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High expectations towards FUEN

“It is unacceptable that a Member State of the EU, Greece, does not recognise the Western Thrace Turks as a Turkish minority in Greece and therefore simply ignores an order from the European Court of Human Rights.” That was the statement of the President of the Federal Union of European Nationalities (FUEN) after a visit to the 150,000 strong minority of Greek Turks, of whom about 100,000 are living in Western Thrace, a region at the Greek-Bulgarian border with Komotini as its regional capital.

The Western Thrace Turks have been living in this area for around 300 years. In the past they came from the poorer mountain regions to the cities. Approximately 20,000 Western Thrace Turks have emigrated to Germany, approximately 30,000 are living in Turkey and around 100,000 in Greece.

The Western Thrace Turks want to be recognised by Greece as a Turkish minority. Greece, however, does not recognise any national minority, but only religious minorities. Important demands of the Turkish minority in Greece are about the right to better education and for bilingualism in kindergartens and schools. So far, especially the situation in education is in a sorry state. Children do receive instruction in Turkish, but the Turkish teachers, who are appointed by Greece, often do not have adequate skills. The Turkish minority in Greece demands that the children receive lessons in the native language in both Greek and Turkish.

For the first time the Federal Union of European Nationalities FUEN and MIDAS, the association of daily newspapers of the European minorities, went together on a fact finding mission. The representatives of FUEN, Vice President Dieter Paul Küssner, Secretary-General Jens A. Christiansen of Sydslesvigsk Forening SSF and FUEN Presidium Member Halit Habip Oglu, who is also Chairman of ABTTF, the organisation representing the Western Thrace Turks abroad, talked with representatives of many different groups of the Western Thrace Turks about the current situation.

“The discrimination of the Western Thrace Turks is very palpable”, said President Hans Heinrich Hansen. 50% of university graduates are unemployed, and that is not just because of the financial crisis in Greece, but rather because of the exclusion of university graduates from public administration.

”The Turkish minority in Greece, says Hans Heinrich Hansen, has high expectations towards FUEN. For them, FUEN is the window to the outside world and the only European minority organisation that stands up for their interests. “That is a matter of personal importance for us, because we are the voice of the European minorities, but it is also a huge responsibility. It is our main tasks to live up to this responsibility.”

Photos: ABTTF and DEB Partisi

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