United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination - States Parties Reports
of all Forms of
7 July 2009
COMMITTEE ON THE ELIMINATION
OF RACIAL DISCRIMINATION
[27 March 2008]
I. INTRODUCTION 1 - 4 4
II. INFORMATION RELATING TO ARTICLES 2 TO 7
OF THE CONVENTION 5 - 291 4
General legal framework: recent developments 5 4
Information on the demographic composition of the country 6 - 11 5
Women belonging to vulnerable social groups 12 6
Article 2 13 - 128 7
The new antidiscrimination legislation 13 - 22 7
Rights of persons belonging to minorities - Members of the
Muslim minority in Thrace 23 - 46 9
The situation of Roma in Greece 47 - 83 13
Guarantee of migrants’ rights and measures to
promote their social integration 84 - 99 22
Victims of trafficking in human beings 100 - 115 25
Protection of refugees and asylum seekers 116 - 128 29
Article 3 129 32
Article 4 130 - 156 33
Criminalization of offences aiming at racial discrimination 130 - 135 33
Prohibition of hate speech in the media 136 - 150 34
The practice of the National Radio and Television Council 151 - 156 35
Article 5 157 - 249 36
The right to security of person and protection by the State
against violence or bodily harm 157 - 193 36
Political rights 194 - 195 45
Other civil rights 196 - 233 45
Conditions of detention-foreigners awaiting expulsion 196 - 214 45
Freedom of religion 215 - 223 49
Right to nationality 224 - 226 50
Freedom of association 227 - 233 51
Economic, social and cultural rights 234 - 249 52
The right to work and to form and join trade unions 234 - 236 52
The right to education and training 237 - 249 53
Article 6 250 - 266 55
Article 7 267 - 291 58
Education 267 - 283 58
Promoting tolerance in the media 284 - 292 62
1. Greece has the pleasure to submit her periodic report to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. At the outset, we would like to express our regret for not being able to present this report on time. We would also like to emphasize that Greece attaches great importance to the United Nations human rights treaty system and, in particular, to the reporting procedure under the ICERD. We are confident that the submission of this report will facilitate the open, frank, constructive and fruitful dialogue of the State party with the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on the achievements made and the challenges ahead in the fight against racism and all forms of racial discrimination.
2. This report has been drafted by the Legal Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in close cooperation with the following Ministries: Ministry of Interior/General Secretariat for Gender Equality/Greek Police Headquarters, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Labor and Social Protection, Ministry of Health and Social Solidarity, Ministry of National Education and Religious Affairs, Ministry of Culture, as well as the General Secretariat of Communication/General Secretariat of Information.
3. In addition, we have incorporated, to the extent possible, valuable input and comments by the National Commission for Human Rights, in which six major NGOs participate. We have also taken into account concerns raised during the last years by various NGOs.
4. The present report focuses mainly on the points raised in the concluding observations of the CERD, dated 27.4.2001, and provides information on recent legislation, action plans, initiatives and practical steps taken in the fight against all forms of racial discrimination.
5. The most important developments that took place since Greece’s last report to the CERD are the following:
• A Law on the “Implementation of the principle of equal treatment regardless of racial or ethnic origin, religious or other beliefs, disability, age or sexual orientation” was adopted in 2005, which covers a wide variety of fields and designates or establishes bodies for monitoring compliance with the principle of equal treatment.
• Independent authorities such as the Greek Ombudsman, the Hellenic Data Protection Authority and the National Radio and Television Council, have been enshrined in the Constitution, since the 2001 constitutional revision. The Greek Ombudsman has assumed new responsibilities in the fields of the protection of the rights of the child, health and social solidarity and monitoring the implementation of the principle of equal treatment of men and women with regard to employment; most importantly for the purposes of the present report, the Greek Ombudsman has been designed as the specialized body for the promotion of the principle of equal treatment in the public sector. The National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) continued, throughout the period under consideration, to submit recommendations and proposals, studies, reports and opinions for legislative, administrative or other measures which may lead to the improvement of human rights protection in Greece, to develop awareness-raising initiatives and to issue opinions on Greece’s reports to UN human rights treaty bodies; in 2003, two more NGOs, the Greek League for Women’s Rights and the Panhellenic Federation of Greek Roma Associations, were included in the membership of the NCHR.
