A joint Event by the FEP Party and Greek Helsinki Monitor 21.12.2016-22:50
The ‘National Minorities in Greece and Recommendations from International Organisations’ organised by the Friendship Equality Peace (FEP) Party and the Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM) was held on Monday 12th December 2016 in Athens.
This event was the first event organised by the FEP Party in Athens.
The event in Athens on behalf of the FEP Party was attended by President Mustafa Ali Cavus, Acting President Ahmet Kara, Vice Presidents Ozan Ahmetoglu and Leyla Salihoglu, Secretary General Aydin Ahmet and CEC Member Mustafa Sargo. The event was also attended by, closed association, the Xanthi Turkish Union Vice President Ismet Tuccar.
The event continued after the raid of the Golden Dawn Party’s MPs and members.
The event, held at the Athens Journalists’ Association was attended by NGOs, human rights organisation representatives, university students, academics, journalists and officials from the Turkish and US Embassies in Athens. Former MP and Ministry of Justice Secretary General of Transparency and Human Rights Maria Yannakaki also attended.
The panel about national minorities in Greece mainly focused on the situation of the Western Thrace Muslim Turkish Minority. In relation to the Macedonian minority in Greece, a communiqué sent by the Edessa Macedonian Educational and Cultural Centre was read out.
The moderator of the panel was Nafsika Papanikolatu, representative of Greek Minority Rights Group.
The first speaker was Panayotis Dimitras, Spokesperson of the Greek Helsinki Monitor. In his presentation he read out the report prepared by the three commissions of the United Nations about National Minorities in Greece. Dimitras communicated to the participants the 2015 - 2016 reports of the UN Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Commission, Human Rights Commission and Elimination of Racial Discrimination Commission, he added that Greece needs to act in light of these reports. Panayotis Dimistras drew attention to the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights concerning the Xanthi Turkish Union, Rhodope Province Turkish Women Cultural Association and Evros Province Minority Youth Union and reminded that the decisions of these associations which bear Turkish or Minority in their title was given by ECHR in 2008 and Greece was convicted. He further added that the Council of Europe follows the implementation of the decisions and since 2012 wants them to be implemented. However, Greece has not implemented the relevant decisions.
Dimitras also stated that international organisations speak of the Turkish and Macedonian Minorities in Greece, but the media and almost all political parities ignore the issue of ethnic minorities.
GHM Spokesperson Dimitras also referred to the 3% electoral threshold and that this threshold was put in place after Dr. Sadik Ahmet and Ahmet Faikoglu were elected as independent MPs. Application of the threshold to independent candidates as well as parities is very anti-democratic. If the 3% threshold for independent candidates was not applied and the if the FEP Party received the same results in MP elections as it did in the EP elections then it would of been able to elect at least two, maybe three MPs from the province of Xanthi.
After Panayotis Dimitras, FEP Party President Mustafa Ali Cavus took address and stated his contentment in organising an event in Athens for the first time. He also thanked GHM Spokesperson Panayotis Dimistras and asked for the country’s authorities to take into account the recommendations of international organisations. Mustafa Ali Cavus explained that the Western Thrace Turkish Minority for many years has been subjected to injustices and oppression and because of the 3% electoral threshold for independent MP candidates Dr. Sadik Ahmet founded the FEP Party. Ali Cavus also communicated that the minority tried to solve its problems through political with the majority parties to no avail. Despite the change of governments, the stance towards minority issues has not changed and that they are convinced there is a state policy about the minority. Therefore, in 2010 Ali Cavus with his colleagues began the restructuring process of the FEP Party in order to search for the minority’s rights.
The issue of education, denial of identity, foundations, muftis, application of the 3% threshold to independent candidates, Article 19 and the loss of citizenship of 60 thousand people, excessive expropriation of land with no compensation and shops looted in 1990 with losses not reimbursed are some of the issue still not solved. Ali Cavus stated that these issues can only be solved through dialogue and that despite calls for dialogue to the country’s authorities there has been no answer.
Ali Cavus also told of how the Party was attacked on 8th December 2015 and the party’s founder Dr. Sadik Ahmet’s vehicle was stolen and that there has been no development in the case. He also added they have been accused of ‘racism’ because the minority only demands its rights arising from the Lausanne Treaty and other agreements.
