Athens to appeal EU Thrace ruling

Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis said yesterday that Greece would appeal a decision by the European Court of Human Rights allowing two groups in a Muslim-populated region of northern Greece to define themselves as «Turkish.» «After careful consideration, Greece has decided to appeal the ruling,» Bakoyannis told a press conference without elaborating. The Strasbourg-based court ruled in March that Greece had violated European provisions on freedom of assembly and association by banning two groups calling themselves the Xanthi Turkish Union and the Rodopi Cultural Association of Turkish Women. In an earlier ruling, Greece’s Supreme Court had banned the two associations which it accused of seeking to promote «Turkish ideas.» Greece recognizes the existence of a Muslim minority in Thrace but says calling this minority Turkish is inaccurate and a potential threat to democratic stability. Bakoyannis also responded yesterday to comments by the president of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) earlier this week according to which the neighboring country will not accept any change to its language and national identity. «We will not be drawn into a new discussion which may eventually lead to the negotiating process being distracted from its aim,» Bakoyannis said, stressing once again that the purpose of ongoing talks is to arrive at a «mutually acceptable solution on the name issue.» FYROM President Branko Crvenkovski on Tuesday said his country should «reassess its stance on the dual name formula and make some kind of concession,» but added that Skopje would not budge on issues of language and identity. United Nations mediator Matthew Nimetz is due to visit Athens and Skopje next week in a bid to advance negotiations on the name.