• The Integrated Action Program for the social integration of Greek Roma has yielded positive results, in particular in the field of housing. Continuous efforts have been made in order to improve the living conditions of this vulnerable social group, to overcome all remaining obstacles and to respond to inadequate situations.
• An Integrated Action Plan for the integration of third-country nationals legally residing in the Hellenic territory has been designed and will be implemented. In the last years, a more efficient regulatory framework has been enacted, in order to improve the protection of lawfully residing migrants’ rights.
• A comprehensive legislative framework on the fight against trafficking in human beings and on the assistance of victims thereof has been enacted.
• Acts or activities aiming at racial discrimination have been criminalized. Prosecuting authorities may press charges ex officio. However, the relevant criminal legislation has had limited application until now. Self-regulation has continued to play an important role in the field of media.
• The fight against racism and xenophobia has been made a priority issue for the Greek Police. Isolated incidents of discrimination or unlawful use of force have been handled in accordance with the applicable criminal and disciplinary provisions so as to increase the accountability of police officers. Training in human rights of police personnel has been further strengthened. Measures have been adopted to improve the conditions of detention of foreigners awaiting expulsion.
• Safeguards for the free exercise of religious freedom have been enhanced.
• Practical steps have been taken in the fields of education and teaching, aiming, in particular, at promoting the effective and harmonious integration of foreign children in the educational system of the country and preventing prejudice and stereotypes.
6. In reply to CERD’s recommendation regarding information on the demographic composition of the population residing in Greece, it is to be stressed that Greece is a largely homogeneous country, in terms of the origin, religion, language and cultural characteristics of Greek citizens.
7. The number of persons of Roma origin, who are not considered as a “minority”, but as a vulnerable social group, amounts to approximately 250,000 to 300,000, according to studies drawn up with a view to designing and implementing social actions and programs for the Roma.
8. With regard to minority groups, the Muslim minority in Thrace numbers around 100,000 persons and consists of three distinct groups, whose members are of Turkish, Pomak and Roma origin.
9. With regard to the number of third-country (i.e. non-EU) nationals legally residing in Greece, according to the official statistical data of the Ministry of Interior, the valid residence permits as of 15.10.2007 were 481,501. According to the same data, Albanian citizens form the largest migrant group in Greece, that is 303.225 persons (60%), followed by citizens of Ukraine (19,005), Georgia (12,990) and Pakistan (12,126). There also are large communities of immigrants originating from two new EU member States, that is Bulgaria (27,182) and Romania (15,884).
10. It must be noted that third-country nationals, who have submitted all required documents for the issue or renewal of a residence permit and have received the relevant certificate, are not included in the above mentioned data. However, according to Article 11 of Law 3386/2005, the abovementioned third-country nationals are considered to reside legally in the country, until the decision of the Administration regarding their application has been issued. For this reason, the total number of third-country nationals legally residing in Greece is not possible to be calculated precisely. However, according to 2005 stock data as processed and sent by the competent Department of the Ministry of Interior to the European Commission for the allocation of the Integration Fund, the number of legally residing migrants in Greece is in total 796,185 (out of a total population of around 11,100,000 persons).
11. Finally, 152,400 applications have been submitted by third-country nationals in order to be included in the recent legalization procedure for migrants (Article 91 (10) and (11) of art. 91 of Law 3386/2005).
12. Greece’s overall policy on the social integration of vulnerable groups of women forms part of the four-year Action Plan of the General Secretariat for Gender Equality (GSGE) on “National Policy Priorities and Axes of Action for Gender Equality (2004-2008)”, which links gender equality issues to the following national priorities: development, employment, education-social cohesion. Such policy also aims at tackling multiple forms of discrimination, an issue stressed in the NCHR’s Comments on the present report. Initiatives undertaken within this framework include the following:
• On combating trafficking in human beings, in particular women, see infra, paras. 100115.
