Greece on minority in Western Thrace, Greece (1990)

Suggested Citation: Neophytos G. Loizides, Greek-Turkish Negotiations and Crises 1983-2003 Dataset , Queen's University Belfast (available online at http://www.qub.ac.uk/research-centres/CentrefortheStudyofEthnicConflict/TeachingResearch/Datasets/Greek-TurkishNegotiationsandCrises1983-2003/#d.en.173636)

This case study examines Greek responses to perceived Turkish interference in Western Thrace. In February 1990, clashes take place in northeastern Greece between Christian Greeks and ethnic Turkish Muslims, which leave one Greek dead and several wounded on both sides.[i] Greece and Turkey expel each other’s consuls in Thrace and Istanbul.[ii] For the period 2/1/1990 – 3/1/1990, Lexis/Nexis provides 29 results for the terms “Greece” and “Turkey” and “crisis” (full text search under European News Sources).

Case Study Features:

Indistinguishability of Offensive vs. Defensive Action: 1

Minority issues are often characterized by this indistinguishability.  On the one hand, Turkey invokes principles of human rights, and in reality, minority Turks find it almost impossible to buy or rent land, build their own houses, replace the leaking roof, get a loan from a Greek bank, or a job in the public sector.[iii] On the other, Greece invokes the principle of reciprocity (Istanbul Greeks protected by the same Lausanne treaty of 1923 were forced to abandon Turkey decades ago) and the fear of creating a second Cyprus (cited also in international press).[iv]

Effectiveness of offense versus the defense :  0

Greece does not enjoy a military advantage over Turkey, especially in such areas as the Aegean islands and Cyprus.

Domestic Challenge: 1

Greece is governed by temporary or weak governments during this period. The Mitsotakis government has only a marginal majority in the parliament, making it extremely vulnerable to outside pressure from nationalist groupings.

Enduring Ethnic Rivalries: 1

There are enduring rivalries with Turkey, resulting from past crises in Cyprus and the Aegean.

Confrontational Policies: 0

No major escalation takes place on the Greek side at the time. Following the incidents, new PM Mitsotakis revokes old policies of discrimination. The progress is noticeable to local and outside observers. [v] The case study disconfirms the diversionary theory of war.

[i] Paul Anastasi, “Greece and Bulgaria Plan Anti-Turkey Strategies”, February 7, 1990, New York Times, p. 9.

[ii] “Greek Consul Expelled in Retaliation for Greek Expulsion of Turk”, The Associated Press, February 3, 1990.

[iii] David Hearst, “Driven down the dirt track - In three weeks, Greece deprived 500 ethnic Turks of citizenship. For the majority who remain in Thrace, life is a constant battle with bureaucracy”, The Guardian, July 5, 1991.

[iv] “Race in Thrace”, Economist, March 2, 1991, p.50. 

[v] Hugh Pope, “Turks grapple for their rights in Greece; The appointment of a Greek as a Muslim leader in a Turkish-dominated town sparked another court battle over minority rights,” The Independent,  June 30, 1994, p. 13.