A delegation from the European Parliament formed of members of the Subcommittee on Human Rights, with MEP Hélène Flautre (http://www.les-verts.org/) as its chairperson, visited Ankara on Thursday, 6 October 2005, for a series of meetings.
The delegation first met with the Human Rights Investigation Commission of the Turkish Grand National Assembly (Parliament) (http://www.tbmm.gov.tr/komisyon/insanhak/insanhaklari.htm), with Member of Parliament for Nevsehir Mehmet Elkatmis (AK Party) as its chairperson, to be informed on any new developments regarding the problems of minorities in Turkey.
The members of the delegation then went on to the office of the European Union Representative in Ankara (http://www.deltur.cec.eu.int/main-t.html), where they met with Lawyer Luiz Bakar, one of the advisors to the Armenian Patriarchate in Turkey; Lawyers Kezban Hatemi and Ali Hatemi, representing the Istanbul Greek Orthodox Patriarchate; Lawyer Esther Zonana, legal advisor to the Jewish Chief Rabbinate of Turkey; Lawyer Erol Dora, representing the Syriac Protestants; Zeki Basademir, Chairperson of the Syriac Catholic Foundation; and Father Patrice Julien de Pommerol, representing the Vatican Embassy.
Responding to the questions of the delegation chairperson, Hélène Flautre, the minority community representatives said that new laws regarding minorities have produced positive changes, although some continuing problems are still waiting for solutions.
The representatives stated that foremost among these unsolved problems are recognition of the legal personalities of the patriarchates and the rabbinate. They also said that they hope there will be changes made in the articles of the new draft law now before parliament that make life difficult for minority foundations and restrict the realization of religious obligations.
In the requirements of the new laws, Lawyer Luiz Bakar said that out of 400 applications for registering deeds to the properties that are under the disposal of various foundations belonging to the Armenian community, only 58 have resulted in such registration. She also said that in the minority schools some problems have not been ironed out; that it is expected that the requirement for Assistant [government] Directors will be lifted; that there is a desire for a course to be established in one of the universities to train religious ministers; that she also expects a solution in the case of the Holy Cross High School in Uskudar; and that some courts still behave as if the new laws do not exist, and they rule against the minority foundations in real estate matters.
Lawyer Kezban Hatemi stated that they expect that Greek foundations that have been taken over will be restored, that their properties given to third parties will be returned, and that the Theological Academy on Heybeli Island will be opened. Kezban Hatemi added that in spite of the Treaty of Lausanne, the salary of the Assistant [government] Director is paid by the school, whereas the Government has provided no help.
The Jewish community representative, Lawyer Ester Zonana, said that their community’s most pressing problem was related with cemeteries, and that increasing anti-Semitic writings in the press were creating discomfort.
The Syriac representatives said that in spite of their having minority status, they were not able to take advantage of the rights given by the Treaty of Lausanne to the other minorities, and for that reason they were not able to fulfill their religious obligations. The representative of the Vatican Embassy complained that religious officials from abroad have not been given residence permits.
The following is the list of members of the European Parliament Subcommittee on Human Rights Ankara delegation:
MEP Simon Coveney, PPE (http://www.simoncoveney.ie/),
MEP Richard Howitt, PSE (http://www.richardhowittmep.com/),
MEP Józef Pinior, PSE (http://www.europarl.eu.int/members/expert/committees/view.do?language=EN&id=28392),
MEP Sajjad Karim, ALDE (http://www.sajjadkarim.org.uk/),
MEP Inese Vaidere, UEN (http://www.europarl.eu.int/members/expert/committees/view.do?language=EN&id=28617),
PPE: Group of the Greens/ European Free Alliance
PSE: Socialist Group in the European Parliament
ALDE: Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe
GUE: Confederal Group of the European United Left / Nordic Green Left
UEN: Union for Europe of the Nations Group
Mr. Michael Rupp – Administrator Subcommittee Human Rights
Mr. Karsten Mecklenburg – Administrator Policy Department
Mr. Rune Glasberg, ALDE Secretariat
Ms. Mychelle RIEU, Greens Secretariat
BEKDIK Zeynep, Interpreter
BENER Yigit; Interpreter
DOLAY Belgin, Interpreter