The Western Thrace Turkish delegation consisting of representatives of ABTTF, WTMUGA and FEP Party stated that the Turkish community in Western Thrace is not included in the legislative and decision-making process on issues of direct interest to it.
The Federation of Western Thrace Turks in Europe (ABTTF), the Western Thrace Minority University Graduates Association (WTMUGA) and Friendship, Equality and Peace (FEP) Party, representing the Turkish community in Western Thrace attended the Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) entitled “Democratic Law-Making: Ensuring Participation” which was held online on 26-27 April 2021.
Deniz Servantie and Nihan Ayan from ABTTF, Dr. Pervin Hayrullah and Kerem Abdurahimoğlu from WTMUGA and General Coordinator Fatih Hüseyinoğlu from FEP Party attended the meeting which was organised by the Swedish OSCE Chairpersonship and OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR).
The meeting, which was attended by representatives of the OSCE participating States, non-governmental organisations, international organisations and national human rights organisations along with experts, began with the opening speeches by Annika Ben David, Ambassador-at-large for Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Sweden on behalf of the 2021 Swedish OSCE Chairpersonship, OSCE/ODIHR Director Matteo Mecacci and OSCE President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Lord Peter Bowness.
Speaking at the first session entitled “Open and Inclusive Law-Making” on 26 April, WTMUGA noted that although Greece is a party to the European Convention on Human Rights, it has not yet implemented the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) judgments with respect to the Xanthi Turkish Union, the Cultural Association of Turkish Women in the Prefecture of Rodopi and the Evros Prefecture Minority Youth Association in the Bekir-Ousta and Others group of cases for political reasons. Underlining that the rule of law is a prerequisite for the prevention of fundamental injustice and corruption, WTMUGA called on Greece to consider the views and needs of the Turkish community whilst drafting laws pertaining to the Turkish community in Western Thrace.
Intervening in the same session, ABTTF stated that Greece has not implemented ECtHR judgments regarding the associations belonging to the Turkish community in Western Thrace in the Bekir-Ousta and Others group of cases for 13 years, adding that despite the warnings of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, the applications of the regarding associations have still not re-examined on their merits by the Greek national courts in light of the ECtHR’s case law. Noting that Greece’s rejection of the ethnic Turkish identity of the Turkish community in Western Thrace and a lack of political will were at the heart of the failure to implement the ECtHR judgments, ABTTF demanded that Greece implement the ECtHR judgments immediately.
Speaking at the third session titled “Public Participation and the Digital Space”, ABTTF stated that the Turkish community in Western Thrace is poorly represented within the policy-making and decision-making system of Greece, noting that the 3 percent electoral threshold applied to independent candidates, together with political parties in general elections and European Parliament (EP) elections, has blocked the representation of the Turkish community in parliament through independent candidates or through its own political party. ABTTF called for the establishment of a dialogue mechanism between government authorities and the Turkish community in Western Thrace, as outlined in the OSCE Lund Recommendations on the Effective Participation of National Minorities in Public Life, adding that this would be a major step towards solving existing problems.
Intervening at the same session, WTMUGA indicated that the decisions and laws on issues of direct interest to the Turkish community in Western Thrace, such as identity, education, mufti and foundations, were arbitrarily created by the Greek authorities without the consent of the Turkish community, adding that the names of historical schools belonging to the Turkish community in Western Thrace were changed and legal associations which comprised the word ‘Turkish’ in their name were banned. WTMUGA called for OSCE participating States to encourage Greece to adopt a more transparent and inclusive legislative system.
Using its right of reply in both sessions, Greece reminded that the Greek state recognised solely a “Muslim minority” in Western Thrace, claiming that minority members actively participated in all aspects of daily public, civil and political life, both at the regional and national levels.