Macedonian Issue between Skopje and Athens: Interview with Panayote Dimitras

NEW BALKAN POLITICS

INTERVIEW WITH PANAYOTE DIMITRAS

Panyote Elias Dimitras is the founder and president of the Greek Helsinki Watch since 1992, and since 1998 he has been the Director of the Documenting and Information Center for Minorities in Southeastern Europe. He is a PhD of political and legal sciences at Harvard University, one of the rare intellectuals who openly speak about the existence of a Macedonian minority in Greece. Due to his fierce criticism towards the Greek xenophobic policy and the statements that there is a Macedonian minority in Greece, the state started an investigation against him, accusing him of treason. The Minister of Justice accepted the charges, so Dimitras is now persecuted by the Greek Public Prosecutor. If the case ends up in court, he says that he will face life imprisonment. He is one of the greatest fighters for human rights, who promote equality among people as the highest achievement of the contemporary world.

We strongly recomend to our public, to visit the web-page of Greek Helsinki Monitor(www.greekhelsinki.gr); several interviews of Panayote Dimitras on YuTube as well as the web-page of the organisation of Vinozito(www.florina.org)

1. Macedonia and Greece have a hard dispute over the use of the Macedonian constitutional name. Is the dispute just in the usage of the name Macedonia or does it have another background?

Panayote Dimitras: It is essentially not about the name but about the identity. Greece refuses to accept that there can be a Macedonian ethnic identity anywhere and most importantly within its territory, where no ethnic minorities are recognized, be they Macedonian or Turkish.

2. Beside the official Macedonian position there are a remarkable group of intellectuals who openly call for a compromise because of the European future of Macedonia. Is there such group in Greece, whose position is contrary to the official Greek politics?

Panayote Dimitras: There is a however small group of people in Greece ready to accept the constitutional name of the Republic of Macedonia and the existence of a Macedonian minority in Greece but they face the hostility and harassment of the dominant majority.

3. Both nations are exhausted by political questions and the long process dispute. Is it possible for both sides, Macedonia and Greece, to find power and reason and resolve the problem in the near future?

Panayote Dimitras: Greeks may accept a “North Macedonia” name for the country if agreed upon by both sides but would have a very hard time to accept recognition of a Macedonian ethnicity and language, which makes the likelihood of reason prevailing small.

4. What in your opinion is the fair compromise?

Panayote Dimitras: Personally I do not think that there is a reason for countries and ethnic groups to change their names because others want to. Yet in view of the situation, a “North Macedonia” name but with recognition of the Macedonian ethnicity and language in both the Republic and in adjacent countries is a fair compromise.

5. Greece threatens that it will block the Macedonian EU accession, after it did that within the NATO. Why the need for a bilateral issue to become a European problem?

Panayote Dimitras: Because the EU and NATO countries have allowed all too long that Greece, as an old member, imposes its views on the other member countries, and tolerate its defiance with impunity of the European Court of Human Rights judgments and recommendations of all expert institutions of the Council of Europe and the UN.

6. Do you believe in a prompt solution of the problem?

Panayote Dimitras: In view of all the above, I cannot be at all optimistic.