• Law 3500/2006 has been adopted, which aims at preventing and combating domestic violence and protecting the fundamental rights of women and children. The GSGE provides advisory, psychological and legal support to women victims of domestic violence through the operation of two Consultation Centers (in Athens and in Piraeus). 16% of the women who refer to these Centers are foreigners. The leaflet on domestic violence has been translated and published in English, Arabic and Persian while the publication in Albanian, Russian and French is expected soon. The publication of the leaflet on domestic violence in Arabic and Persian has been considered as necessary for the implementation of the Memorandum of Cooperation with the UN High Commissioner’s Office for Refugees in Greece (see also below, paras. 127-128).
• In cooperation with the Greek Manpower Employment Organization (ΟΑΕD), the GSGE implements a program through which unemployed women are promoted to employment. Migrant women, refugee women and Roma women are included in the target groups of the program. The same project also includes, for the first time, as beneficiaries women who have been identified as victims of trafficking.
• In the framework of the “European Year of Equal Opportunities for All (2007)” the GSGE implements a Plan of Action entitled “Women - Equality in Action”. The Plan of Action aims to raise awareness with regard to combating racism and gender discrimination. The television spot which will be produced addresses the needs of women that belong to different social groups and experience multiple forms of discrimination.
• More than 3.000 women, who belong to groups threatened by exclusion from the labor market, especially immigrant women, are beneficiaries of the program “Improving the conditions of integration of vulnerable groups of women in the labor market”, run by the Research Center for Gender Equality (Κ.Ε.TH.Ι.), supervised and financed by the GSGE.
• The GSGE has submitted a biennial action plan to the Ministry of Employment and Social Protection in order to compile the National Action Plan for Social Integration (ΕSDΕΝ) 2006-2008. The initiatives envisaged therein include the fight against discrimination and the promotion of social integration of first- and second generation immigrants.
13. In 2005, Parliament adopted Law 3304/2005 on the “Implementation of the principle of equal treatment regardless of racial or ethnic origin, religious or other beliefs, disability, age or sexual orientation”, which incorporates two relevant EU directives (2000/43/EC dated 29 June 2000, and 2000/78/EC dated 27 November 2000). The aim of the Law is to lay down a general regulatory framework for combating discrimination in a wide variety of fields and to designate or establish bodies for protecting, promoting and monitoring compliance with the principle of non-discrimination.
14. The Law prohibits both direct and indirect discrimination (Art. 2 (1)). It qualifies as “discrimination” harassment, which manifests itself through an unwanted conduct related to a prohibited ground of discrimination, with the purpose or effect of insulting the dignity of a person and of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment (Art. 2 (2), as amended by Article 7 of Law 3625/2007). Any instruction to apply a discriminatory treatment against a person on the above mentioned grounds is also deemed as “discrimination” (Art. 2 (3)).
15. As regards, in particular, the principle of equal treatment regardless of racial or ethnic origin, Article 3 of the Law defines as “direct discrimination” the fact that a person is treated less favorably than another is, has been or would be treated in a comparable situation on the said grounds. An “indirect discrimination” occurs where a prima facie neutral provision, criterion or practice would put persons of a particular racial or ethnic origin at a disadvantage compared with other persons, unless that provision, criterion or practice is objectively justified by a legitimate aim and the means of achieving that aim are appropriate and necessary.
16. The scope of the relevant Chapter II of the Law is very wide. Its provisions apply to all persons, as regards both the public and private sectors, in relation to: (a) conditions of access to employment and to occupation in general, including selection criteria and recruitment conditions, in all branches of activity and levels of the professional hierarchy, (b) access to all types and levels of vocational guidance, training, retraining and practical work experience, (c) employment and working conditions, including dismissals and pay, (d) membership of and participation to an organization of workers or employers or any other professional organization, (e) social protection, including social security and health care, (f) social advantages, (g) education, (h) access to and supply of goods and services which are made available to the public, including housing.
