities, expression of racially/religiously offensive
ideas, racial/religious discrimination in the provision of services
or goods by private persons).
7. In 2005, Parliament adopted Law 3304/2005 on the Implementation
of the principle of equal treatment regardless of race or national origin,
religion or other beliefs, disability, age or sexual orientation.
The Law prohibits both direct and indirect discrimination and has a
wide scope with regard to equal treatment between persons irrespective
of racial or ethnic origin, while it focuses in the areas of employment
and occupation with regard to equal treatment regardless of religious
or other beliefs, disability, age or sexual orientation.
It strengthens the Greek Ombudsmans Office with new competences.
Law 3304 also provides for a Committee for Equal Treatment within the
Ministry of Justice with responsibility for discrimination by private
actors. The Labour Inspection Body (LIB), under the Labour Ministry,
deals with issues and cases of discrimination by natural or legal persons
(excluding public services covered by the Greek Ombudsman) in employment.
8. The Greek Ombudsman is a constitutionally sanctioned Independent
Authority founded in October 1998 and operating under Law 3094/2003.
The Ombudsman provides free services to the public, and investigates
individual administrative actions or omissions or material actions taken
by government departments or public services that infringe upon the
personal rights or violate the legal interests of individuals or legal
entities. The Ombudsman only deals with individual complaints, but does
have competence to promote the fight against discrimination generally.
The Ombudsman cannot deal with complaints relating to the private sector,
responsibility for which exists within the Ministry of Justice, Committee
for Equal Treatment.
Commission on Human Rights
9. Law 2667/1998 established the National Commission for Human Rights
as a statutory national human rights institution (NCHR), having consultative
status with the government on human rights issue. The NCHR is generally
considered to carry out its functions in conformity with the Paris Principles
relating to independent functioning. The NCHRs substantive competences
include: study of human rights issues raised by the government, NCHR
members or non-governmental organizations; submission of recommendations
and proposals, elaboration of studies, submission of reports and opinions
for legislative, administrative or other measures for human rights protection;
development of initiatives for the sensitization of public opinion on
human rights; and the cultivation of respect for human rights in the
national educational system.
III. RELIGION, LANGUAGE, CULTURE AND NATIONAL IDENTITY
10. During the ancient Greek and Hellenistic periods, the Hellenic
territories in the region and beyond were vast. Conquered territories
became subject to strong Greek influence (Hellenization) for centuries
until the gradual decline of the Empire under subsequent Roman and,
after the Byzantine period, Ottoman empires. When Greece declared independence
from the Ottoman Empire in 1829, its territory was only about one-third
of the size it is today. The collapse of the Ottoman Empire and regional
conflicts including the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913, shaped the territory
and borders of modern Greece and created a legacy of diversity, despite
periods of significant population exchange. The historical ebb and flow
of Empires and the modern emergence of newly independent nation states
in the Balkans struggling for territories and national identities, brought
about ongoing disputes over borders, some of which continue today.
A. The religious minority: Muslims in Western Thrace
11. War between Greece and Turkey between 1919 and 1922 ended with
negotiation of the 1923 Peace Treaty of Lausanne under which Greece
and Turkey conducted a population exchange. Greek Orthodox Christians
in Turkey, with the exception of those in Istanbul (Constantinople),
Gökçeada (Imbros) and Bozcaada (Tenedos), were resettled in Greece.
Muslims in Greece, apart from those in Western Thrace, were resettled
in Turkey. According to Greek government sources, some 86,000 Muslims
remained in Thrace, 39,000 of Turkish origin, 35,000 Pomaks (Slav-speaking
Muslims), and 12,000 Roma.
12. Section III of the Treaty of Lausanne relates to the protection
of minorities and establishes obligations for both Turkey and Greece
for the protection of non-Moslem minorities in Turkey and the
Moslem minority in Greece. The Moslem minority is
granted certain protections with respect to the practice of their religion
and to education in their own language. The government of Greece continues
to rely on the Treaty of Lausanne as the primary basis for its policies
toward the Muslim minority in Western Thrace. Since the Treaty references
only a Muslim minority, that is the only officially recognized minority
in Greece. The government notes that, in addition to the Treaty of Lausanne,
members of the minority are beneficiaries of numerous nation-wide programs
including those on gender equality, equal access to education and economic
Recognition of Turkish ethnicity
13. The Independent Expert visited Western Thrace bordering Turkey
in eastern Greece, including the cities of Xanthi and Komotini, where
the Muslim minority resides. Many of the Muslim minority claim ethnic
Turkish identity and desire to be recognized as a Turkish national minority.
Community members argue that the Treaty of Lausanne does not prohibit
collective ethnic identification as a Turkish minority. Many consider
that their claim is misunderstood by the government as reflecting an
irredentist movement under the political influence of Turkey.
14. The Government highlights that the Muslim minority in Western Thrace
is not homogeneous and consists of three distinct groups whose members
are of Turkish, Pomak and Roma ethnicity, each with distinct languages
and cultural traditions. While acknowledging the Turkish origin of most,
they claim that attempts to identify the entire Muslim community as
Turkish are not only unacceptable but [would] not correspond to
existing realities and the actual composition of the Muslim minority,
in accordance with objective criteria.
They believe that the view of the minority as homogeneous is promoted
for political reasons. Government representatives noted that its positive
efforts to integrate the Muslim minority into Greek society are met
with criticism from some circles which wish the minority to remain separate
and clearly promoting their Turkish identity.
15. Many community members of Turkish ethnic origin firmly rejected
the government position of identifying three groups within the Muslim
minority. One stating: For us being Muslim and being Turkish
are one and the same. However, the Independent Expert met
individuals who self-identified as Pomak and Roma who described pressure
to speak and learn Turkish instead of Pomak and to identify as Turkish.
One described a climate of intimidation and pressure for their children
to attend minority schools. Some stated that members of the Pomak and
Roma community are discriminated against if they do other than describe
themselves as Turkish.
16. Ethnic Turkish representatives state their freedom of association
is violated by the 1987 Greek High Court decision that an association
bearing the name Turkish must be dissolved. Several minority
associations have ceased to function or function only informally. In
February 2005, the Turkish Xanthi Union, established in 1927 was dissolved.
The establishment of a Cultural Association of Turkish Women of Rodopi
was rejected by the Greek Supreme Court. Community representatives stress
the importance of associations for the preservation of community identity
and culture. They note that Armenian associations function legally including
the word Armenian in their names.
17. The European Court on Human Rights has consistently found against
Greece when these issues have come before it,
concluding that Greece has violated Article 11 of the European Convention
(right to freedom of association) and rejecting government attempts
to justify the restriction by arguing that use of the word Turkish
in the names of associations constitutes a threat to public order and
territorial integrity. To-date, the associations have not been allowed
to register under the names of their choice.
