All in a name

This time around, the issue of the Muslim minority in Thrace was stirred up by a supreme court judge’s proposal. Four years ago, Foreign Minister George Papandreou raised the issue. Papandreou said then that he does not care about minorities’ names, so long as they don’t question national borders. This is a porous argument. Diplomatic history demonstrates that border disputes do not emerge as if by magic. They are the outcome of an incremental process. This, of course, does not mean that recognizing the local population as a Turkish minority will jeopardize our sovereignty. However, Athens will have taken a needless, backward step which could create future problems. It is common knowledge that some circles favor the renaming of the minority (from Muslim to Turkish), invoking the right to self-determination as described in Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe declarations. This right, however, refers to individuals, not to minorities. Everyone has the right to choose his national identity – but not to demand some special status as a result of this. The minority’s name is more than a linguistic technicality. The Lausanne Treaty recognizes the existence of a religious minority but not an ethnic one – hence referring to it as a Muslim minority. The group, no doubt, includes some people of Turkish origin. However, it also includes Pomaks and Gypsies. Furthermore, taking advantage of Athens’s chronic mistakes, Ankara has succeeded in cultivating a Turkish self-consciousness among most of the minority population. Calls for the recognition of minorities and for the unchecked naturalization of economic migrants is the outgrowth of a perilous ideological superficiality. Such advocates are trying to impose a multi-cultural model on a nation state. But the large inflow of migrants into Greece in past years does not change things at the institutional level.