17. It is, however, to be noted that the said provisions do not apply to differences of treatment on the ground of nationality and do not affect provisions regulating the entry into the country and stay of third-country nationals or stateless persons, as well as any treatment related to the legal status of persons as third-country nationals or stateless persons (Article 4 (2)). Those persons are protected by the applicable provisions of the general legislation. Furthermore, a difference of treatment based on a characteristic related to racial or ethnic origin, which, by reason of the nature or the context of the particular occupational activities, constitutes a genuine and determining occupational requirement, is not deemed as “discriminatory” provided that the aim pursued is legitimate and the requirement is proportionate (Article 5).
18. In order to dispel any ambiguity, Article 6 of the Law clarifies that the adoption or maintaining of special measures with the aim to preventing or compensating disadvantages on the grounds of racial or ethnic origin do not constitute “discrimination”, thus confirming the conformity of “positive action” with the principle of equal treatment.
19. Chapter III of the Law on the principle of equal treatment regardless of religious or other beliefs, disability, age or sexual orientation follows the same general principles and pattern as Chapter II, but has a more limited scope, since it applies in the areas of employment and occupation and covers cases (a) to (d) referred to here above. There are also specific provisions on occupational requirements (Article 9), reasonable accommodation for disabled persons (Article 10) and justification of differences of treatment on grounds of age (Article 11).
20. It is, however, to be noted that the protection afforded against discrimination on the grounds of religious or other beliefs, disability, age or sexual orientation may be extended, by virtue of a Presidential decree, into areas other than those of employment and occupation (Article 27).
21. Moreover, according to Article 26, upon the entry into force of the Law, any regulatory or legislative provision is abolished and any provision included in an individual or collective contract, general transaction conditions, internal rules of enterprises, statutes of profitable or non-profitable organizations, independent professional organizations, trade unions, employer associations is rendered invalid, if it is contrary to the principle of equal treatment.
22. The issue of mechanisms designed or established for monitoring and implementing the abovementioned provisions is dealt with under Article 6 of the ICERD.
23. In its Concluding Observations dated 27.4.2001, CERD drew the attention of the State party to its General Recommendations VIII (38) on the right of each person to self-identification and XXIV (55).
24. Before explaining Greece’s position on the above issue, we would like to recall that the Muslim minority in Thrace, which is the officially recognized minority in Greece, numbers around 100,000 persons and consists of three distinct groups, whose members are of Turkish, Pomak or Roma origin. Each of these groups has its own distinct spoken language and cultural traditions. They share, however, a common religion, which is the basic reason for the denomination of the minority in its entirety as “Muslim” in the Lausanne Treaty of 1923, establishing the status of the above minority.
25. Greece fully subscribes to the right of each person to self-identification. In this regard, the members of the Muslim minority in Thrace are free to declare their origin, speak their language, exercise their religion and observe their particular customs and traditions. What is not acceptable is the attempt to establish a single ethnic identity for the entire Muslim minority in Thrace, so as to subsume Pomak and Roma persons under a Turkish identity.
26. As regards other “ethnic groups” in the country, it is to be noted that any individual who claims to belong to a distinct ethnic or cultural group is free to do so and there are no negative consequences resulting from such an expression of wish. However, we are of the opinion, as a matter of international law, that subjective claims or perceptions of a small number of persons, which are not based on objective facts and criteria, do not establish by themselves a corresponding obligation of the State to officially recognize a group as a minority and to guarantee to its members specific minority rights, additional to those guaranteed by human rights treaties. In this respect, the Explanatory Report to the Council of Europe Framework Convention on the Protection of National Minorities clearly states that an individual may not choose arbitrarily to belong to a national minority; the individual’s subjective choice is inseparably linked to objective criteria relevant to that person’s identity. Furthermore, as the same Explanatory Report stresses, all ethnic, cultural, linguistic or religious differences do not necessarily lead to the creation of national, or, for that matter, ethnic minorities.
