By Furkan Naci Top
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said Friday the issue of whether the Muslim minority in northern Greece accepts muftis recognized by the state is not part of Greek-Turkish relations.
The issue concerns the Greek state and Thrace’s Muslim community and must be discussed by the two sides “so it can be solved as soon as possible and permanent legal arrangements can be made", he said.
Tsipras made the statements during a press conference following the EU Leaders’ Summit in Brussels.
He noted that this is not an issue that can be resolved in a few days.
"We want to reach a point where the religious leaders recognized by the Greek state are not questioned by the minority," he said.
Since 1991, the election of religious leaders or muftis has been a chronic problem for Greece’s Muslim Turkish minority, which
The election of muftis by Muslims in Greece was covered by the 1913 Treaty of Athens between Greece and the Ottoman Empire and was later included in Greek Act 2345/1920, near the dawn of the Turkish Republic.
The 1923 Treaty of Lausanne also guarantees the religious freedom of Greece’s Muslim minority.
However, Greece annulled Greek Act 2345/1920 in 1991 and began appointing muftis itself.
The majority of Muslim Turks in the Western Thracian cities of Komotini (Gumulcine) and Xanthi do not recognize the appointed muftis and instead elect their own, but these muftis are not recognized by the Greek state.
Despite this situation, the appointed muftis in Western Thrace continue to have the authority to adjudicate family and inheritance matters of local Muslims.
Turkey has long complained to both Greece and the EU of discrimination against the Turkish minority concentrated in Western Thrace, saying this violates applicable treaties and EU law.
Regarding European Council President Donald Tusk’s recent remarks on the removal of mandatory refugee quotas for EU member states, Tsipras said:
"We cannot accept certain parties imposing changes on the basic principles of the EU and the negotiating and decision-making mechanisms it created many years ago, thinking that the refugee crisis does not affect them."
He criticized Tusk for saying the quota is ‘highly divisive’ and ‘ineffective’.
Tsipras described the injustice of the refugee issue as ‘a bomb dropped on the bases of the EU’ and said they would have to face these problems again in the future.
Tusk commented Tuesday on the compulsory refugee quota in a letter to council members:
“The issue of mandatory quotas has proven to be highly divisive and the approach has received disproportionate attention in light of its impact on the ground. In this sense, it has turned out to be ineffective.”
The European Commission approved a plan two years ago to relocate 160,000 refugees in Italy and Greece to other countries, but only 30,000 people have been accepted by other countries so far.
Apart from Finland, Ireland, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta and Sweden, all countries’ quotas were below 50 percent. Poland, Hungary
Tsipras also stressed that the EU’s cooperation with Turkey should be increased and noted that the security of Europe depends on a smooth Turkish-Greek relationship.