Letter: Greeks in Albania want only what is fair

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your leading article (21 July) does justice neither to Greece's position nor to the Greek minority in Albania. You seem to consider 'unquestionably provocative' the Greek government's protest against the brutal expulsion of a Greek clergyman ministering an internationally recognised Greek minority and the demand that he be reinstated. You surprisingly argue that such matters should concern only church spiritual authorities, to the exclusion of the state whose citizens or ethnic kin have been wronged.

It should, however, be obvious that state authorities must have a say in such cases of flagrant violation of human and religious rights. One wonders whether under similar circumstances, and had the clergyman been British, you would also deny the Foreign Office a voice in the matter, in favour, for example, of Lambeth Palace or the Vatican.

It is equally legitimate (if not a duty) to call for 'the right of Albanian citizens to declare whatever ethnic identity they wish' in accordance with international principles (Human Rights Conventions, CSCE, Paris Charter, and so on). There is evidently a confusion in your article between citizenship and ethnic origin. Only a few days ago, the Greek Prime Minister, Constantine Mitsotakis, restated that Greece is simply 'demanding for the Greek minority in Albania precisely what Tirana is demanding for the Albanian minorities in former Yugoslavia. At the same time, however, not only is Greece not raising the issue of borders, but is the main champion of the principle of inviolability of existing borders in the region'.

Last but not least, when it comes to the Greek minority in Albania, it is not simply a case of 'equality within poverty'. Human rights groups have repeatedly produced ample 'evidence of active discrimination against them', particularly over education (refusal, for example, to allow the teaching of Greek in public schools beyond the first few grades, and even then only in a few arbitrarily designated 'minority zones'), religion (harassment of priests, and so on) and culture. It is simply the safeguarding of those rights that Greece is seeking.

Yours faithfully,

ELIAS GOUNARIS

Ambassador, Greek Embassy

London, W11

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