The Western Thrace Turkish delegation comprised of the representatives of ABTTF and WTMUGA explained about the legal obstacles to the Turkish community in Western Thrace in its presentations at the meeting.
The Federation of Western Thrace Turks in Europe (ABTTF) and the Western Thrace Minority University Graduates Association (WTMUGA), representing the Turkish community in Western Thrace, attended to the European-Central Asian Forum on Minority Issues under the heading of ‘30th anniversary of the UN Declaration on the rights of minorities 1992-2022’ which was held in hybrid format on 2-3 May 2022. Deniz Servantie of the ABTTF Brussels Office and WTMUGA Member Kerem Abdurahimoğlu attended the forum which was organised in cooperation between the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues Fernand de Varennes, the Federal Ministry of European and International Affairs of the Republic of Austria and the Budapest based Tom Lantos Institute and in which the Federal Union of European Nationalities (FUEN) has also taken part.
Intervening as a panellist in the second session titled ‘Implementation: Institutions, Mechanisms, Policies and Programmes’, Vice-Head of the Balkan Research Institute at the Edirne based Trakya University and member of the Turkish community in Western Thrace Associate Professor Ali Hüseyinoğlu mentioned the importance of a robust normative framework for the functional protection of minority rights and noted that rights violations and discrimination against national minorities have increased in Europe in recent years. Pointing to the current rights situation of the Turkish community in Western Thrace, Hüseyinoglu indicated that Greece has not yet executed the judgments taken by the ECtHR on associations related to the Turkish community in Western Thrace, and that the ethnic Turkish identity is still not recognized in Greece. Referring to the fact that the UN and the Council of Europe are important institutions for consolidating the rights of national minorities, Hüseyinoglu explained that the active participation of minority representatives in such institutions should be strengthened.
Speaking at the same session, ABTTF stated that nothing with respect to the discrimination suffered by the Turkish community in Western Thrace for years has changed positively, reminding that the states parties are obliged to fully implement the Declaration on the 30th anniversary of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Minorities. In addition, ABTTF mentioned that policies on protecting minority rights should be included in all government policies and touched upon the importance of implementation within this framework.
Intervening in the same session, WTMUGA reminded that the current legal process with respect to the Xanthi Turkish Union (XTU) is an extremely important example as regards Greece’s commitment to universal values of diversity and human rights, and that the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) to restore the official status of the association in 2008 is still not executed by Greece, and that despite the judgment of the ECtHR, the Greek Court of Cassation rejected the appeal made by the association again in June 2021. WTMUGA called for new initiatives to support international minority protection units in Greece.
Speaking once again at the fourth session titled ‘Moving Forward: Reforming the Protection and Implementation of the Minority Rights Framework’ on the second day of the meeting, ABTTF reminded that the Turkish community in Western Thrace consistently receives the answer that the European Commission is not in a position to take any specific action with respect to this area when asked questions about the national minorities through the Members of the European Parliament. ABTTF stressed that the protection of the culture and language of national and linguistic minorities should be included in the EU treaties as a mandate and obligation. ABTTF recommended promoting education and awareness-raising programmes in combating the prejudices in the majority population, as well as initiatives involving tolerance, dialogue, respect and mutual understanding through the media, including on the internet.