Athens Mosque construction passes in Greece Parliament, as eyes turn to Halki seminary

The Greek Parliament has passed a law that will pave the way for the construction of a mosque in Athens. This was among the conditions required by Ankara for the opening of the Theological School of Halki in the framework of reciprocity. Ankara is now expected to take a step regarding the seminary.


The law enabling the construction of a mosque in the Votanikos neighbourhood of Athens has been passed in the Greece Parliament. All parties except the far-right coalition partner ANEL and the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn voted ‘yes’ for the law change comprising technical arrangements for the mosque construction.

ANEL reacts

Before the vote, coalition partner far-right Independent Greeks (ANEL) MP Stavroula Xoulidou criticized the law change as ‘provocative’, while another ANEL MP Nikos Mavraganis claimed it served establishing trust with Turkey.

The tender for the mosque had been repeated several times, and only in November 2013 did the 846 thousand Euro offer of a consortium including the companies J&P Avaks, Terna Ltd., Aktor and Intrakat win the tender. With the passing of the law change, the consortium is expected to apply for a certificate of permission within a month.

Kezban Hatemi (Lawyer for the Ecumenical Patriarchate): 
‘Turkey’s response must now follow’

“This decision by the Greece Parliament should facilitate the opening of the Theological School of Halki. Although I find the persistent disagreement between the two countries both antidemocratic and in contradiction of the Treaty of Lausanne, this decision by the Greece Parliament is highly significant. Former PM, and current President had previously told me that permission for the construction of the mosque in Athens would pave the way for the opening of the Theological School. The necessary response must now follow.”

Laki Vingas (former Minorities Representative at the Foundations Assembly): 
‘Reciprocity should no longer serve as a pretext’

“As far as I know, there is no new development regarding the opening of the Theological School of Halki. The opening of the mosque in Athens has been debated for a long time; we could say that the direction of the issue has become clearer with this development.”

Dr. Haris Theodorelis–Rigas 
(political scientist, co-founder of İstos Publishing House):

“It was a real scandal that there was no mosque in the capital city of a country that hosts hundreds of thousands Muslims including the local Western Thrace minority population, migrants and tourists. Following this vote that has come at the end of many years of waiting, on May 12, the Greece Parliament has finally approved the construction of a mosque in the Votakinos neighbourhood of central Athens. This vote is significant for three reasons:

1) The issue was included in an entirely unrelated draft law at the last minute in order to reduce debate in Parliament to a minimum.

2) This was the first instance when the smaller coalition partner of SYRIZA, the right-wing ANEL voted against a draft presented by the government. Leading figures of the right and the radical wing of the church organized a protest.

3) The approval of the draft law was directly related to SYRIZA being in power. This issue had been delayed for 20 years, yet with SYRIZA in government, implementation has been enabled within a few months.

Turkey has made no statement on the issue yet. Turkey must now, if we recall the previous statements of officials, now open the Theological School of Halki in reciprocity. However, in the pre-election atmosphere in Turkey, I do not think these statements will become reality. I continue to be pessimistic about the opening of the Theological School of Halki; because I think the statements of the government in Turkey regarding minorities are mere rhetoric. Whenever it is time to carry out concrete political action or preferences, then the government prefers to prioritize the ‘sensitivities’ of the right-wing conservative electorate rather than a few thousand Christian voters, who are insignificant in the context of the elections.”

 Prof. Baskın Oran: 
‘This should corner the AK Party and Erdoğan’

“Article 60/5 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties signed in 1969 states that reciprocity {the breach of a bilateral treaty} is not applicable to human values {…do not apply to provisions relating to the protection of the human person contained in treaties of a humanitarian character, in particular to provisions prohibiting any form of reprisals against persons protected by such treaties}. Erdoğan used the matter of reciprocity as a pretext so as not to appear in the wrong to his own electorate. However, the permission now issued by the Greece Parliament for the construction of the mosque should corner the AK Party and Erdoğan.”

Prof. Elçin Macar: ‘This is no different than the law in 2006’

“The law that has been passed by the Greece Parliament has no new content regarding the construction of the mosque. It is a repeat of the law that was accepted in 2006. What is interesting is that the mentality that stipulates the opening of a mosque in Athens as a precondition for the opening of the Theological School of Halki, operates parallel to the mentality of those who voted ‘No’ to the mosque law. Those who say ‘No’ are the coalition partners Independent Greeks (ANEL) and the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn.”

What did Erdoğan say?

Erdoğan, who after being elected President last year, made his first foreign visit to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, had made a statement about the Theological School of Halki. Speaking at a press conference he held with former President Derviş Eroğlu, Erdoğan said: “It is not that difficult to open the Theological School of Halki, but you [i.e, Greece], too, should keep your promises. You have always been born under the ‘give’ tree, that’s where you grow up. But you do not have any ‘take’s, say ‘take’ for once. That is the issue.”


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