Nov 30 2013
Turkey’s EU Minister Baðýþ hosts minority leaders
ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News
by Vercihan Ziflioðlu
EU Minister Egemen Baðýþ hosts religious leaders of minorities at a
dinner in Istanbul prasing the relations between the leaders and the
state. Baðýþ also says problmes will be solved ‘together’
Turkish EU Minister Egemen Baðýþ hosted religious leaders and
prominent figures from minority communities at a dinner on Nov. 28.
Speaking at the event, Baðýþ praised Turkey’s development in dealing
with the problems of minorities and said issues would be “solved
“Ten years ago, holding this meeting would have been impossible, for
so many reasons,” he said.
Baðýþ also took the opportunity to praise the government’s
“democratization package,” which was announced by Prime Minister Recep
Tayyip Erdoðan on Sept. 30.
“Plenty of sad incidents were experienced in this country. Many people
from different parts of society endured great pain. But we will leave
this pain behind. We are not just talking about problems, we are also
trying to find solutions to them,” he added.
During the meeting, civil members of minority communities directly and
confidently brought their issues onto the agenda.
Director General of Foundations Adnan Ertem, Fener Greek Patriarch
Bartholomew, Deputy Armenian Patriarch Archbishop Aram Ateþyan, Chief
Rabbi Ishak Haleva, and Istanbul Syriac Orthodox Church Metropolitan
Yusuf Çetin participated in the dinner. U.S. Greek Church Archbishop
Dimitrios also joined the reception, having recently arrived in
Istanbul. It was also noteworthy that representatives of the Latin
Catholic and Protestant Churches were present as well.
Baðýþ said Turkey needed the support of the religious leaders of
minorities in the country. “If we need support, we are requesting help
from Patriarch Bartholomew and Chief Rabbi Haleva. Recently, Patriarch
Bartholomew gave support to us during the 2020 Olympic Games bid,” he
Baðýþ also offered a memory about Chief Rabbi Haleva to those
gathered. “Ten years ago, during a visit to Turkey, U.S. President
Clinton met with the Chief Rabbi and spoke of the strong lobby of the
U.S.’s Jewish community. He added that if the Turkish Jewish community
had a problem, they should tell him. The Chief Rabbi gave an answer,
saying, ‘We have been living in Turkey for 500 years. If we have any
problems we can solve them together, but if you have any problems in
the U.S., please tell us,'” he said.
The EU minister also emphasized the recent law on foundations, which
allows for the return of minority foundations to their communities,
and also mentioned that Trabzon’s Sumela Monastery and Van’s Surp Hac
Armenian Church had been opened to worship.
“Turkey has taken a step. Former President Turgut Özal couldn’t even
speak about his real [Kurdish] identity, but today people can make
their defenses in courts in their mother tongue. Yes, EU standards are
important, but the most important thing is talking about our problems
together. We will carry Turkey to 2023 together,” Baðýþ said.
Meanwhile, the minority foundations representative, Laki Vingas, was
both self-critical and critical of the wider political situation. “We
became familiar with an anti-democratic situation, but now we have to
establish democracy in our foundations and communities. In Turkey,
they are still looking at us as ‘foreigners’ and because of this
situation we are still facing bureaucratic problems. This should end,”
Vingas also brought the legal entity problems and minority foundations
election regulations of both Greek and Armenians to the agenda.
Foundations head Adnan Ertem also spoke about the recent Foundations
Law, saying that due to the law the minority communities had gained
their rights to their foundations and were even turning them into