Federation of Western Thrace Turks in Europe (ABTTF) organized a joint conference at the European Parliament (EP) in Brussels on March 20, 2019 with the European Free Alliance (EFA) which has a political group within the European Parliament. Conference with the theme “Fundamental Problems in Education Facing Minorities in Europe: Comparing The Cases of Western Thrace Turks and German Minority in Denmark” was hosted by MEP Josep-Maria Terricabras, Vice President of the Greens/ EFA Group in the European Parliament and Co-Chairs of the European Parliament Intergroup “Traditional Minorities, National Communities and Languages.
Halit Habip Oğlu, President of ABTTF and Sami Yusuf and Vedat Arap, ABTTF Vice-Presidents, K. Engin Soyyılmaz, ABTTF Head Office Manager and Aykut Garipoğlu, ABTTF Brussels Office Coordinator participated in the conference as the representatives of the ABTTF.
The best practices for minority education system in Europe were addressed comparatively and the fundamental problems in education facing the Turkish community in Western Thrace were expressed.
The conference which drew great interest and was well attended, started with the opening speeches of MEP Josep-Maria Terricabras and Halit Habip Oğlu, President of ABTTF. Dr. Pervin Hayrullah, General Director of Culture and Education Foundation of Western Thrace Minority (PEKEM), Käthe Freiberg-Nissen, Pedagogical Consultant at German School and Language Association in North Schleswig, Denmark, Anke Tästensen, Pedagogical Director at German School and Language Association in North Schleswig, Denmark, Dr. Alex Riemersma, Chair on Frisian and Multilingualism in Education at NHL Stenden university in Ljouwert/Leeuwarden and EFA Director Günther Dauwen made speeches at the conference.
In his opening speech, MEP Josep-Maria Terricabras stressed the importance of the multilingual education for minorities. Afterwards, Habip Oğlu, President of ABTTF, expressed his gratitude to MEP Terricabras, host of the conference and the speakers. Habip Oğlu emphasized that the autonomy in education granted to the Turkish community in Western Thrace by the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923 was undermined by various laws and regulations throughout the years beginning with the military junta regime in Greece in 1967. Habip Oğlu stated that as the Turkish community in Western Thrace, they demand that the educational and religious autonomy guaranteed by international agreements should be given back.
Following the opening remarks, firstly, Pervin Hayrullah General Director of PEKEM made a presentation. Hayrullah informed the participants about the fundamental problems in all levels of education faced by the Turkish community in Western Thrace, Greece and she conveyed that the number of bilingual Turkish minority schools in Western Thrace was decreased and consequently these schools were shut down by the Greek government. Hayrullah indicated, because of the obligatory pre-school education in Greece, the Turkish community in Western Thrace demanded to open bilingual minority kindergartens, however this demand has been disregarded by Greece for years. At the end of her speech Hayrullah noted that they called on Greece to solve the issues of the Turkish community in Western Thrace in the field of education at the workshop and conference organized on 28 February and 2 March 2019 in Komotini, with the participation of Prof. Dr. Fernand de Varennes, UN Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues and academicians and experts from various countries of Europe including Turkey and Greece and she stated that they reiterate this call once again under the roof of the EP.
Afterwards, Käthe Freiberg-Nissen, Pedagogical Consultant at German School and Language Association in North Schleswig, Denmark, Anke Tästensen, Pedagogical Director at German School and Language Association in North Schleswig, Denmark had the floor and they provided information about the minority education system in Danish-German border region as an example of a good practice. Moreover, Dr. Alex Riemersma, Chair on Frisian and Multilingualism in Education at NHL Stenden university in Ljouwert/Leeuwarden conveyed the common problems of minorities in education.
At the closing session, EFA Director Günther Dauwen presented the recommendations regarding the solution for the problems of the Turkish community in Western Thrace experiencing in the field of education, which were derived from the result of conference and will be conveyed to Greece and European Commission.