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Teach genocide!Teach genocide! Kurdistan and Hayastan - Hand in Hand: ANKARA: Turkey Denies Minority Deal

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

ANKARA: Turkey Denies Minority Deal

Dec 29 2008

Turkey and France both refrain from signing a convention
on the protection of minorities. A Council of Europe official warns
Ankara it will feel the pressure during European Union negotiations,
while Turkish officials point at Paris as an explanation for their
opposition, saying Turkey honors its obligations under the Lausanne

Turkey and France, whose paths are divergent on many issues in the
European Union, from human rights standards to political criteria,
are sticking to their guns over the ratification of a document on
the protection of minorities.

Eight of 47 Council of Europe member states have refused to ratify the
framework convention for the protection of national minorities. France
and Turkey are the two countries that have never signed or ratified it.

"For both Turkey and France, it is difficult to reconcile
the recognition of certain groups as minority groups with the
principle of equality for all citizens irrespective of their ethnic,
linguistic, cultural and religious backgrounds," Alain Chablais, head
of the Secretariat of the Framework Convention for the Protection of
National Minorities, told the Hurriyet Daily News & Economic Review
in a telephone interview.

Turkey and France base their arguments on constitutional grounds and
argue the signing of the document would jeopardize the principle of
equality among their citizens.

Both countries say every citizen is free to have his own religion,
language and cultural background, but argue it is not up to the
state to recognize or provide official support for specific ethnic

Less participation "We do not share that argument, because the
framework convention sets equality and non-discrimination as key
principles, which are also enshrined in many other treaties like the
European Convention on Human Rights," said Chablais.

He said the convention also required state parties to take special
measures in favor of disadvantaged minority groups to ensure they
enjoyed equality with the majority in practice. Persons who belong to
a minority are in a disadvantaged position in many fields, he said,
adding that they participate less in public and political life and they
have few opportunities to be educated in their mother tongue. "This
(applying special measures) is considered fully compatible with the
principle of equality by most European states," said Chablais.

While opposing ratification of the convention, Turkey consistently
says it honors its obligations stemming from the Lausanne Treaty,
the founding document of the Turkish Republic, which provides that
Armenians, Greeks and Jews are national minorities. Turkish authorities
also say its Constitution does not allow for a recognition of other
minority groups, as that would create a different status more favorable
to other ethnic groups and would violate the principle of equality
among its citizens.

Copenhagen criteria

The convention on minorities did not exist at the time Turkey and
France joined the Council of Europe. After the 10 founding member
states including France, Turkey was one of the first countries
to become a member in 1949, meaning there was no legally binding
commitment for the two to sign the convention. But European officials
say Turkey will feel pressure to sign and ratify the convention as
part of the EU negotiations.

"The signing of the convention is not part of the Acquis Communitaire,
but is explicitly mentioned in the Copenhagen political criteria,"
said Chablais. Turkish officials, however, point to EU member France
to explain their opposition.

"This is of course an understandable reply by Turkish authorities
in theory, but if Turkey sincerely wishes to share European values
and join the EU I think that is no longer a sustainable argument,"
said Chablais.

He said the exercise of fundamental rights and freedoms in the
countries was tremendously different.

"In practice, France has a number of minority groups which enjoy
education and language rights without any impediment, but in Turkey,
you cannot put up street names in Kurdish for example, and you cannot
open public schools that teach Kurdish. It is impossible." Aside
from Turkey and France, Greece, Belgium, Iceland, Andorra, Monaco
and Luxembourg have not ratified the convention on minorities.

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