Greece to give citizenship to Western Thrace Turkish minority

The Greek government plans to give citizenship back to those whose citizenship were revoked in the past due to Article 19 of the Greek Citizenship Code, which caused automatic denaturalization of thousands of the Western Thrace Turkish minority, Greek daily Efimerida ton Sintakton reported on Thursday.

This move came after the efforts of one individual, who returned to his homeland, Greece, from Australia in 2004. The Citizenship Council of Greece initially rejected his applications twice.

A member of Prime Minister Tsipras’ Syriza party, Mustafa Mustafa, has made the struggle of that person, together with thousands of others, a current issue in the Greek Parliament.

A report by the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), states that some 60,000 people, mainly ethnic Turks from Western Thrace, have been negatively affected by Article 19, which was enforced from 1955 until 1998.

According to Article 19, a person of non-Greek ethnic origin who leaves the country with the intention of not returning may be declared as having lost Greek nationality.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry claims that the members of the Turkish minority lost their citizenship due to the implementation of the article while studying or working abroad, and even while doing their compulsory military service in the Greek army.

The repeal of the article in 1998 was not retroactive. The Turkish minority cannot, therefore, reacquire their Greek or EU nationalities.

Lambros Baltsiotis, Special Secretary for Citizenship, has declared that the leftist-led government would take action to solve this problem.

In fact, Greece started giving citizenship to those who lost theirs due to the implementation of Article 19, in 2007. However, the process has been too slow.

Moreover, most people affected by this law have not acted in their own capacity to reacquire citizenship. The Greek government, therefore, envisages paving the way for minority members to reacquire Greek citizenships without having to wait for applications.

There has been a testy relationship for centuries between Turkey and Greece with a number of disputes, such as Aegean sea issues and Cyprus problems. Greece’s Muslim Turkish minority is another cause for further strains between the two countries.

There are around 150,000 Muslims in Greece’s Western Thrace region who were given minority status after the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, following the end of a war between Turkey and Greece.

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