18. Representatives of the Muslim minority asserted that one highly
contentious issue in Western Thrace is the content of the right to religious
freedom protected by the Treaty of Lausanne and current international
obligations. Under the relevant legislation, Sharia Law relating to
family and inheritance issues functions alongside Greek civil law in
the region. Jurisdiction over matters arising under Sharia Law in the
above mentioned matters is to be exercised by a Mufti. The religious
practice for Muslims in Western Thrace has been for the community to
elect their Mufti.
19. The government asserts that, since they exercise judicial functions,
Muftis must be appointed by the State.
Further, elections of Muftis by the community are invalid since they
do not allow the participation of women in the electoral process, violating
constitutional and international standards.
20. The Muslim community takes issue with the government appointment
of religious officials and in defiance, they elect their own. Community
elected Muftis in Xanthi and Komotini, in turn, are not recognized by
the government. Consequently they have been prosecuted under the Penal
Code for usurping functions of a religious minister. The European Court
on Human Rights held that those prosecutions violated Article 9 of the
Convention (freedom of religion).
Elected Muftis are supported financially and allegedly politically by
the Turkish government via its Consulate in the region.
21. Muftis perform particular duties, including those relating to marriage,
divorce, child support and inheritance. However an official religious
marriage can only be conducted by the appointed Mufti. Marriages conducted
by the elected Mufti are not legally recognized and subsequently must
be officially registered with the municipality. These issues have created
resentment among the minority which considers that elected Muftis should
have officially recognized powers. They consider their religious functions
in the community in relation to family law are deeply connected to Muslim
religion. To refuse them these recognized functions is considered an
infringement of religious autonomy.
22. The government notes that, in family and inheritance matters, members
of the Muslim minority can choose to use Sharia Law or the Greek Civil
Code and address themselves to either local Muftis or the Greek civil
courts. Sharia should be implemented only to the extent that its rules
are not in conflict with fundamental values of Greek society and the
Greek legal and constitutional order. In the field of gender equality,
Article 5 (3) of Law 1920/1991 provides that the courts shall not enforce
decisions of the Muftis which are contrary to the Greek Constitution,
effectively banning polygamy, child marriage, marriage by proxy and
biased inheritance laws.
23. The Greek National Commission on Human Rights noted cases involving
the marriage of several minors aged as young as 11 condoned under Sharia
Law. The Greek civil courts were found
to be ratifying such cases in conflict with Greeces international
obligations, allegedly under pressure not to offend the Muslim minority.
24. Under of the Treaty of Lausanne, minorities can establish, manage
and control schools at their own expense providing significant autonomy
in minority education. There are 194
minority primary schools in Western Thrace with courses taught in both
Turkish and Greek. Over 400 Muslim teachers are mostly graduates of
the Special Pedagogical Academy of Thessaloniki. In addition, two minority
secondary schools operate in Xanthi and Komotini, while two Koranic
schools operate in Komotini and Echinos.
25. Community representatives claim that the quality of education in
minority primary schools falls far below Greek public schools and that
the schools do not serve the fundamental needs of the community. Teaching
standards are allegedly poor and training courses for minority teachers
have been reduced from four years to two, with subsequent lowering of
teaching standards. Low quality language teaching means that children
are not proficient in either Greek or Turkish on leaving primary school.
Problems have reportedly led some families to prefer their children
to attend Greek public schools.
26. A commonly stated problem is the absence of bilingual kindergartens
for the Muslim minority. This would allow better knowledge of both Turkish
and Greek from an early age therefore providing benefits in terms of
integration, and enabling greater choice of whether to go to minority
or Greek public primary school.
27. Elected Muftis and other community representatives commonly voiced
dismay that 240 Imams or Islamic teachers required to teach the Koran
in schools and lead prayers, would be appointed by a Committee of five
orthodox Greeks with no Muslim members. While this law (Bill 3536) has
yet to be implemented, they consider this an inappropriate intervention
in the affairs of the Muslim community and religion.
28. The government highlights significant progress in regard to minority
education. It is systematically improving the content of education with
respect to different religions and cultures, renewing building infrastructure
and equipment, and modernizing the institutional framework. A special
quota of 0.5 percent for the admission of students from the Muslim minority
to universities entered into force in 1996 with very positive results.
In 1996, 67 students were admitted, rising to 495 in 2007/8. Community
sources welcomed a quota of 0.5 percent of public sector employment
for minorities passed into law, but yet to enter into practice. Since
2006, the Turkish language has been introduced into Greek public schools
in Thrace as an elective language.
B. Minority religions
29. The dominant religion in Greece is the Eastern Orthodox Church
of Christ, since a large majority of the Greek population identify as
Christian Orthodox. Article 13 of the Greek Constitution provides for
freedom of religion. The Independent Expert held a forum in Athens to
hear the views of people belonging to different religious faiths, attended
by representatives of the Bahai faith, the Catholic Church, the
Johovas Witnesses, the Jewish Community and Muslims.
30. Participants commonly noted the considerable influence of the Greek
Orthodox Church (GOC) in Greek society and political life and that the
Church receives state funding. They stated that there is no specific
domestic law to protect freedom of religion
and that members of other religions face animosity, verbal and sometimes
physical aggression. Issues relating to places of worship and burial
sites were of concern to many participants.
31. The Orthodox Church and Judaism are the only religions deemed legal
persons under public law. Other religious groups are only able
to register as associations, considered inappropriate to
their religious status. Legal personality would enable religions to
represent themselves at court or appropriate authorities as a religious
community. Participants stated that religious communities should be
required to submit their bylaws and function legally and register with
the Tax office. Religious communities should be exempt from taxation
for religious activities. They should not require a permit to operate
but simply register with the competent authority.
32. Participants noted the possibility of a Bill to go before Parliament
allowing official registration under the Ministry of Education and Religion,
which is considered positive if enacted. The recent removal of religion
from national identity cards is felt to have been an important and positive
33. The Roman Catholic Church is not legally recognized
despite an estimated 250,000 Greek Catholics, although the government
notes that the matter is under review and scheduled for a determination
within 2009. The Catholic Cathedral was damaged in the 1999 Athens earthquake.
Despite financial assistance to other damaged places of worship, no
assistance has been provided for urgent repairs to the Cathedral. Following
a visit to Greece by the Pope in 2001, ecumenical dialogue to reunite
the churches has more clearly established the closeness of Catholics
and Greek Orthodox beliefs with subsequent greater acceptance and freedom
of expression. However problems of underlying prejudice and vocal anti-Catholic
sentiment including by politicians and religious leaders continue.
