chapter  6
23 Pages

Deepening Democracy or Defending the Nation? The Europeanisation of Minority Rights and Greek Citizenship

Over the past 15 years, the determination of domestic elites across the major political parties to bring Greece into the mainstream of the EU after ten years of ambivalence and marginality has marked the intensification of the Europeanisation process in the country. Specialists on Greece have explored the latter, encompassing a reordering of policy priorities, as well as far-reaching restructuring of political-economic institutions and state-society relations, notwithstanding its specificity as a peripheral state historically and geographically situated in Southeast Europe (Featherstone 1998; Ioakimidis 1995). Drawing from a burgeoning literature on Europeanisation, these studies reflect a shift in academic interest from supranational institution building to the effects of European structures of governance and normative frames in reconfiguring domestic politics and institutions (Ladrech 1994; Featherstone and Kazamias 2000; Radaelli 2000). Depending on the degree of ‘fit’ between national and European institutional make-up, integration exerts adaptational pressures,

a multifaceted and far from uniform process whereby EU norms and policies are transposed in variable ways and degrees in distinct national settings (Risse et al. 2001). However, studies have paid relatively little attention to the effects of

Europeanisation on how states deal with minorities and allocate citizenship, which often touches upon politically delicate and emotionally charged issues of national membership and identity. In the post-World War II period, European institutions such as the Council of Europe (CoE) and the Conference (now Organisation) for Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE/OSCE) engaged in far-reaching elaboration of human rights principles. Since the end of the Cold War their activities have extended their standard-setting and normative purview to the protection of minorities. An interweaving set of provisions and a comprehensive regime of norms and rules have emerged, enjoining obligations for member states to respect and protect the rights of minorities (Jackson Preece 1998). Concern with the rise of minority issues in post-communist Central-East and Southeast Europe was among the factors that led the CoE in 1997 to adopt the European Convention on Nationality, seeking to regulate the acquisition of citizenship and to prevent statelessness and the arbitrary withdrawal of it. Intent upon safeguarding individual rights and preventing discriminative practices regardless of ethnic-religious origin, European norms and institutions arguably challenge traditional notions of citizenship premised upon cultural belonging to the national community and promote a more inclusive conception of national membership (Soysal 1994). The proliferation of such norms presents a ‘misfit’ for member states

(Risse et al. 2001) where the history and development of state institutions and laws has systematically privileged the interests of national unity often at the expense of individual rights and minorities. Greece is such a case in point (Pollis 1992). Historical reasons related to the slow process of unification of different areas and a sharp sense of insecurity forged an exclusive conception of the Greek nation that continued to shape formally and substantively the allocation of citizenship rights beyond the transition to democracy in 1974. National laws and practices allocating citizenship rights to minorities reflect deeply ingrained cultural-historical traditions and conceptions of nationhood that have a lasting and formative quality (Brubaker 1992). In a society divided by the legacy of the civil war of the 1940s and the polarised international climate of the Cold War, post-war Greek governments sought to disenfranchise minorities, viewing them as a danger to national unity and territorial integrity that had to be assimilated or defended against. Scholars primarily from the field of international relations and European

studies depict very differently the specific ways and dynamics whereby the Europeanisation of human rights bears upon domestic institutions, practices and collective understandings. On the one hand, scholars argue that European human rights and minority protection norms influence national institutions and practices in so far as they are actively supported by domestic

societal groups that pressurise their governments to comply with these (Joppke 1998). Alternatively, such norms and principles elicit compliance when there is a shifting balance towards domestic elite groups that instrumentally appeal to such norms as a means of furthering particular interests and strategic ends (Moravscik 1995). On the other hand, other scholars argue that European principles of human rights and minority protection can have a deeper effect. They induce through learning normative and/or societal change among elites, who develop and internalise new understandings about citizenship and national membership (Checkel 2001a: 182; Risse 1999; Risse et al. 2001: 12). The implications of the perspective that sees the impact of European norms to be primarily ‘thin’ and instrumental and the other one that sees it as ‘thick’ and normative are very different (Checkel 2001b). In contrast to the former, the latter sees Europeanisation as capable of gradually redefining historically formed collective understandings of nation and citizenship. This article examines the emergence of European norms and institutions

of human rights and their impact on domestic policies and practices pertaining to citizenship and minorities in Greece. From the 1980s, Greece witnessed the mobilisation of numerically small but significant historical minorities, such as Turkish Muslims and Slavic-speakers of northern Greece, whose assertion of rights and cultural identity became a compelling political issue with the collapse of communism and the disintegration of Yugoslavia (Clogg 2002: xi-xii). With the intensification of Europeanisation processes in Greece at the beginning of the 1990s, government policy towards minorities underwent significant changes. Despite the rising tide of Greek nationalist sentiment, the early 1990s also marked a turning point in Greek government policy towards the country’s most important minority, the Turkish-speaking Muslims of Thrace, characterised by a process of liberalisation of their rights. The latter culminated with the abrogation of Article 19 of the Greek Citizenship Code in 1998, on which this article focuses.