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Under EU Pressure, Turkey Moves to Improve Non-Muslim Property Rights

(AFP) -- The Turkish government has drafted a bill sought by the European Union to address complaints from non-Muslim religious foundations over restrictions to their property rights, Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Ali Sahin said Tuesday.

"From time to time, there have been complaints from (non-Muslim) community foundations and EU officials... This bill aims to eradicate to a great extent those complaints," Sahin told reporters after a cabinet meeting.

He said the draft bill would be sent to parliament in several days, without explaining what specific measures it contained.

The EU, set to open membership talks with Turkey on October 3, has long pressed Ankara to amend legal provisions restricting the property rights of non-Muslim religious foundations in the country.

Predominantly Muslim Turkey is home to small communities of Christians, mainly Orthodox Greeks and Armenians, and Jews, most of them concentrated in Istanbul.

In an October report on Turkey's democratization progress, the EU said that non-Muslim communities "lack legal personality, face restricted property rights and interference in the management of their foundations, and are not allowed to train clergy," even though their freedom to worship was largely unhampered.

"Their existing properties are permanently at risk of being confiscated and attempts to recover property by judicial means encounter numerous obstacles," the report said.

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