The European Parliament has been urged to investigate claims that the cultural and other rights of ethnic Greeks in Ukraine, especially the right of education in the mother tongue, are “not respected properly.”
MEPs will also be asked to look into allegations that few Greek schools are supported by the State and face “many obstacles” when it comes to registration of property and heritage rights.
There are also reportedly “many other irregularities” which are said to “complicate the normal existence” of Greek clubs, organizations and cultural institutions.
These were the key findings of a recent two-day, fact finding visit to the southern Ukrainian city of Odessa by a group of Greek MPs and former Greek government ministers.
The Greek representatives have also asked their colleagues in the European Parliament to “seriously consider” and the situation afflicting ethnic Greeks in the country.
According to the most recent Ukrainian census there are 91,548 ethnic Greeks in Ukraine, that is 0.2% of the whole population. The vast majority of these (77,000) have always lived, and still do, in the Donetsk Oblast.
However, the actual percentage of those with Greek ancestry is likely to be much higher, due to widespread intermarriage between ethnic Greeks and Ukrainian citizens who are Russian Orthodox, particularly in eastern Ukraine.
The purpose of the Greek parliamentarian visit, which came about at the invitation of a local non-governmental organisation, was to establish the current situation of the Greek minority in the country.
Greek MP Vasilis Chatzilambrou, one of those in the Greek delegation, said he had informed the Greek Parliament and also Greek deputies in the European Parliament about concerns regarding the state of Greek minorities in Ukraine.
He said ethnic Greeks faced “constant pressure and harassment” from local authorities.
Speaking from Athens, Chatzilambrou said, “The situation in Ukraine is not developing in favour of democracy and basic human rights, especially the right of assembly.”
His sentiments were echoed by Konstantinos Isychos, a former Deputy Defence Minister and MP in Greece, who said that the conscription of ethnic Greeks to the Ukrainian armed forces was “another issue of concern.”
Another former Greek MP, Nadia Valavani, complained of being “unable to move freely in Donbass, meet with people, and participate in open and free discussions”.
Valavani said the situation afflicting ethnic Greeks in Ukraine was “public knowledge” in Greece and had recently featured in the local news media there.
By Martin Banks