34. Representatives of Jehovahs Witnesses welcomed progress in
regard to treatment of conscientious objectors who are now permitted
to do non-military national service. However they object that the duration
is double that of military service. In regard to proselytization, previously
a crime punishable with a prison sentence, European Court judgments
against Greece have had significant impact on domestic treatment. It
is no longer a criminal offence other than in extreme conditions of
coercion. However anti-proselytization laws of 1936 and 1939 have not
been rescinded. Proselytization cases have been rejected by the courts,
however participants claimed that cases of harassment occur each month
on the basis of defunct proselytization laws.
35. The Bahai faith was established in Greece in 1912 yet lacks
official recognition. It does not have houses of worship, and requires
only administrative structures, yet the law requires permission even
for a meeting place. Representatives described undue obstacles
and restrictions imposed as a form of petty harassment. Bahai
representatives also highlighted problems regarding burial places for
Bahai. Cemeteries are administered by the Greek Orthodox Church
and permission must be sought to bury those of other faiths. In one
incident, a Bishop granted permission but on seeing the gravestone with
Bahai inscriptions, allegedly threatened to destroy the grave.
36. The Muslim minority is only officially recognized in Western Thrace,
however, over recent years large numbers of Muslims have migrated to
Greece and settled in other areas where they face challenges to religious
freedoms. In Athens there are no recognized Mosques and no Muslim cemeteries.
Mosques function underground and illegally. They call for
the legalization of Mosques and note that legislation allowing for a
Mosque and Islamic Centre met with strong objections from the Greek
Orthodox Church and Athens residents. When a Muslim dies the body is
sent to the country of origin or to Thrace for burial. The Greek Orthodox
Church reportedly donated land for a Muslim cemetery however progress
has been slow.
37. Jewish representatives described a dwindling community of only
two thousand. A member of the Jewish community participating in the
Inter-religious forum, described harassment and continuing incidents
of anti-semitism, which is so engrained in society that people
dont recognize it.
Incidents of desecration and Anti-Semitic attacks continue to be reported.
The government notes the success of positive measures to confront Anti-Semitism
and prosecute criminal acts. Jewish representatives raised concerns
over anti-semitic views expressed in the extreme right wing press and
in mainstream newspapers and by public figures.
38. The Greek National Commission on Human Rights notes some successes
in religious freedoms in the face of opposition from the Greek Orthodox
Church. The decision to delete references to religion from identity
cards was one such controversial decision that the GNCHR supported.
The Minister of Education and Religion has issued a circular in 2008
stating that students from minority religions in public schools who
dont want to take religion classes, no longer have to justify
their choice. The GNCHR notes that the issue of the Islamic headscarf
has not emerged as a problem in Greece.
39. The government notes that there is no system of official recognition
of particular religions in Greece. A fairly large part of the population
are atheist or agnostics, on ideological or political grounds. It states
that acts of animosity towards members of other religions are a fringe
phenomenon not tolerated both by society at large and the Administration.
The government highlights a substantial body of case law that supplements
legislation in the area of the protection from religious discrimination.
With respect to burial practices, Article 35 of Law 3448/2006 permits
the cremation of foreigners or Greeks whose religious convictions allow
it. An effort to map the presence of Muslims nationally has been launched
in 2008 by an inter-ministerial Task Force to establish a stable and
open relationship with the Muslims living in Greece and to cater properly
to their needs. Law 3512/2006 provides for the construction of a Mosque
near the center of Athens, funded by the State to be built on a plot
of land ceded by the State. Projects for the Central Mosque and a Muslim
cemetery are progressing slowly due to the size and budgets of such
C. Ethnic identity in the region of Florina
40. The Kingdom of Ancient Macedonia is part of the Hellenic historical
and cultural heritage, reclaimed by modern Greece, and with a population
of primarily ethnic Greeks, despite linguistic variations due to historical
influence. The government points to the archaeological sites including
Vergina, where tombs of King Phillip II and Alexander IV dating back
to the 3rd Century BC were unearthed in the 1970s. Artefacts including
these tombs display ancient Greek inscriptions considered by the government
to confirm that the region and its people are historically Greek.
41. The Government does not recognize the existence of a Macedonian
ethnic minority living in Central and West Macedonia. They vehemently
deny it and attribute political motives to those who claim it. Successive
governments have pursued a policy of denial of the ethnic Macedonian
community and the Macedonian language. Many consider this a modern day
version of Titos efforts to create a myth of a Macedonian nation
giving support to his expansionist claims against that region of Greece.
The response of earlier Greek governments was to suppress any use of
the Macedonian language and cultural activities. In recent times the
harsh tactics have ceased but those identifying as ethnic Macedonian
still report discrimination and harassment. They consider it of crucial
importance for their continued existence that their ethnic identity
and distinctiveness is respected. The Macedonian language is not recognized,
taught, or a language of tuition in schools.
42. In the 1920s and 30s laws required the replacement of non-Greek
names of towns, villages, rivers and mountains with Greek names. The
family names of the Macedonian-speaking population were also required
to be changed to Greek names. Individuals seeking to re-instate Macedonian
family names have had their petitions refused by authorities on administrative
grounds. Community representatives note that traditional names continue
to be in common usage and call for reinstatement and the official usage
of a dual nomenclature e.g. Florina/Lerin.
43. Representatives claim denial of the right to freedom of association,
citing unsuccessful efforts since 1990 to register the organization
Home of Macedonian Culture in Florina. The Greek courts
refused to register the organization on the grounds that its objective
was to promote the idea that there is a Macedonian minority in
Greece, which is contrary to the national interest and subsequently
contrary to law. In 1998 the European Court of Human Rights found
Greece in violation of Article 11 of the European Convention on Human
Rights relating to freedom of association.
Subsequent domestic court decisions have failed to conform to the European
Court finding and the Home of Macedonian Culture remains unregistered.
The government notes that the application for registration of the association
remains pending before the Supreme Court.
44. Community representatives highlight discriminatory laws affecting
thousands who fled Greece during the Civil War (1946-1949) who were
stripped of their citizenship and property. A 1982 Ministerial Decision
(Law no. 106841) stated that Free to return to Greece are all
Greek by Genus who during the civil war of 1946-1949 and because of
it have fled abroad as political refugees. This decision excludes
those identifying as ethnic Macedonians and is therefore considered
discriminatory. Law no. 1540 of 1985 allowed political exiles to reclaim
confiscated property, again establishing that only Greeks by Genus
qualify. Those claiming Macedonian identity allegedly experience difficultly
obtaining visas for visits to Greece to see relatives or attend funerals.
