Mrs. CAROLYN B. MALONEY of New York. Mr. Speaker, Today, I am introducing, with my colleague Congressman GUS BILIRAKIS, legislation urging Turkey to respect the rights and religious freedoms of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
In 1993, the European Union defined the membership criteria for accession to the European Union at the Copenhagen European Council, obligating candidate countries to have achieved certain levels of reform, including stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, and human rights, and respect for and protection of minorities. Since accession negotiations with the EU began in 2005, Turkey has failed to recognize the Ecumenical Patriarchate's international status as the spiritual home of the world's oldest and second largest Christian Church that includes more than 300 million Orthodox Christians worldwide.
Moreover, the Government of Turkey has limited the candidates available to the Holy Synod of the Greek Orthodox Church for selection as the Ecumenical Patriarchate to Turkish nationals and reneged on its agreement to reopen the Theological School at Halki, thus impeding training for the Orthodox clergy in that country.
This resolution calls on Turkey to respect the rights and religious freedoms of the Ecumenical Patriarchate by granting it the right to train clergy of all nationalities, not just Turkish nationals, and respecting the human rights and property rights of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Additionally, the resolution encourages Turkey to continue the processes and programs to modernize and democratize its own society and prove that it is ready to meet the criteria set forth by the Copenhagen European Council prior to its accession into the EU.