The third speak of the panel was FEP Party Vice President Ozan Ahmetoglu. He commented on the success of the FEP Party in the 2014 EP elections and addressed the update of the FEP Party’s EP election bulletin. Ozan Ahmetoglu stated that the FEP Party achieved great success in the EP elections and while the whole country was coloured with the colours of the ND and SYRIZA parties, the provinces of Rhodope and Xanthi were coloured with the FEP Party. He added that they tried to make their voice heard to Europe and Athens in the elections. He said they tried to draw attention to the problems that had been pending for years and that with the support of minority voters a strong and important message was given to Athens and the government, but unfortunately Athens did not want to see or understand this message and continue to look at minority issues as a threat and taboo.
Ahmetoglu also referred to the visits made to the region by ND leader Andonis Samaras, President Prokopis Pavlopulos and Prime Minister Aleksis Cipras and noted that during the visits of the aforementioned statesmen nothing new in relation to the minority was said with no progress in minority rights. Ahmetoglu stated that Prime Minister Cipras who received great support from the minority in the last two elections may have shown a relatively closer stance to the minority during his visit but his statements were a repetition of the state’s official discourse with nothing concrete.
Vice President Ahmetoglu also spoke in relation to the minority kindergartens and Xanthi’s Minority Secondary and High school building. He explained that there has been no solution to even these two matters as demanded by the minority and that the Prime Minister during his visited did not give a concrete explanation on the matters. Therefore, the 2014 election bulletin published is still very up to date, two and half years down the line. Moreover, complaints, calls to give evidence and legal proceedings against minority organisations, elected muftis and the Party’s president and executives need to be added. Ozan Ahmetolgu also wished that this event would mark the beginning of minority issues not being a taboo.
Western Thrace Minority University Graduates Association President, FEP Party Acting President and lawyer of the three minority associations’ cases at the ECHR Ahmet Kara explained the decision of the ECHR and the proceedings, in relation to the minority associations which bore Turkish in their title. He added that the ECHR found the association in question right and condemned Greece.
Kara stated that despite the fact that 8 years have passed since the decisions made in 2008, Greece continues not to apply the court rulings, which is a huge mistake. Greece resists the implementation of these decisions and despite all warnings continues to ignore the matter, as if it does not exist, which again is completely wrong.
Kara also emphasised that since 2012 the Council of Europe has warned Greece in implementing the decisions regarding minority associations, however Greece has not made any efforts in this regard in spite of stating its search for a method.
Kara also shared that these cases were preceded by former lawyers, during his childhood and that the former lawyers were now retired leaving the cases to them. Many years have passed and nothing has changed, we wait to see how long it will take.
Kara said that there is a view that the Greek courts are not obliged to implement ECHR decisions, which is an embarrassment for the country’s democracy and legal system.
The last speaker of the panel was Maria Yannakaki, Secretary General of the Ministry of Justice, Transparency and Human Rights and former DIMAR MP. Yannakaki stated that she is not foreign to minority issues and has closely dealt with them. Yannakaki also reminded that she tabled a question in parliament about minority kindergartens and a meaningless answer was received about the matter.
Secretary General of the Ministry of Justice, Transparency and Human Rights announced that there will be developments about the implementation of the ECHR’s decisions about minority associations and the warnings by the Council of Europe Ministers Committee. ‘I would like to state that there will be developments by the next Ministers Committee meeting to be held in March 2017.’
Yannakaki stated that initiative in this regard for legal practice will be taken and that the situation will not be as it used to be. She shared that their aim was to ensure Greek legislation is fully in line with European norms and that the all of country’s social groups have their rights and freedoms guaranteed and that she personally strives for this.
Yannakaki also made reference to the Golden Dawn Party’s attack and said that it was unacceptable which shows the true face of this organisation.
Following the panel speakers, the Edessa Macedonian Educational and Cultural Movement Representatives Evgenia Natsulidu’s written statement was read. In her statement, she noted that the in Greece the Macedonian minority’s culture is denied and that such policy had to be abandoned.
Then, Yasar Dagli President of the Alexandroupolis Municipality Islam Religion, Greek Citizens with the Turkish Mother Tongue Solidarity, Sports and Cultural Union made a speech. He stated that the state describes them as Roma and that did not take interest. ‘Prime Minister Cipras visited Rhodope and Xanthi but did not visit us. We want to be describes as ‘Ottoman grandchildren.’
Fotini Sianu spokeswoman for the Research and Action Centre for Peace during her short speech focused on the issue of immigrants and refugees.
Following the speeches, there was a question and answer period, will some participants taking the floor and sharing their views.