The Greek authorities respond that visas are granted without problems
and that pensioners receive their visas gratis.
45. The Independent Expert met numerous individuals identifying as
ethnic Macedonian. Some described themselves as fluent in the Macedonian
language, having learned it within their families as it is not taught
at school. Others described frustration that they lack fluency due to
the lack of learning opportunities. They claim to have made numerous
approaches to the Greek Ministry of Education regarding language education,
which have never been acknowledged.
46. Some described pressure not to display their Macedonian identity
or speak Macedonian, previously banned in some villages. Despite their
claim of the existence of distinct Macedonian villages, they described
a general fear to demonstrate their identity. It was acknowledged that
the situation had improved from a previous era, however they described
a softer discrimination manifested in general hostility
and pressure on the part of authorities and the media. One participant
stated: I am a Greek citizen
but I am Macedonian when
talking about my village, my language and my identity.
47. Some recounted personal experiences of harassment including aggressive
interrogation at borders. Another described being physically attacked
allegedly due to his ethnic identity and membership of the Rainbow party.
Another representative stated: Greece does not trust the people
who live here because they dont feel Greek - they dont speak
Greek. Participants described experiencing problems in performing
songs in the Macedonian language and traditional dances. The government
states that festivities and cultural events regularly take place in
the region of Florina unhindered which at times include people from
the bordering state.
48. The emergence in 1991 of the newly independent State on Greeces
northern border initiated a dispute regarding its name, which
Greece considers inappropriate in view of the Greek geographical region
of Macedonia. The United Nations admitted The Former Yugoslav Republic
of Macedonia (FYROM) in 1993. The name dispute
has resulted in the appointment of a Special Representative of the Secretary
General of the United Nations, to propose solutions in negotiation with
both parties. No mutually agreeable solution has been achieved to-date.
The Independent Expert has no involvement whatsoever in these negotiations.
49. Mayors from towns in the region protested the idea that people
within their constituencies consider there to be a Macedonian ethnicity.
The government dismisses such claims as misleading and not corresponding
to existing realities. The government asserts that Macedonia was historically
Greek and its inhabitants direct descendants of Ancient Hellenes. It
refers only to those speaking a Slavic dialect or oral idiom,
confined to family or colloquial use. They point out that this dialect
has similarities with the language spoken in the neighbouring former
Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
The government emphasizes: that there are two and a half million
Greeks who identify themselves as Macedonians (Makedones) in the regional/cultural
context and that attempts to usurp the name and national and cultural
identity by using the term Macedonian to describe a so-called
minority are unacceptable.
The government suggests that insignificant numbers of votes
gained by the Rainbow political party is evidence of a lack of popular
support for their claims.
IV. DISCRIMINATION AGAINST THE ROMA
50. Discrimination against Roma is experienced in Greece as in other
European countries, although some Roma are relatively well integrated
into society. Community members described a high level of societal discrimination
in all fields of life including education, housing and employment.
51. The Government does not consider the Roma a minority within Greece,
rather a vulnerable social group consisting of 250,000 to 300,000 persons.
It notes that this viewpoint is shared by Roma who consider themselves
an integral part of Greek society. Government officials revealed a widely
held belief that Roma are responsible for many of the problems that
they face. One official noted: The Greek State would like to
integrate Roma fully, but they dont like that a different style
of life is imposed on them.
52. The Independent Expert visited three Roma settlements: near Spata,
Aspropyrgos, and in the municipality of St. Varvara.
A. Housing and employment
53. The Roma settlement near Spata is located on a hill top five kilometers
from the town, accessible only via a rough track. The community was
relocated by the local government in 2000 after being evicted from a
previous location on the outskirts of the town. It is therefore a temporary
State sponsored settlement on land ceded by the State. Prefabricated
housing units were provided from the State budget. Currently over 20
families including about 20 children of primary school age, live on
the site. Unverified claims suggest that the site was previously used
for disposal of toxic waste.
54. The settlement is not serviced with electricity, running water
or regular garbage/waste collection services. It relies on generators
and two water storage tanks provide water for washing and drinking.
Community members described problems including lack of adequate quantities
of water and poor water quality due to mould inside the storage tanks.
Human waste is stored in cess pits that should be cleared frequently.
Community members noted that they frequently overflow causing health
risks including cases of Hepatitis A, while confirming they do have
access to health care.
55. Families are not permitted to extend prefabricated homes provided
by the State beyond the original 25 square meters, regardless of the
number of occupants. Families have no documents to establish legal residence
in the settlement. Some families (reportedly 3 or 4) had applied to
a government housing loans scheme for Roma families. However since families
survive by scavenging, salvaging and begging, it was considered highly
unlikely that any would meet income criteria. The government subsequently
informed the Independent Expert that five families have been granted
loans of 60,000 Euros each.
56. The settlement of Psari, Aspropyrgos is home to approximately 230
Roma families. It is considered an illegal settlement on privately owned
land despite reportedly existing for about 35 years. Shacks made from
scavenged materials provide one or two room accommodation for large
families. The settlement lacks access to electricity and requires generators.
There is no running water and community members fill containers from
a water tap in a public park which is regularly locked by the municipality
to stop Roma from using it. Most Roma in the settlement earn irregular
incomes from scavenging and collection of scrap metals.
57. The settlement is the subject of legal eviction proceedings by
private land owners. Community representatives claim that land owners
have no direct interest in the eviction but are pushed to pursue it
by the municipal Mayor. Representatives stressed good relationships
with the police, that they are fair with them and have protected them
in the past including from demonstrators. The government notes that
during implementation of the housing assistance program at least 31
loans have been granted to Roma families living in the Municipality
of Aspropyrgos while others are pending approval.
58. The European Roma Rights Center has accused Greece of failing to
implement 2004 and 2006 European Committee of Social Rights findings
that Greeces treatment of Roma in the field of housing violates
3 aspects of the European Social Charter. In June and September 2007,
civil society groups reported that 135 Roma families were forcibly evicted,
some twice in a few days, in Athens, Patras and Halkida, without the
relevant procedural safeguards being respected and that hundreds of
Roma families are threatened with similar evictions in Greater Athens,
Patras, Crete and Rhodes.
59. The Municipality of St. Varvara, provides a positive example of
integration of the Roma community into mainstream society. Approximately
8-10 percent of the population are Roma, who play an active role in
the community. Municipal representatives described the relative success
of Roma in the community and higher than usual Roma success in education,
including some university entrants. Roma managed to open numerous small
businesses. Local authorities, including Roma, described a high level
of social integration while acknowledging some problems. The Roma live
in all parts of the town, rather than in isolated communities. Community
intermediaries play an important role and the Roma do not require specialized
services. Roma representatives acknowledged that they had not always
felt comfortable but described an enlightened neighborhood that is an
example to others.