27. In this context, references, by a very small number of NGOs to a so-called “Macedonian minority” in Greece do not correspond to existing realities. The fact that a small number of persons who live in Northern Greece use, without restrictions, in addition to the Greek language, Slavic oral idioms, confined to family or colloquial use, does not indicate the existence of a national minority. The persons using this idiom have never considered themselves as having a distinct ethnic or national identity and reject any attempt by some circles to define them as members of a national, ethnic or linguistic minority. Furthermore, the use of the term “Macedonian” to describe a so-called minority usurps the name and national and cultural identity of some two and a half million Greeks who identify themselves for many centuries as Macedonians (Makedones) in the regional/cultural context and cannot therefore be accepted. It is also to be noted that the abovementioned Slav-oriented group of Greek citizens in Macedonia have been freely participating with their own political party in parliamentary elections in Greece, each time being able to gather an insignificant number of votes, covering no more than 0.02% of the electoral vote.
28. Having said that, we would like to stress that the non-recognition of a group as a minority, enjoying specific minority rights, on the basis of solid legal and factual grounds does not deprive such group from the enjoyment of all civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights, including the right to non-discrimination, that are recognized under national and international law.
29. Finally, we would like to add that Greece, along with the majority of European countries, does not consider as “minorities” the communities of migrants who reside and work in Greece in order to achieve a better future for themselves, their families and the economy of their country. However, as it will be explained in the relevant part of this report (see paras. 92 et seq.), Greek legislation provides for the designing and implementation of an Integrated Action Plan. Among the basic principles of the Action Plan are included the prohibition of discrimination, implementation of the principle of equal treatment, in order to promote economic and social cohesion, as well as respect for the above persons’ fundamental rights, as guaranteed by our national legal order, with regard to the protection of cultural and religious specificities.
30. In addition to the information provided in our previous report to the CERD, we would like to stress the following points:
31. The rights of the members of the Muslim minority in Thrace are fully guaranteed and effectively protected in a democratic society, where the rule of law prevails. Greek legislation includes special measures in favor of the Muslim minority, fully implements the Lausanne Treaty, is in line with international and regional human rights treaties and reflects the values of the European Union. Muslim citizens derive all the benefits of membership in the European Union, exactly like other Greek citizens. The substantial goal of the Greek State is - as well as that of all other EU members in general - to guarantee the smooth integration of the minority in the social tissue of the country, while safeguarding its cultural and religious identity.
32. The education of the children of the Muslim minority in Thrace is also a matter of high priority. It aims at ensuring the physical, intellectual and moral development of students
according to the principles of our system of public education. This policy constitutes part of the general national policy for the social and economic integration of members of the Muslim minority in Thrace into the contemporary Greek society. The education of the Muslim Greeks is of fundamental importance, as it implements the principles of “isonomia” (equality of the law) and “isopoliteia” (equality before the law), while combating educational exclusion. Today, there are 210 primary minority schools in Thrace, with courses being taught in both languages (Greek and Turkish). Approximately 400 Muslim teachers are employed in these primary minority schools. In addition, two minority secondary education schools operate in the cities of Xanthi and Komotini, housed in buildings provided by the Greek State. In parallel, two Koranic schools operate in Komotini and in Echinos.
33. A project (co-funded by the EU and the Greek state) has been running for the education of members of the Muslim minority in Thrace and has yielded positive results: the project “Education of Muslim Children” was initiated by the Ministry of National Education and has been running in collaboration with the University of Athens. Its aim is the publication of textbooks for the teaching of the Greek language to students with a different mother tongue, the study of special educational programs, the training of both Christian and Muslim teachers in the teaching of Greek as a second language and in the modern pedagogical methods with the use of technology. In the framework of the project, new policies have been introduced to combat the phenomenon of drop-outs from schools and to foster the integration of Muslim minority pupils into the Greek schools. The 3rd phase of the project is running for the years 2005-2007. A similar program is being run by the University of Thessaly (Volos).
