Sputnik also recognises the presence of a Slavo-Macedonian minority in Greece
The BBC Channel story narrating the presence of a suppressed ethnic Macedonian minority in Northern Greece appears to have set off a chain of reactions in the press. In the immediate aftermath of Mrs. Maria Margaroni’s story at the BBC Channel, a letter of complaint was delivered by Greece’s Ambassador to Britain Mr. Dimitris Caramitsos-Tziras to the channel’s officials. In the letter the Greek Ambassador criticised the channel officials for not rectifying the story’s historical inaccuracies and distorted interpretation of the provisions of the ground-breaking initiative towards establishing trans-Balkan peace, the Prespes Agreement.
However, before the fuss over BBC’s story subsided, another report by Russian state-run Sputnik came into public spotlight. The Greek subsidiary of the Russian news agency distributed to press a recent interview handled by journalist Lambros Zaharis with Pavlos Voskopoulos, a self-proclaimed Greek national of Slavo-Macedonian origins. Mr. Voskopoulos is also the co-founder and leader of the Slavo-Macedonian Rainbow Political Party – the alleged political representation of ethnic Slavo-Macedonians in the Greek political environment.
In his recent interview at Sputnik Greece, Mr. Voskopoulos provided a detailed analysis over the presence of a local ethnic Slavo-Macedonian minority in Greece. According to Mr. Voskopoulos, ethnic Slavo-Macedonians in Greece suffer from decades-long discrimination practices, similar in scale to the 1930s Nazi German regime, especially in relation to violations of their linguistic rights. These are still citizens of the Greek state but possess a distinctive Slavo-Macedonian identity. The Rainbow political party leader admitted that these citizens have been widely neglected both by state authorities and Greek-Macedonians who treat them as foreigners in their own country. Mr. Voskopoulos acknowledged the presence of 500 villages in northern Greece, located mostly within the Administrative Region of Macedonia, near the cities of Kastoria, Naousa, and Veria. South-Slavonic Macedonian language villages may also be found as far as the city of Drama in the norther-eastern part of Greece.
The Rainbow party head lauded the June 2018 Prespes Agreement, denoting that it officially recognises the existence of a South-Slavonic Macedonian language after a century of ignorance and repression. In his closing message, Mr. Voskopoulos requested the progressive integration of Macedonian language lessons in the Greek schools and called for Greek citizens and state authorities to respect the right of self-determination of Slavo-Macedonians in Greece. Self-determination is exclusively focused on respect for linguistic rights and no irredentist claims will be put forward, reassured Mr. Voskopoulos the anxious Greek-Macedonians. All we ask for is us, the Slavo-Macedonians, to peacefully co-exist with Greek-Macedonians in northern Greece.
The Rainbow party is headquartered in the city of Florina. In 2009 parliamentary elections, the party received less than 5.000 votes, thus not entering the parliament. Mr. Voskopoulos admitted at Sputnik that only 250 people are active members in the party today.
The emergence of press reports about suppressed ethnic Macedonian minorities in Northern Greece severely undermines government efforts to persuade the broader public of the historical significance and benefits reaped from the conclusion of the Prespes Agreement.