60. During the visit to the Spata area it was highlighted that none
of the children living in the Roma settlement currently attend school.
Following a visit by European Parliamentarians in 2003, a bus was provided
to take about 18 children to school, however it ceased operation reportedly
due to lack of funds. The settlement is some five kilometers from the
nearest school making it extremely difficult for young children to attend
without transport provision. One mother stated that her children were
refused registration, reportedly on the grounds that the school was
full and there are no special facilities for Roma children. She was
told that the children should have been registered previously, but she
had never been informed of this requirement.
61. In Psari, Aspropyrgos, education for the settlements children
remains a highly controversial issue and the subject of a European Court
of Human Rights judgment, In 2004
Roma children from the Psari, Aspropyrgos Roma settlement were refused
registration to attend a local school. Following brief attendance, non-Roma
parents objected to the extent that all Roma children were placed in
special afternoon classes. After further parent protests, Roma students
were removed to a prefabricated annex distant from the main school.
In 2006/7 the annex was defaced with racist slogans and destroyed by
fire and a Roma pupil was attacked resulting in withdrawal of Roma children
from any classes. In June 2008 the European Court of Human Rights ruled
that the conditions of school enrolment for Roma children and their
placement in an annex for special preparatory classes because of their
Roma origin, constituted a violation of Articles 14 (prohibition of
discrimination) in conjunction with article 2 of Protocol 1 (right to
education), and 13 (right to an effective remedy) of the European Convention.
To date, Greece has not satisfactorily resolved the situation in compliance
with the European Court ruling.
62. The Independent Expert visited the annex which consists of a fenced,
concrete, compound with two metal prefabricated units, one of which
is used for teaching. At the beginning of the school year the teaching
unit had been repaired following vandalism and had no teaching facilities
such as desks and chairs. A permanent security presence is required
to guard against further vandalism. It is important to stress that the
vandalism was not carried out by the Roma themselves.
63. At the time of the Independent Experts visit, Roma children
did not have full and equal access to education. The Roma children have
been placed in the same annex of the main school that was
the subject of the European Court judgment, reportedly due to lack of
places in the main school and lack of specialist teachers and preparatory
facilities for Roma. Community members and civil society representatives
believe that pressure from parents and the local authorities, are a
significant factor in the childrens exclusion.
64. Ministry of Education representatives acknowledge continuing problems
regarding education of Roma. They agreed that significant challenges
stem from local authorities and from communities that do not want the
Roma to attend mainstream schools, resulting in some cases in branches
of schools being opened for Roma. They noted their belief that a degree
of separate and specialist catch up schooling is required
prior to Roma children joining the mainstream school system, since there
is not a culture of going to school among some communities and children
may need assistance to integrate fully.
C. Denial of justice
65. Endemic problems were identified regarding access to justice for
Roma by legal and human rights groups including, police brutality, discriminatory
and racist attitudes and treatment by prosecutors, and excessive delays
in dealing with cases brought by Roma. Increasing numbers of cases have
reached the European Court of Human Rights due to the failure of domestic
remedies. European Court cases in which violations have been found relating
to ill-treatment or injury by the police, absence of effective investigation
and non-investigation of racial motive include: Bekos & Koutropoulos
vs Greece (application 15250/02), Karagiannopoulos vs Greece (application
27850/03), and Petropoulou-Tsakiri vs Greece (application 44803/04).
66. Senior Ministry of Justice officials rejected allegations of discrimination
and noted that police are often falsely accused of discrimination. Government
representatives stated that if cases of police mistreatment arise they
are investigated and dealt with swiftly and appropriately. In responding
to questions about the lack of Roma prosecutors or judges, they pointed
out that Roma lawyers could take exams to become prosecutors and judges
but that Roma are not interested in such achievements.
D. Integrated action plan regarding Roma under the Ministries of
the Interior and Education
67. In 2002 an Integrated Action Plan (IAP) for the social integration
of Greek Roma was established within a wider National Action Plan for
the inclusion of socially vulnerable groups. The State has initiated
policies and measures, described as positive discrimination
targeted towards Greek Roma in housing and service provision. The IAP
is coordinated by the Ministry of the Interior in collaboration with
an Inter-Ministerial Committee.
68. The top priority is housing as a means of improving living conditions
and combating social exclusion. A key component is a housing loans programme
providing 9,000 loans of 60,000 Euros to Greek Roma currently living
in low standard accommodation. Loans are provided to purchase or build
a property or engage in organized town building in cooperation with
local authorities. Favorable interest conditions are provided and loans
can be repaid over 22 years. To-date 8,785 housing loans have been allocated.
69. Problems with the housing programme identified by civil society,
include: loans can be divisive for communities in which many living
in similar conditions apply but only few are successful. No benefits
from the scheme accrue to existing Roma settlements and wider communities
since grants are generally family based. Given the extent of funding,
major settlement rehabilitation could have been foreseen with benefits
to whole communities, including purchase of land and provision of numerous
low cost housing units. Since most Roma lack regular income families
may be unable to repay loans with negative implications for the whole
Roma community. Allegations suggest that a high proportion of loans
go to well integrated, relatively prosperous Roma.
70. The Ministry of Education and Religion highlights that its aim
is to integrate Gypsy children in the existing educational system
(without establishing separate classes), to increase school attendance
in primary and secondary education and to decrease school drop-outs,
as well as to manage diversity in the classroom. A range of measures
include: reduced administrative requirements for school enrollment;
student allowances; educational support and pedagogical monitoring including
pre-school courses and support classes; a network of mediators; teacher
training; revised and appropriate education materials to assist Roma
and teachers; and projects to sensitize local communities. The government
acknowledges that some initiatives, including itinerant student cards,
71. The Ministry of Labour and Social Protection described planned
projects, in consultation with Roma, that account for Roma lifestyles,
priorities and preferences in employment and recognize that Roma rarely
have formal qualifications. Recognizing that Roma favor establishing
small enterprises over salaried employment, a new initiative will support
500 Roma entrepreneurs firstly in the Northwest region. Grants of 20,000
Euros will enable small businesses in areas including market trading,
mobile vending and transport. Vocational training initiatives will also
provide Roma with remuneration for course attendance in areas including
IT, cooking, sales, and plumbing. The Ministry acknowledges poor Roma
participation in employment schemes and the need for targeted projects.
72. Despite positive initiatives at the national level, problems of
local government implementation continue. Some commentators noted that
government credit lines that could benefit the Roma exist but are not
taken up by municipalities. Reportedly the Roma bought land close to
Spata but the Municipality revolted and did not allow the
settlement, allegedly arguing that there should not be a Roma settlement
on the road to the airport. One commentator noted: Mayors lose
votes by helping Roma ... they dont want to give them the conditions
that would enable them to stay.
