This section examines the case of the Macedonian, or Slavic-speaking, minority of northern Greece. The size of the minority population is a matter of dispute. No official census includes these figures, and self-identification has been strongly discouraged by state politics (Human Rights Watch 1994). Unofficial estimates of Slavic ancestry range significantly from 50,000 to 200,000, although the number who exhibit language retention and self-identification is lower.
1. FEDERAL OR QUASI-FEDERAL TERRITORIAL AUTONOMY
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- Greece is a unitary state consisting of 13 administrative regions called peripheries. It is also divided in 54 prefectures (second level of government), as well as in municipalities and communities (first level of government).
- The historical region of Macedonia, where most Greek Macedonians are concentrated, is split into three peripheries: West Macedonia, Central Macedonia, and East Macedonia and Thrace.
- Article 102 of the Constitution of the Hellenic Republic (1975) states that the first and second levels of government are responsible for the administration of local affairs. They have administrative and financial autonomy.
- A number of administrative competencies were devolved to the peripheries and the municipalities in the mid-1990s as part of a decentralization process. Most of the duties of the prefectures were transferred to the peripheries (Ioakimidis 2000).
- Amendments to the constitution made in 2001 specified that for the administration of local affairs, "the presumption of competence concurs in favour of local government agencies" (Article 102). They perform their functions independently from other levels of government, and without hierarchical relationship to each other or to the central government (Department of Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations 2004).
- That being said, this decentralization is mainly administrative and there is no evidence of any decision by the state to enable minority autonomy. On the contrary, the Greek state is ideologically opposed to the idea of granting autonomy to minorities, which are not recognized.
2. OFFICIAL LANGUAGE STATUS, EITHER IN THE REGION OR NATIONALLY
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- The language spoken by the Macedonian minority is not recognized by the Greek state and, as a consequence, has not been granted official status nationally or regionally.
- According to Human Rights Watch, the Greek government even denies that the language spoken by the Macedonians of northern Greece exists: it is at best referred to as an idiom. Its use has long been restricted, and it still cannot be used in teaching or in judicial proceedings (Human Rights Watch 1994).
- However, the 2018 Prespa Agreement between Greece and the Republic of Macedonia changed the name of the latter to the Republic of North Macedonia as of February 2019 and recognizes the Macedonian language for North Macedonia, which may help make it possible to recognize the Macedonian language in Greece sometime in the future (Joseph & Vangelov 2018).
- Since 1951, official censuses do not count the number of minority-language speakers.
- Greece has not signed the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages.
3. GUARANTEES OF REPRESENTATION IN THE CENTRAL GOVERNMENT OR ON CONSTITUTIONAL COURTS
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- Elections to the Greek Parliament are based on a system of reinforced proportional representation. Most members of Parliament (288 out of 300) are elected in 56 constituencies, whereas the 12 others are selected from nationwide party lists (Greece index, n.d.). Constituencies mostly coincide with prefectures and can never be deprived of representation nor merged with another prefecture's constituency.
- Under the current electoral law ("reinforced proportionality"), a party must receive at least a 3 percent vote nationwide in order to elect representatives to the Parliament. This gives the most popular party a substantially higher share of seats than its share of votes, and disadvantages smaller parties. This limits considerably the possibility for a Macedonian ethnic party to elect some representatives.
- The Supreme Special Court of Greece serves as the ultimate instance for both electoral and constitu- tional matters. Article 100 of the Constitution (1975) states that members of the Supreme Special Court are selected from the highest ranking members of the Council of State, the Court of Cassation and the Chamber of Accounts. None of these courts guarantee representation for the Macedonian minority.
4. PUBLIC FUNDING OF MINORITY-LANGUAGE UNIVERSITIES / SCHOOLS / MEDIA
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- Primary and secondary education, as well as higher education, are the responsibilities of the Greek central government (Ioakimidis 2000).
- Political activists have called for the teaching of Macedonian in local schools since the 1980s, but this is still not permitted in either public or private schools (Karakasidou 2000; Radio Free Europe 2002).
- Teaching in Macedonian is not allowed because the state denies that this language exists. Foreign languages can be taught in Greek schools after obtaining a license and a certificate, but these are refused to Macedonian teachers and schools (Human Rights Watch 1994).
- In their 2004 manifesto, the European Free Alliance Party (2004) affirmed the necessity for the Greek state to recognize minority languages such as Macedonian and introduce them in the education system, but this has not taken place.
- According to article 15 of the constitution (1975), radio and television broadcasting are the direct responsibility of the Greek state. Here again, the central government's denial of the existence of a regional Macedonian language has prevented any programming in the minority language (Radio Free Europe 2002).
- Broadcasting regulations are supervised by the Greek National Council for Radio and Television (Mediterranean Network of Regulatory Authorities 2017). Based on the available evidence, the council's mandate does not seem to include any reference to the protection, representation or use of minority languages.
- The Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation is the Greek public broadcaster, and provides radio and television services at the national, regional and local levels. It currently operates two national and two regional tele- vision channels, as well as six national and 19 regional radio stations (Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation n.d.).
- One television channel and one radio station are located in the Macedonian region and are said to be of a local nature. However, there is no mention that any of the programming is in the Macedonian language. On the contrary, the Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation's mission includes the upgrading, safeguarding and promotion of the Greek language (ibid.).
5. CONSTITUTIONAL OR PARLIAMENTARY AFFIRMATION OF "MULTINATIONALISM"
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- The Greek government does not acknowledge the existence of minorities in the country and emphasizes that the state is ethnically homogeneous, with the exception of the Turks, which are described as a religious minority (Radio Free Europe 2002).
- In an undated publication issued in the early 1990s, the Greek Foreign Ministry stated that since the populations' exchange in the first half of the 20th century, "there has been no Slav minority in Greece" (Hellenic Resources Network n.d.). According to Roudometof (2002), Greek officials are wary of this recognition because they see it as a potential threat to the state's territorial sovereignty.
- The state uses the term "Macedonian" only as a geographic term describing the region in northern Greece. It denies assertions of an ethnic Macedonian minority and argues that a Macedonian national identity is fiction (Human Rights Watch 1994).
- For Human Rights Watch (1994), this failure to recognize the "multinationalism" of the country is reflected, among other things, in the government's refusal to allow the opening of a centre of Macedonian culture and the prohibition of Macedonian songs and dances.
- In the late 1990s, the Greek government seemed to relax its approach, and organized a conference on Macedonian minorities where it emphasized the right to the private pursuit of cultural mobilization by Macedonian activists (Roudometof 2002).
6. ACCORDED INTERNATIONAL PERSONALITY
(E.G., ALLOWING THE SUB-STATE REGION TO SIT ON INTERNATIONAL BODIES, SIGN TREATIES, OR HAVE THEIR OWN OLYMPIC TEAM)
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- According to article 36 of the constitution (1975), the central state is responsible for all representation in the international sphere: it signs international treaties, negotiates economic cooperation agreements and seats on international organizations.
- Since the Greek state denies the existence of the Macedonian minority, there is no recognized institutional entity representing the minority's interests in international relations. The administrative regions of Western Macedonia, Central Macedonia, and Eastern Macedonia and Thrace are members of the EU Committee of the Regions, but so are most of the other administrative regions and there is no evidence of Greek Macedonian involvement as such in international bodies or agreements.