8 July 2002
The President of the Dutch Parliament
Subject: Answers to the questions of the parliamentarians APOSTOLOU and KOENDERS (both members of the Socialdemocratic Party, PvdA) for the reopening of the Theological School of Halki. The relative questions were received on 24th May, 2002, archive number 2010210530.
The Foreign Minister
Mr. Van Aartsen's answer, Foreign Minister, to the questions of the members Apostolou and Koenders (both members of the Socialdemocratic Party, PvdA)
Are you aware of the international campaign for the reopening of the Theological School of Halki, Istabul, which has been closed by Turkey since 1971? (1)
Do you agree with the opinion that the continuing closing of this Theological School implies restriction of the religion freedom and the freedom of religious education, and that it opposes the international treaties for the protection of the human rights? For what reasons does the Turkish Government forbid the function of this School?
Yes, so the international treaty for the Human and Political Rights, as the European treaty for the Human Rights guarantee the right of the religion expression and its expression in religious ceremonies and education.
In 1971 the Turkish Constitutional Court decided that the education in private schools is unconstitutional. The Constitution of Turkey determines that the education must be based upon the fundamental principles of the Turkish state and that it is subjected to the supervision and control of the
Turkish state. The fundamental principles of the Turkish state in this case are: The unity of the state and its secular character. Having that decision of the Constitutional Court as pretext, the Turkish Ministry of Education ordered the closing of all private schools, among them the Theological School of Halki.
Do you countersign the argument, that the Theological School of Halki accomplishes an essential mission in the education and training of the spiritual leaders of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, as the center of the Eastern Orthodox Christian tradition?
Until its closing, 31 years ago, the Theological School of Halki has unquestionably accomplished this task.
Are you willing to exercise pressure on the Turkish government to retract the closing of the Theological School of Halki and to allow its reopening as soon as possible?
Holland often exercises pressure on the Turkish authorities to comply with the political criteria of Copenhagen (a necessary requirement for the acceptance of Turkey in the European Union). One of the criteria demands among other things, the increase of the possibility of exercising the right of religious freedom. In the next immediate bilateral contacts with Turkey we will touch the closing of the Theological School of Halki.