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28 January, 1999
A Council of Europe report on the Greek Muslim minority was released yesterday; noting that conditions of the minority in western Thrace does not justify any worries.
The Italian and Moldovan authors of the report, entitled "The conditions of human rights in Greece and especially in Thrace," said the condition of the minority was anything but desperate, while it does not warrant the concern of the Council of Europe.
They noted that there are certain issues, which the Legal Committee of the CoE must discuss with Greece, such as education, land ownership, hunting and driving licenses as well as employment in the public and municipal sectors.
The committee decided to request that the report's authors contact Greece and request further information on the above issues.
Greece was represented by main opposition New Democracy (ND) deputy Vyron Polydoras, who spoke on the conditions of minorities in Greece.
He said the findings of the report should become the starting point of a discussion, pointing out that Greece does not warrant the initiation of human rights monitoring in the region.
Mr. Polydoras said Greece does not feel that there is a policy of discrimination of the Muslim minority by the state, while the problems of the region are but a reflection of the general social and economic problems confronted in other agricultural regions of the country as well.
He added that Greece has undertaken a specific effort for the educational improvement for the Muslims.
There was a strong reaction to Mr. Polydoras' address by the Turkish representative, who proposed the examination of the cases of those Greek Muslims who lost their citizenship under the now-abolished Article 19 of the Greek Constitution.
Mr. Polydoras answered that in a democratic state laws are not always retroactive, while he noted that any persons who want to contest the process by which they lost their citizenship may seek recourse in the courts of Greece and the Human Rights Court at the Council of Europe.
He also said that if there is any reason to speak of retroactive laws and history, then there is reason to look into the fate of tens of thousands of ethnic Greeks of Istanbul, Imvros and Tenedos - all of which were driven from Turkey through official and semi-official intimidation and threats.
Source: Athens News Agency