Written question and answer
WRITTEN QUESTION E-5064/09
by Sari Essayah (PPE)
to the Commission
Turkey's delay in introducing protection for the rights of religious minorities
For years Turkey, which is negotiating accession to the EU, has delayed introducing protection for the rights of religious minorities. Orthodox Christians, for example, have suffered discrimination and there may only be some three thousand of them left in Turkey. It is becoming increasingly urgent to obtain from Turkey an answer to the following four major problems:
- Turkey must safeguard the position of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. Seen from the point of view of a Western State where the rule of law prevails, it is incomprehensible that legislation should require Orthodox priests, bishops and the Patriarch to be Turkish nationals. The Turkish State must recognise that the Patriarch is the head of the worldwide Orthodox Church. This situation means that it must be possible for the Patriarch to be chosen from any of the member churches at all.
- Turkey must bring the protection of property up to Western standards. Property illegally seized from the Patriarchate – especially churches – must be returned.
- Training of priests must be preserved. Halki seminary must be permitted to open, so the interpretation of the law on private colleges must be altered.
- It must be possible for Christians to obtain permanent visas without discrimination.
Unless human rights improve very soon in Turkey, Turkey's development towards a State where the rule of law prevails in compliance with Western standards will be jeopardised, and in that case it would remain impossible to conceive of the country's acceding to the European Union.
If Turkey were to genuinely introduce the rule of law, safeguarding the human rights of the Christian minority, this would set an example to other countries with Muslim majorities, encouraging them to guarantee full rights for Christians to worship and serve God in accordance with their faith and to freely proclaim the foundations of their religion.
What has the Commission done, and what will it do, to put an end to Turkey's foot-dragging over solutions to the above burning problems?
(source / lähde: Europian Parliament)
Answer given by Mr Rehn
on behalf of the Commission
The Commission understands the concerns of the Honourable Member and has raised them on a number of occasions with the Turkish authorities at all appropriate levels.
These issues are also covered extensively in the Turkey 2009 Progress Report published on 14 October 2009 . As regards freedom of religion, the conclusion in the report reads as follows (p. 22):
"... Overall, implementation of the law on foundations has been smooth. The Government has undertaken a dialogue with the Alevi and non-Muslim religious communities. However, their specific problems have yet to be addressed. Attacks against minority religions still occur. A legal framework in line with the European Court of Human Rights has yet to be established, so that all non-Muslim religious communities and Alevi community can function without undue constraints, including as regards training of clergy. Further efforts are needed to create an environment conducive to full respect of freedom of religion in practice."
The Commission will pursue the discussion with the Turkish authorities with a view to addressing these matters and ensuring both an appropriate legal framework and an environment conducive to full respect of freedom of religion in practice.