Minorities in Turkey Submission to the European Union and the Goverment of Turkey
For many years, Turkey has failed to recognize most of the minorities within its borders. Indeed, state authorities have attempted to ‘Turkify’ many of the minorities, such as the Greeks and the Kurds. Now, as a country seeking accession to the European Union (EU), it has to comply with basic EU standards, which include the protection of minorities.
The year 2004 is crucial for Turkey, as the European Council (EC) in December is due to decide if Turkey has met the Copenhagen criteria, to demonstrate it has: ‘stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rightsand respect for and protection of minorities’.
The EU’s revised Accession Partnership has already set out that Turkey must, among other things:
‘Guarantee in law and in practice the full enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms by all individuals without discrimination and irrespective of language, race, colour, sex, political opinion, religion or belief in line with relevant international and European instruments to which Turkey is a party….
…Ensure cultural diversity and guarantee cultural rights for all citizens irrespective of their origin’.
The rights and freedoms of all minorities in Turkey are, therefore, a high priority, and an essential element in the country’s EU candidacy. This report seeks to analyse the position of minorities in Turkey, to assess the progress made so far in terms of constitutional and legislative reform, and to identify the areas in which changes and reforms are necessary.
The application process and the conditional nature of EU membership have had a significant impact on human rights practice in Turkey. Turkey has devised and adopted a National Programme for the Adoption of the Acquis, and has made considerable progress through reform packages, including constitutional amendments and legislative reform. These have abolished the state security courts and amended regulations in order to permit, at least in theory, broadcasting in traditionally used languages and non-Muslim foundations to register properties. Further, Article 90 of the Constitution now states that international law shall take priority over national law when there is inconsistency between them.
The protection of minority rights still falls short, however, of European standards. Much remains to be done, from the very basic acceptance and recognition of minorities, through the basic right of certain minorities to live in and return to their homes, to the implementation of both the letter and the spirit of the new laws that purport to allow the practice of language and religion. This report, while not comprehensive, will examine the key issues, including the recognition of minorities, and the current ability of all ethnic, religious and linguistic groups to live freely.