V. EXCEPTIONAL ISSUES FACING MINORITY WOMEN
73. The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women,
in its January 2007 report noted measures taken to enhance integration
of minority women into Greek society, but remains concerned that
women from ethnic minority groups, in particular Roma and Muslim women,
continue to face multiple forms of discrimination with respect to access
to education, employment and health care.
The situation of women within some Roma and Muslim communities is cause
for particular concern and requires dedicated attention.
74. Muslim women experience severe inequalities in access to education
and consequent disproportionately high levels of illiteracy and unemployment.
The application of Sharia law in some instances subjects Muslim women
to norms incompatible with the Greek constitution, legislation and international
standards, particularly with respect to child marriages. This practice
evidently continues with serious implications for the health, well being
and life choices of minority women, but regularly goes un-challenged
by Greek authorities. Women brought up in the Muslim minority of Turkish
heritage not speaking Greek, described being confined to their homes
and villages with few opportunities for employment or social interaction.
Examples were given of intimidation against women who attempted to establish
womens associations. Divorce leaves Muslim women particularly
vulnerable considering their unequal status to men in regard to inheritance
under Sharia law.
75. Roma women confront multiple grounds of discrimination, as women
in Greece, as Roma, and as women within their communities. Many live
under appalling living conditions while exercising an extremely heavy
burden of care for children within highly patriarchal family and community
structures. Young Roma women typically marry and have several children
at a very early age, reportedly as young as 13.
Child marriage is considered a tradition, but is also a consequence
of lack of education and alternative opportunities. Girls have particularly
high school drop out and illiteracy rates, as it is common for them
to leave school upon marriage. Young Roma women often beg with their
children since most men have irregular incomes. Reportedly high levels
of divorce and domestic violence leave Roma women highly vulnerable
and subject to abuse with little if any recourse via the justice system.
Surveys highlighted by civil society groups
undertaken in 2003/4 reveal disturbing trends relating to the general
and maternal health of Roma women. 40 percent gave birth to their first
child at the age of 12-16 years and 30 percent of births take place
in tents or shacks within Roma settlements.
VI. POLITICAL PARTICIPATION OF MINORITIES
76. In Western Thrace, community representatives highlight that no
members of the Muslim minority are represented in senior public posts,
as public prosecutors, in the police or in the judiciary. They claim
that, despite the election of two Muslim Members of Parliament in the
opposition party, no Muslims hold senior posts in ministries. They discussed
a lack of trust that exists between the minority and the Greek authorities
which must be overcome for relations to improve.
77. Political participation of minorities, particularly the Roma community
is generally very poor. In areas where Roma are well integrated, some
Roma do achieve local government office. Such cases have demonstrated
the positive outcomes achieved when Roma have a role in decision making.
However Roma are extremely poorly represented even at the Municipal
level and are unrepresented in National Parliament. ASPIDA-ROM, is a
political party established by Greek Roma in 2006 to campaign for the
rights of the Roma and better representation in Parliament and local
78. Those claiming minority Macedonian identity are represented by
the Rainbow political party. This party does not have a seat in the
national Parliament. The party is active in Macedonia and participates
freely in Greek political life but has not obtained sufficient support
to obtain a seat in Parliament. Representatives note difficulties in
establishing the party and continuing hostility towards it due to its
support for political recognition of the Macedonian minority in Greece,
and the preservation of its culture, language and customs.
79. Two members of the Muslim minority are currently in National Parliament
both from the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) party and actively
advocate for the rights of the Muslim minority. In 2006 Municipal and
Prefectural elections approximately 280 Muslims were reportedly elected
to municipal and prefectural councils, including as mayors and a vice-prefect.
The Muslim minority is always represented at the Hellenic Parliament.
However representation at the most senior government levels has not
been achieved. Notwithstanding the woman vice-Mufti in Xanthi, womens
political participation is poor within the Muslim minority. Only the
male head of households are permitted to vote in community elections
for Muftis, which are not recognized by the State.
VII. CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
80. The Independent Expert notes the history of turbulent inter-State
relations, conflict and bi-lateral treaties between Greece and her immediate
neighbors. Such factors continue to exert influence on minority issues
in Greece. However, the Independent Expert is concerned with matters
solely within the domestic jurisdiction of the Greek government relating
to its treatment of minorities and disadvantaged groups within
Greece. This report has focused on the degree to which legislation,
policy and practice fulfill obligations under international human rights
law, including minority rights, which take precedent over bi-lateral
treaties and agreements.
81. The Greek governments interpretation of the term minorities
is too restrictive to meet current standards: it focuses on the historical
understanding of national minorities created by the dissolution
of empires or agreements concluded at the end of wars; the so-called
Minority Treaties. This historical paradigm limits the definition to
those communities identified in specific bi-lateral treaties that may
also delineate the obligations to the beneficiary community, in some
cases tying those benefits to reciprocal arrangements for kinship communities
in the other state. Treatment of the identified minorities, therefore,
is a matter of inter-state treaty relations. Greece does not recognize
the minority status of other communities, stating that those claims
are unsubstantiated and politically motivated. To some degree, however,
the government seems concerned that such recognition would ipso facto
implicate the foreign policy of the Greek state toward a neighboring
82. One also senses an interest in promoting a singular national
identity. This approach may leave little room for diversity. It can
contribute to a climate in which citizens who wish to freely express
their ethnic identities face government blockages and in some instances,
intimidation from other individuals or groups. In the northern part
of the country some people expressed their view that the term minority
implies foreign. Some consider those who want to identify
as a person belonging to a minority ethnic group to be conspirators
against the interest of the Greek state.
83. Greece recognizes only one minority, that is the Muslim Religious
Minority in Western Thrace, which is protected by the terms and protocols
of the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne which also provides reciprocally for
the protection of the Greek Orthodox minority living in Turkey. Matters
relating to the Muslim minority and the full observance and implementation
of the Treaty of Lausanne, are handled by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
While members of the Muslim minority are fully citizens of Greece, Turkey
is allowed to have a Consulate in the region of Western Thrace and to
involve itself in matters relating to the Muslim minority relevant to
the Treaty of Lausanne.
84. Greece does not recognize differing ethnic or linguistic minorities,
although it acknowledges that groups, like the Roma, are disadvantaged
or vulnerable groups. So, Roma (those who are not Muslims), Muslims
who are not from Western Thrace, those who claim a Macedonian ethnicity
and more recent but settled immigrant communities are limited with respect
to the full enjoyment of their rights of self-identification and the
particular enhanced protections that they may be due as minorities.
