Turkey needs to be ‘encouraged’ to reopen Halki Seminary: EU Minister

Turkey needs to be ‘encouraged’ to reopen Halki Seminary: EU Minister

BRUSSELS – Anadolu Agency
Turkey needs to be ‘encouraged’ to reopen Halki Seminary: EU Minister

Daily News Photo/ Emrah Gürel

EU Minister Egemen Bağış has said Turkey needs to be “encouraged” to reopen the Greek Orthodox Halki Seminary in Istanbul, calling on Greece to keep its promise by opening a mosque in Athens.

“The Halki Seminary was closed not by our government, nor by any political party. It is closed by court order. If some regulations are needed to overcome the court order, I’m calling on [Greece] from Brussels to make the necessary arrangements: Encourage us too, keep your promises,” Bağış said at the opening ceremony of state-run news agency Anadolu Agency’s Brussels office.

The minister said they had always emphasized the need to take simultaneous and well-intentioned steps on the issue. “This is not reciprocity, but a sign of good will. We have shown many times that we are in good faith toward Orthodox people,” Bağış said, giving examples of the government’s steps and drawing attention to Greece’s promise to open a mosque in Athens.

“There is still no Muslim cemetery in Athens. If a Muslim dies, he should be buried in Western Thrace. The word ‘Turk’ still cannot be used in associations and the chosen mufti is not recognized. All of these show that a member of the European Union is acting against the bloc’s rules,” Bağış said.

The reopening of the Halki Seminary was not included in the Turkish government’s recent democratization package, an exclusion that has drawn some criticisms.

Bağış said he would make a trip to Greece on Oct. 7-8 and express these issues to officials. “It is time to keep promises. If they do so, it will encourage us in other issues,” he said.