NEWS

1,000-year-old controversy

A female Greek EuroMP yesterday backed Wednesday’s European Parliament resolution that sought an end to the ban on women entering the Mt Athos peninsula, home to an autonomous, all-male monastic community. But the government rejected the idea, arguing that the current status quo is legally unassailable. The ban, which includes all female animals, was only one of the human rights issues raised in the resolution drafted by Dutch EMP Joke Swiebel. PASOK EMP Anna Karamanou argued that the ban was unfair – as women also pay taxes toward the upkeep of the 20-centuries-old monasteries – and vastly outdated. «The ban was imposed 1,000 years ago, when Europe was in the dark grip of the Middle Ages, and reflects the social reality of those times,» she said. «Nowadays, it can have no effect, as it conflicts not only with the modern understanding of human rights but also with the Christian faith itself… No tradition and no custom can be above the respect of human rights and dignity.» But government spokesman Christos Protopappas stressed that the ban was incorporated into Greece’s EU accession treaty, validated in 1981. «It is totally wrong to try to impose a solution from the outside,» he said. «From both a legal and a spiritual point of view, we should respect states of affairs that have been consolidated over the centuries.» The matter also drew a reaction yesterday from the Mount Athos religious authorities, who called on the government to «take further initiatives to secure the special status of Mount Athos in the European Union, so that it can no longer be subjected to such unfair accusations.» «On religious, cultural, ecclesiastical and national grounds, we must safeguard the tradition of 1,200 years as we received it from our fathers,» a statement said.