Muslims in Western Thrace face limitations on the full enjoyment of
their right to have their Turkish ethnicity acknowledged. Further, those
who identify as belonging to an ethnic Macedonian minority face social
pressures and a challenge to their motives by the government. Associations
have been denied registration because their desired name includes the
words Turkish or Macedonian. Their rights to
freedom of expression and freedom of association as protected under
Article 19 and Article 22 of the ICCPR respectively have been infringed.
85. In both Western Thrace and the region of Central and West Macedonia,
the debate over issues of recognized identities has been contentious.
Tensions persist and there have been credible reports of intimidation.
86. While noting the historical origins of the Greek governments
obligations toward the Muslim minority in Western Thrace and the political
history of the Balkans, the Independent Expert urges Greece to consider
its obligations with respect to minority populations as arising within
the post-1945 legal framework of modern human rights treaties and jurisprudence
based on the principle that protection of human rights and fundamental
freedoms, including those of persons belonging to minorities, is the
responsibility of the State in which the persons and/or minority groups
reside. These rights are universal and are elaborated in multi-lateral
treaties and other documents that constitute core aspects of human rights
law, including minority rights.
In this regard, states should no longer be guided merely by bi-lateral
agreements with specific countries, although within the context of respect
for the rights of non-discrimination and equality before the law, bi-lateral
arrangements could offer enhanced entitlements over the minimum obligations.
87. In the modern paradigm, while minority issues are a legitimate
interest of the international community, they should not be seen as
tied to or implicating specific inter-state relations that may threaten
the principle of territorial integrity. A determination that a certain
group should receive the protections due to minorities does not carry
implications regarding inter-state relations.
Minorities are constituent groups fully within the Greek society - not
a foreign element.
88. The absence of formal recognition by the state of a particular
societal group as constituting a minority is not conclusive.
Rather, the existence of a group to which a state owes minority protections
is a matter of objective facts and exercise of the right of self-identification
by persons belonging to the group.
A number of criteria have been used in the past. A distinct shared religion,
a language or distinctive dialect, race or ethnicity, cultural expressions,
or a common national heritage. The Permanent Court of International
Justice in the Greco-Bulgarian case made reference to a group
of people united in a sentiment of solidarity.
89. Further, persons belonging to minority groups also enjoy all
other civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including
the rights to non-discrimination and equality before the law. But full
protection of those rights is not a substitute for protection of their
90. The government should retreat from the dispute over whether
there is a Macedonian minority or a Turkish minority and place its full
focus on protecting the rights to self-identification, freedom of expression
and freedom of association of those communities. The Greek government
should comply with the judgments of the European Court on Human Rights
that associations should be allowed to use the words Macedonian or Turkish
in their names and to freely express their ethnic identities. Those
associations denied in the past must be given official registration
promptly. Their further rights to minority protections must be respected
as elaborated in the Declaration on Minorities and the core international
human rights treaties.
91. The government should guarantee the right to personal security
and freedom from intimidation or discriminatory actions by private or
public actors on the grounds of the exercise of their right to self-identification.
92. The government is commended for the positive practices that
it has adopted with respect to improving the quality of education available
for the Muslim minority in Western Thrace, including in minority schools
and the guarantee that 0.5% of university entrants - a quota which entered
into force in 1996 - will be reserved for students from the Muslim minority.
93. Those efforts should be strengthened by providing for bi-lingual
instruction in the pre-school level, which is now mandatory nationally;
by guaranteeing that the quality of educational outcomes for those students
who choose to go to the minority schools is comparable to graduates
from the non-minority schools; ensuring that the teaching staff in the
minority schools have the same training and qualifications as teachers
in the non-minority schools and that the University of Athens special
intervention program to upgrade the minority schools in Western Thrace
gets sufficient funding.
94. The government should quickly implement its program of positive
measures to ensure that 0.5% of all government jobs are filled by persons
belonging to the Muslim minority. A similar program of positive measures
should also be put in place with respect to other under-represented
95. The appointment by government of religious officials, such as
Muftis, infringes on the right of persons belonging to the Muslim minority
to effectively participate in the decision-making processes that affect
their daily lives. It is also an infringement on freedom of religion.
On the other hand, it is also not an option to impose Sharia Law
in a fashion that violates the right to equality of women guaranteed
in the constitution and under international law. Religious leaders should
be chosen by their religious communities, but must be restricted to
religious duties that do not infringe fundamental rights.
96. With respect to the Roma population the government is displaying
admirable good will in developing positive policies coordinated at the
inter-Ministerial level through the Integrated Action Programme
on Roma. While some of those policies may raise questions of viability
or appropriateness at a conceptual level, significant problems of implementation
exist at the local level.
97. Many Roma remain in squalid living conditions with their children
either in segregated schools or unable to access educational opportunities
due to their identity. Roma face severe impediments to their rights
to housing and against forced evictions. Their access to public services
- from public transportation to clean drinking water - is denied by
discriminatory actions by local officials. Discrimination in employment
circumscribes their job possibilities to the most menial and dirty in
the informal sector. The European Court of Human Rights has recently
issued judgments against Greece in cases where the Court found failures
to grant to Roma access to justice as defined by international standards
and failure to guarantee the right of Roma children not to be unlawfully
segregated into inferior schools.
98. The government must ensure that national policies are not subverted
or defied by local authorities who find it more convenient to be responsive
to local prejudices. With respect to international legal obligations
including rights of non-discrimination and equality, domestic constitutional
arrangements such as decentralized authority or devolution of powers,
do not mitigate state responsibility for violations of human rights.
The government should consider models which recognize the principle
of national government pre-emption of local authority in matters of
compelling state interest such as fundamental rights. Alternative models
deny funding to non-compliant localities. The European Commission against
Racism and Intolerance has recommended sanctions on municipal
councilors who make racist remarks or do not comply with the regulations
and decisions that bind them. The government must display a stern
political will that localities have no option other than to comply with
positive national policies. National ministries must then effectively
monitor implementation on the local level.
99. The government must take steps immediately to guarantee that
universal standards of equality before the law, due process and the
right to speedy trials are respected fully with regard to Roma defendants
100. The unique issues faced by women from the Roma and the Muslim
minority are failing to gain the special focus they require. Roma and
Muslim women suffer disproportionately high levels of illiteracy and
unemployment and are often subjected to norms incompatible with the
constitution and international standards - like child marriages and
denial of inheritance rights under Sharia Law. Additionally, gender-based
violence is not being effectively addressed. Efforts in this regards
must be well-grounded in a consultative process with the affected women.
