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"The Greek government views the term "Macedonian" as a geographic term that describes all Greek citizens living in the Macedonian region in northern Greece. The government denies the assertions of the ethnic Macedonians in Greece that they are are a minority group; officials refer to them as "Slavophone Greeks" or "bilinguals." - Human Rights Watch

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Macedonian Airlines Banned From Flying Into Greece Because of Name PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 11 July 2006

 Source: Macedonian daily newspaper Utrinski Vesnik

Translated by UMDiaspora Staff

“Our state has failed to take any reciprocity measures against Greek airliners”

Macedonian Airlines (MAT) will lose several hundreds of thousands of euros this summer due to a ban imposed by the Greek aviation authorities on charter flights to Greek tourist destinations.  According to MAT, the problem is the company's name.  In response, the Macedonian aviation has not taken any reciprocity measures against Greek airliners, which will thus gain a lion's share of this year’s tourist pie.  The rest will go to foreign airliners of former Yugoslavia, which will be able to fly freely from Macedonia to destinations in Greece.

“As early as April, we tried to arrange charter flights with the Greek aviation authorities, but they denied our request.  We immediately lodged a complaint with our Civil and Aviation Authority (UCVP), asking it to reciprocate.  To our great surprise, however, our aviation authorities granted permission to Greece’s Aegean Airlines to fly from Skopje, even though Greece's ban violates international law,” MAT says.

According to local travel agents, Greece is again this year's top destination for Macedonia's holidaymakers.  Among others, Rhodes and Crete are this summer's most popular destinations, the arrangements for which include airfare, as well.

“If we had been granted permission, we would have had 30-40 flights to Greece this summer,” MAT says.  Knowing that each charter flight would have flown some 140 passengers, which is the company plane’s capacity, it is easy to figure out our national airliner's loss, which will flow into the coffers of foreign air carriers.  “The state's dignity must be protected, but unfortunately, the UCVP is not doing that,” MAT says.  “No regulation envisages flight bans only because of an airliner's name.”  MAT has sought permission for charter flights to Greece on several occasions since April, but each time met with rejection.

“It is not MAT that creates the air traffic policy,” UCVP Director Ilir Mehmeti has said angrily, stressing that this is a private company that is protecting its own interests and adding that they have already sent a note to the Greek aviation authorities and that they are proceeding in accordance with the legal regulations.

MAT has never landed at an airport in neighboring Greece.  Moreover, Greece’s aviation authorities have even obstructed its so-called low transit flights.  MAT says that there has never been a problem for its high-elevation flights, those at 11,000 meters.  This is probably why they choose to fly alternative routes to other countries’ tourist destinations, such as Tunisia.
 
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