European Commission responds to concerns of hate speech and discrimination against Turkish Minority in Western Thrace
The European Commission has issued a response to concerns raised by François Alfonsi, a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) from France, regarding hate speech and systematic discrimination targeting the Turkish community in Western Thrace. Alfonsi's inquiry, submitted on April 27, 2023, prompted a reply from the European Commission addressing the issues.
In his inquiry, Alfonsi highlighted that the Turkish community in Western Thrace, Greece, has been subjected to hate speech in politics and media. He mentioned the case of Hüseyin Zeybek, a member of the Syriza party and a local parliamentarian in Xanthi, who was accused of being a "spy for the Turks" and threatened with death during a live broadcast on a local television channel.
Alfonsi posed questions to the European Commission concerning the steps it planned to take to strengthen the rule of law and protect the fundamental rights of individuals from diverse backgrounds in Greece against hate speech and hate-based attacks. He also inquired about the measures the Commission intended to implement to ensure the protection of the rights of the Turkish community in Western Thrace, who are EU citizens, against discrimination and hatred.
In the response dated August 4, 2023, Didier Reynders, the Commissioner for Justice, representing the European Commission, clarified that the Commission lacks the authority to intervene in cases of individual discrimination, hate speech, or hate crimes before national authorities. He emphasized that the Commission monitors developments related to the rule of law, including issues of fundamental rights and non-discrimination, through mechanisms like the annual Rule of Law Report.
Reynders underscored that the European Union Treaty's Article 2 and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights' Article 21 prohibit discrimination based on ethnic or social origin, language, or membership in a national minority. He also referred to the Racial Equality Directive and the Framework Decision on combating racism and xenophobia, which criminalize certain forms of hate speech and hate crime within the jurisdiction of member states.
While the Commission lacks direct intervention powers in individual cases, it promotes guidance and best practices through high-level groups addressing hate speech and hate crime and non-discrimination, equality, and diversity. The response reiterated the Commission's commitment to upholding fundamental rights and combating discrimination within its realm of competence.
In response to the Commission's reply, Halit Habipoğlu, President of the Western Thrace Turkish Minority Consultative Council, criticized the adequacy of the response. He acknowledged that the issue of minority rights falls within the purview of individual EU member states, but noted that Greece has a problematic record in this area. He further urged the European Union to adopt a comprehensive approach to protecting minority rights and to hold candidate and existing member states to consistent standards.