Dimitras: Ethnicities or countries can not change name ...
Tuesday, 21 April 2009

In the 90’s of the last century Panayotis Elias Dimitris was the leader of a leftist movement who stood up to the Greek nationalist euphoria and collaborated with Macedonian organizations across the border, keeping the communication, i.e. intellectual dialogue between the two countries.

The main purpose for the communication as Panayotis points out was to show the Macedonians that there are Greek intellectuals, though a minority, who disagree with the propaganda perpetrated by official Athens.

Mr. Dimitras has a doctorate in political sciences from Harvard University, is currently the head of the Greek Helsinki Monitor, and is one of the very few individuals who dares to publicly question Greek Government’s policies in regards to their ethnic minorities.

Mr. Dimitras’ courage, earned him a charge for “high treason” by the Greek Government, a charge that was swiftly accepted by the Public prosecutor who at the moment is developing his case.

The last interview Mr. Dimitras gave to a Macedonian newspaper, he stated that at the moment, it is virtually impossible to state the true number of Macedonians in Greece, because people are fearful for their safety.
“If I, as an ethnic Greek, am being prosecuted by the Government because I have publicly stated there are Macedonians in Greece, just imagine how do the people in Lerin (Florina), Kostur (Kastoria), Voden(Edessa)… feel”

Macedonia and Greece have a dispute that stretches back almost 20 years. Do you believe the name of the country is the problem or is there a hidden agenda?

Panayotis Elias Dimitras: The main dispute has nothing to do with the name of the country, rather it is your identity. Greece does not wish to accept a Macedonian identity, anywhere in this world, let alone on its territory. Because on our territory, Greece does not and will not accept any minority, it doesn’t matter whether it is the Macedonians, Turks, or others.

There are certain politicians, or groups in Macedonia who have no problem of settling the name dispute by changing the name. Is there such a group in Greece who have no problem with our name?

Dimitras: There is a small group of Greek intellectuals who have no issues accepting Republic of Macedonia. The same group is fully aware of the Macedonian minority in Greece, however this group is facing unfriendly activities by the dominant majority.

Both peoples are tired of the dispute and the negotiations. Is it possible you think that soon they’ll find the strength and will to solve the problem?

- Greeks will accept the name North Macedonia, if both sides agree to it. However, Greece will not recognize the Macedonian minority nor the language. This fact makes it very difficult that a solution will be found any time soon or that cool heads will prevail.

According to you, what is a fair compromise?

- I personally don’t believe there should be a reason for an ethnicity or a country to change its name because another country is pushing for it. Perhaps North Macedonia may be a compromise if Greece accepts the Macedonians in Greece, but also in the neighboring country.

Greece has threatened that will block Macedonia from entering integrating into the EU unless it changes its name. Could this problem become potentially problem of NATO and the EU?

This happened primarily because EU and NATO allowed Greece as an ‘older’ member to impose their views on the rest of the members. The EU is tolerating Greece’s stubbornness, does not punish it when it fails for disrespecting and not following orders from the European Court of Human Rights neither heeds advice from the recommendations of all experts and institutions from the European Council and the United Nations.

Mr. Dimitras, do you believe in a quick settlement or solution between Macedonia and Greece?
- I can not be an optimist on this…

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