Halit Habip Oğlu: “Prior to the report prepared by Mr. Badea being voted and adopted at the General Assembly in January 2019, as the representatives of the civil society we shall continue our interventions in Strasbourg and convey our opinions and recommendations on the report to the rapporteur”
On 3 December 2018, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) adopted the draft report on “Promoting the rights of persons belonging to national minorities” drafted by MP Viorel Riceard Badea (Romania/EPP), Member of the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination.
The report which was discussed and voted at the meeting of the committee in Paris, examines the status of the national minorities living in eight countries which are non-state parties to the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (FCNM) and Protocol No. 12 to the European Convention on Human Rights. In the report which aims to have a dialogue and to provide a basis for taking steps further with eight countries including Greece- non-state parties to the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and Protocol No. 12 to the European Convention on Human Rights, Western Thrace Turks are also covered in the chapter on Greece.
Badea: “Greece states that there is no need to ratify the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities on the ground that there is an advanced legislation for the protection of the minorities further beyond the Treaty of Lausanne”
In the chapter on Greece of the report in which current measures for the protection of national minorities in the countries which are non-state parties to the Framework Convention and the impediments to the ratification of the Convention are reviewed, Rapporteur Badea by reminding what Marina Telalian, Head of Department of Legal Affairs of Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated at the hearing in November 2017 in Bucharest, notes that Greece recognizes officially Muslim minority in Western Thrace as the party to the Lausanne Treaty.
Badea states that “even though the Framework Convention allowed scope for States to define the national minorities within their jurisidiction that were covered by its provisions, it was difficult for Greece to ratify this treaty as the recognised religious minority in Greece included three components, namely persons of Turkish, Pomak and Roma origin”. He conveys that Greece considered that there was no need for it to ratify the Framework Convention since an advanced legislation was already in place, which went beyond the Lausanne Treaty. Furthermore, Badea states that Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs has informed about the measures taken as regards the freedoms of religion, association and expression, participation in public life, the right to education, cultural diversity, the appointment and role of muftis, dialogue with civil society and non-discrimination legislation and he adds Greece considered that there were no gaps in the legislative protection regarding the minorities.
Accordingly, Badea interprets that the real reason for Greece not to ratify the Convention is to be addressed on the basis of existence or non-existence of certain minorities. Moreover, Badea indicates that Greece does not have an approach on minority rights based on reciprocity.
Badea who met with the representatives of the Turkish community in Western Thrace in Strasburg covered the concerns of Western Thrace Turks in his report
Badea, along with his notes of discussion with the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs, also covers the meetings he had with the representatives of the Turkish community in Western Thrace including Federation of Western Thrace Turks in Europe (ABTTF) in his report. Badea conveys that representatives of Western Thrace Turkish community expressed their concerns regarding the possibility of free self-identification of persons belonging to minorities, hate speech and hate-motivated attacks as well as the difficulties in exercising the right to freedom of association and restrictions on and lack of autonomy as regards exercising the freedom of religion. Moreover, he indicates that although pilot projects for Turkish-speaking children in State-run kindergartens were welcomed, concerns of the minority representatives were raised regarding the right to education, in particular as regards a decrease in the number of schools providing education in Turkish and as regards the quality of education available in schools (minority primary schools) where Turkish-language education is provided.
Besides, in addition to the report, the opposing opinion of Mustafa Yeneroğlu, Member of PACE Turkish Delegation, AK Party İstanbul MP is appeared in the draft. Yeneroğlu stated that the in-terpretation of Greece as it had established a minority protection regime which takes the rights and freedoms of Western Thrace Turks under protection with the Lausanne Treaty does not reflect the reality. Yeneroğlu, by expressing the problems of Western Thrace Turks, has also highlighted that Turks living in Rhodes and Kos cannot enjoy any rights since they are not recognized as a minority by Greece.
In the final part of the report where the status of implementation of the Convention in the states which are state parties to the Framework Convention is evaluated, it is noted that full ratification of the Framework Convention cannot be achieved without political willingness. Therefore, rapporteur Badea indicates that PACE should assist the countries which are non-state parties. At this point, Badea notes that a dialogue with member states of the Council of Europe should be established and Framework Convention Advisory Committee is ready to provide an expertise through the state reports and recommendations.
In the draft resolution annexed to the report, member States which have signed but not yet ratified the Framework Convention are called to ratify the Convention and Protocol No. 12 to the European Convention on Human Rights without any reservation.
Halit Habip Oğlu, President of ABTTF said, “Prior to the report being discussed and voted on 3 December 2018 at the committee meeting, as Western Thrace Turkish delegation together with Western Thrace Minority University Graduates Association and Xanthi Turkish Union we met with Mr. Badea during our interventions in Strasburg and articulated the problems of Western Thrace Turks and informed the rapporteur of the recent developments in the region. As a result of our interventions, although there are some parts which we oppose, it is pleasing to see that the concerns of Western Thrace Turkish community are covered in the report by the rapporteur. Prior to the voting and adoption of the report prepared by Mr. Badea in January 2019 at the General Assembly, we should continue our interventions in Strasburg and convey our opinions and recommendations on the report to the rapporteur as the representatives of the civil society.”