To Pontiki: Romania caught Greece off guard

The Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs neither found out, nor reacted when grounds were laid in the Council of Europe for recognition of the Macedonian language as protected regional or minority language.

This was done in line with Romania's decision to grant such status, Greece-based "To Pontiki" newspaper writes.

On 1 May 2008 Romania joined the CoE European map of regional or minority languages, recognising the existence and necessity of protecting the Macedonian language on its territory. Until now, "To Pontiki" reports, Macedonia hadn't had the opportunity to raise the issue involving existence and protection of the Macedonian minority in CoE members countries, because the basic condition required some of them to recognise the language as regional or minority one as well.

- Greece can claim that the issue on recognising the Macedonian language and minority had never existed and will never exist. However, since it was recognised as protected regional minority language in Romania, there's a possibility other Macedonian neighbouring countries to do the same, writes the newspaper.

"To Pontiki" adds that diplomats in Strasbourg claim that in foreseeable future the Macedonian language, i.e. Macedonian minority who speaks the language, will be recognised by their neighbours and by other states, whereas Greece will remain firm in its positions that there is neither Macedonian language nor Macedonian minority on its territory.

The issue of the Macedonian language and minority in Greece was initiated two years ago by watchdog group Human Right Watch. It suggested the Athens Government to recognise the existence of the Macedonian ethnic minority, its language and cultural traditions, to lift the limitations for free expression, to solve the issue involving the Macedonian political refugees from Greece and to allow them to return and to obtain Greek citizenship, "To Pontiki" writes.

As an example, Romanian and World footballing legend George Haghi is of Macedonian descent, his grand parents were forced out of Aegean Macedonia by the Greek Fascist Government. They resettled on the Black Sea in Romania.