Turkish newspapers say a deal is in the works. Will there be reciprocity from Greece? When President Obama was in Turkey, there were reports that “the recognition by Greek authorities of muftis in Thrace and financial support for Muslim schools might prompt a Turkish rethink on the Halki school.” Here is the story from Hurriyet, the Turkish newspaper:
ANKARA – The Halki seminary on the island of Heybeliada is to be reopened, Culture Minister Ertuğrul Günay said, adding that they are searching for a formula to integrate the Orthodox theological school into Turkey’s university system. “Although we have not finalized a decision in the Cabinet, my personal impression is that we are going to open the seminary,” said Günay, speaking on Kanal 24 television over the weekend.
Recalling that the functioning of the Halki seminary is not compatible with the Turkish university system, Günay maintained that work is underway to find a formula for its status. He explained that the question is whether the seminary would function like a university, which then has to be integrated into the Turkish university system, or if it would function like an autonomous private high school.
One of the latest proposals was for the seminary to become a private university under the auspices of a foundation, such as how Koç University was established under the auspices of the Vehbi Koç Foundation. The Heybeliada University would be set up under the Ayatriada Foundation with the patriarch chairing the latter and people with Turkish citizenship making up the rest of the board. However, the patriarch has rejected the idea.
The expectation of the reopening of Halki Seminary, which has been closed since 1971, has been long spelt out by the European Union in the course of entry talks and was lately expressed by U.S. President Barack Obama during his visit to Turkey in April.
State Minister and Chief Negotiator Egemen Bağış said that reopening Halki Seminary was a domestic issue for Turkey, in an interview with the Greek daily Kathimerini, reported the Anatolia News Agency on Sunday.
“Turkey needs to address the religious needs of the Orthodox community as well as Greece needs to address the needs of the Turkish community in Western Thrace. These are domestic matters for both countries,” said Bağış. Although the reciprocity principle is not a must, both countries must tackle the problems simultaneously Bağış underlined.