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Council of Europe calls on govt to recognise Turkish-named associations in Thrace

Minister praises 'Greek soul' of region's Christians and Muslims

Council of Europe's foreign minister's conference notes that Greece has been condemned by the European Court of Human Rights for violating the right to the freedom of association by refusing to recognise associations that use the word Turkish in their title

A woman walks past Greek flags depicting Vergina Sun and Saint George at a street in Komotini, northeastern Greece (Photo: Reuters) A woman walks past Greek flags depicting Vergina Sun and Saint George at a street in Komotini, northeastern Greece (Photo: Reuters) The Greek authorities should immediately conform with European Court of Human Rights rulings regarding the rights of associations in the northeastern region of Thrace to call themselves Turkish and to be registered as such, the Council of Europe said on Thursday.

In an interim resolution, the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers, a body of foreign ministers or their representatives charged with supervising the execution of judgements passed by the ECHR, noted that Greece has been condemned by the court for violating the right to the freedom of association by refusing to recognise associations that use the word Turkish in the title.

The resolution refers to three cases brought before the court: one by Hasan Bekir Usta and others (2007) concerning the shutting down of a youth association by a Greek court; Hülya Emin and others (2008) from the Cultural Association of Turkish Women of Rodopi; and the Turkish Union of Xanthi and others (2008).

The region's Muslims are divided into ethnic Turks, Roma and Pomaks, who speak a Bulgarian dialect. Under the Lausanne treaty of 1923 between Greece and Turkey, they are defined by their religion only, not ethnicity or language.

The Council of Europe noted that the Greek authorities, despite assurances given to the it in June 2013 that they had considered the best possible solution, had not submitted any specific information on the measures that may or may not have been taken in the direction of executing the court's decisions. It urged the Greek authorities to take all necessary measures without delay so that the applicants can benefit from the proceedings in accordance with the demands of the European convention of human rights, as this was interpreted by the court.

The Greek authorities were also asked to provide the committee with specific information on the measures that they took or plan to take in order to recognise the unions as Turkish and register them in the local registers.

The Committee of Ministers is the Council of Europe's decision-making body. It comprises the foreign ministers of all the member states, or their permanent diplomatic representatives in Strasbourg.

‘Greek soul’

Meanwhile, Macedonia-Thrace Minister Theodoros Karaoglou on Friday laid a wreath at a memorial event held by the 4th Army Corps in the minority community village of Oreo in Xanthi, commemorating the Greek Muslims who fell in the second world war.

Karaoglou underlined that “with their sacrifice, they proved that the supreme duty to the homeland is not defined by or dependent on religious beliefs”, adding that “Greece is beyond individuals and religions”.
Visting other villages in the area, he said that it is a national obligation to seriously consider the problems faced by Christians and Muslims in the region, who are “not overwhelmed by adversity, difficulties and state shortcomings” and who “continue to face and overcome them with a strength that stems from their Greek soul”.

In last month's European elections, the Friendship, Equality and Peace (DEB) party, which draws support from that part of the region's Muslim minority that generally identifies itself as Turkish, headed the poll in the prefectures of Xanthi and Rodopi, garnering 41.7% and 25.9%, respectively.

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