101. The Greek civil courts must exercise effective monitoring of
Mufti judicial decisions to guarantee faithful adherence to the guarantees
in constitutional and international human rights law.
102. The Government is urged to comply fully with the CEDAW Committee
recommendation to take effective measures to eliminate discrimination
against minority women, including awareness-raising programmes, to sensitize
public opinion at large, and particularly the police, on the issue of
minority women. It also urges the State party to address the forms of
discrimination, including with regard to access to education, by minority
women through its legal, administrative and welfare systems.
103. The history of the Greek state and the majority conception
of the national identity are tightly intertwined with the
Greek Orthodox religion. Minority religions therefore have had to struggle
to establish and maintain sufficient space for the full exercise of
their identities in the civic sphere. Recent positive steps have been
taken by the government. However, issues persist with the erection of
houses of worship, burial practices and sites and general biases in
public attitudes, including incidents of anti-Semitism. Bias also exists
within the law to the extent that only the Greek Orthodox and the Jewish
religions are recognized as having distinct legal personality as religious
entities. The other religions are governed by the laws relating to secular
associations giving rise to issues of equality with respect to protection
of the right to freedom of religion.
104. The minority religions should be governed by a legal framework
that recognizes their religious character and grants them legal personality
appropriate to that status. All religions should have equal recognition
under the law. Additionally, the law banning proselytizing, which has
not had recent application, should be formally revoked.
The Racial Equality Directive and
the Employment Framework Directive, aim to prevent people in the European
Union from being discriminated against on grounds of race and ethnic
origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation.
The governments latest periodic
report to the CERD explains the scope of the relevant Chapter II of
the Law. Its provisions apply to all persons, as regards both the public
and private sectors. Reference required.
 Memorandum from the Government of
Greece to the Independent Expert.
 Bekir-Ousta and others, Judgment
of 11/10/2007; Ermin and Others v. Greece, Judgment of 27/03/2008; Tourkiki
Enosi Xanthis and others, Judgment 27/02/2008, final on 29/09/2008.
 While the language of the Treaty
of Lausanne is vague, an earlier Treaty of Athens details the protection
of the religious privileges of Muslims residing in Greece. It includes
requirements in Article 11 related to the election of Muftis, and the
bodies responsible for the management and administration of religious
foundations. The Greek Government considers that, according to Greek
case law, the provisions of the Treaty of Athens related to minority
protection have been superseded by the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne. A Decree
of December 1990 abolished previous legal procedures for election of
muftis, in favour of government appointment procedures.
 See Agga v. Greece (No. 2), Judgment
17/10/2002, (also No. 3 and No. 4).
 Hellenic Republic National Commission
For Human Rights, Report 2006, English Summary, p. 61.
 Article 40 state that: they
shall have an equal right to establish, manage and control at their
own expense, any charitable, religious and social institutions, any
schools and other establishments for instruction and education, with
the right to use their own language and to exercise their own religion
freely therein. Article 41 additionally establishes that, in towns
and districts where there is a considerable proportion of Greek nationals
belonging to Moslim minorities, these minorities shall be assured an
equitable share in the enjoyment and application of the sums which may
be provided out of public funds under the State, municipal or other
budgets for educational, religious, or charitable purposes.
 Criminal anti-discrimination Law
927/1979, as subsequently amended, has been, until the enactment of
Law 3304/2005, the only statutory legislation expressly offering protection
from religious discrimination in Greece. In addition, there is a substantial
body of case-law, in particular of the Council of State, that supplements
the above legislation in the area of the protection of religious discrimination.
See http://ec.europa.eu/employment_social/ fundamental_rights/pdf/aneval/religion_el.pdf.
 In December 1997 the European Court
of Human Rights ruled10 that Greece was in violation of the European
Convention since denial of legal personality placed a real restriction
on the Church to bring complaints to a domestic court. In response,
in 1999 Parliament enacted legislation that extends legal recognition
as a private entity to Roman Catholic churches and related entities
established prior to 1946. The Catholic Church unsuccessfully has sought
government recognition of its canon law since 1999. It has also sought
unsuccessfully for a legal procedure to recognize its religious institutions
built after 1946.
 In 2001 hundreds of Jewish headstones
were vandalized and police protection was given to Synagogues to prevent
 The government stresses that
the geographical region of Macedonia extends beyond one sovereignty;
Greece, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Bulgaria and Albania
all include different parts of geographic Macedonia.
 Sidiropoulos and Others vs. Greece,
European Court of Human Rights, 57/1997/841/8107.
 Security Council Resolutions
817 (1993) and 845 (1993) mention that a difference has arisen
over the name of the State which needs to be resolved in the interest
of the maintenance of peaceful and good neighbourly relations in the
 The government notes that scholars
in international linguistic conferences have sought to avoid confusion
caused, by using the term Slav Macedonian instead of Macedonian
language, whenever they refer to the language of the former Yugoslav
of Macedonia, in order to preserve the distinction of the Macedonian
language of the Ancient Macedonians, as well as to underline the Slavic
character of the language of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
 Memorandum from the Government
of Greece to the Independent Expert.
 On 20 July 2007, the Independent
Expert sent a joint letter of allegation to the Government in regard
to evictions of Roma minority communities in locations including Patras
(A/HRC/7/16/Add.1). A reply was received on 22 August 2008 providing
further details of the situation and actions taken by the government.
 Sampanis and others vs. Greece,
 Many Roma marriages are not legal
and not registered, with implications including in regard to the registration
of children and fathers.
 See Greek Helsinki Monitor -
Parallel Report on Greeces Compliance with the UN Convention on
the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
 See, among others, the Helsinki
Final Act (Principle VII, para.4), the 1950 European Convention for
the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (hereinafter:
ECHR) (Article 1), the International Convention on the Elimination
of Racial Discrimination, and with regard to minorities in particular,
in the 1966 UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
(hereinafter: ICCPR) (Article 27), the UN Declaration on
the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious or
Linguistic Minorities, (Article 1(1)), the CSCE Copenhagen Document
(paragraphs 33(1) and 36(2)) and the FCNM (Article 1).
 See the Bolzano/Bolzen Recommendations
on National Minorities in Inter-State Relations & Explanatory Note,
June, 2008; www.OSCE-hcnm.org.
 See Hurst Hannum, The Concept
and Definaition of Minorities, Universal Minority Rights: A Commentary
on the Jurisprudence of International Courts and Treaty Bodies, Ed.
Marc Weller, University Press, 2007, p.49.
 See article 27 of the ICCPR;
General Recommendation ___ of the HRC; The Declaration on Minorities;
ICERD and CERD Recommendation VIII, 1990 and XXIV, 1998.