Ethnic minorities in Balkan countries should be granted a "European minority status" to integrate them better into society, the new leader of Bulgaria's Turkish party has demanded.
This designation should be highlighted throughout Europe as a brand new concept for the integration of minorities, the new leader of Bulgaria's ethnic Turkish party, the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, Lyutvi Mestan, said in an interview for Today's Zaman.
The idea of giving religious and ethnic minorities in the Balkans a European minority status is not new and was first promoted by the former long-term leader of the party, Ahmet Dogan.
"In all nation-states, especially in Southeastern Europe, namely the Balkans, there is a strong ethnocentrism and this stonewalls the integration process. This idea [ethnocentrism] does not consider the cultural differences between different ethnicities as [cultural] capital but as a threat to national interests. [On the contrary,] I claim that national interests will be threatened as long as there is no integration," noted Mestan during an exclusive interview with Today's Zaman.
He described using European minority status as a means to overcome the inability of Balkan states to create a successful integration mechanism.
Explaining further, Mestan stated that local community law would be considered first when evaluating the rights of the minorities and that this community law would serve to protect the rights of minorities under the term European minorities.
Extending this as a legal status to the whole of Europe, Mestan said, would mean that minority rights in the region would not be left to the mercy of nation-states, nor be limited to a bilateral agreement with another state guaranteeing those rights.
Mestan argued that even though the Movement for Rights and Freedoms was founded by the Turkish and Muslim population of Bulgaria, it is not an ethnic-oriented party.
"If we are a respected party, it is because we have an integration philosophy that includes protecting our identities," Mestan said.