34. Moreover, some additional measures have been taken in favor of pupils of the Muslim minority in Thrace. More specifically, a) there is a special quota of 0.5 percent for the entrance of Muslim students in Higher Education and, at the same time, by virtue of Law 3404/2005, there is a designated number of posts for entrance in Technical Institutions for Muslim minority graduates of Vocational Schools, b) 10 grants of 500 Euros per month were given to Muslim minority students for the academic year 2006-7, and c) a special scholarship has been designed for students from schools of the Muslim minority. In 1996, upon the entry into force of the relevant legislation, 70 students were admitted, while, during the current academic year (20072008), the number of admissions rose to 469 (Lyceum graduates).
35. Furthermore, the Support Centers for the Muslim Pupils’ Education offer systematic information and lessons in Greek for parents, counseling for teachers, introduction in the new technologies for students and organize social activities.
36. In July 2006, the Ministry of National Education introduced the teaching of Turkish language as a second foreign language in secondary education. On 29th August, 2006, a pilot phase for the teaching of Turkish language as an optional second foreign language in the region of Thrace began in five school units.
37. A recently adopted legislative framework provides, inter alia, for the creation of 240 posts of religious teachers (Imams) in Thrace, under the competent Muftis.
38. A Law adopted in 2008 regulates all issues concerning the Muslim religious foundations (wakfs). Moreover, wakfs are exempted from the obligation to pay the tax on major real estate, while loans and mortgages raised on their properties are lifted.
39. Training and life-long learning programs for thousands of adult Muslims, providing them with qualifications for their integration into the labor market, are being launched. Particular emphasis is placed on training for women. These programs have already being attended by 1.175 minority women, trained in various specializations. Improvement of living conditions and promotion of opportunities for minority women lie at the heart of the Greek Government’s policy. Organized programs for Greek language learning have been very popular, especially with minority women. The new training programs for Muslim women have also been widely attended.
40. It is also to be noted that, in a broader framework, a 0.5% quota for the recruitment of members of the Muslim minority in the public sector through state exams has recently been introduced by Law.
41. Muslims in Thrace carry out their religious duties and follow their traditions without any restrictions. There are more than 300 Muslim places of worship, officiated by around 400 Muslim clerics. The mosques are well kept by the wakf committees and protected by the State, which also contributes financially, if needed. The Muftis, as spiritual leaders of the Muslim community are, throughout the world, appointed and not elected. In Greece, the appointment of the Muftis is being effected through a transparent procedure, in which prominent members of the minority are consulted. A further reason for the appointment of Muftis is that they perform, in accordance with Islamic practice, certain judicial and administrative functions, in matters of family and inheritance law.
42. In recent years, some concerns have been raised with regard to the use of the Sharia in family and inheritance law matters of members of the Muslim minority in Thrace.
43. In this respect, it should be stressed that the choice whether to use the Sharia or the Greek Civil Code in the above mentioned matters is made by the members of the Muslim minority. They are absolutely free to address themselves either to the local Muftis or the civil courts. In case they choose the former, the Sharia is implemented to the extent that its rules are not in conflict with fundamental values of the Greek society and the Greek legal and constitutional order. In order to reconcile Islamic law with the Greek public order and the international obligations assumed by Greece, in particular, in the field of gender equality, Article 5 (3) of Law 1920/1991 provides that the courts shall not enforce decisions of the muftis which are contrary to the Greek Constitution. In this respect, derogations from civil law provisions are minor: concepts such as polygamy, marriage below legal age without court permission, marriage by proxy, repudiation, etc. are not allowed, on the basis of the aforementioned principle. Any practice contrary to fundamental values can indeed be challenged through this principle.
44. With regard to the issue of underage marriages, it is to be noted that, according to the Civil Code, the future spouses have to be at least eighteen years of age. However, a court may allow minors to marry, if a specific “important reason” concurs (Article 1350 (2) CC). The court may adopt such a decision after having heard the future spouses and those exercising custody, taking of course into consideration the best interests of the child. The case involving the marriage of an eleven-year old Muslim Roma girl, often referred to by some NGOs, is not an example of a widespread practice. On the contrary, there are instances where the conduct of underage marriages has been refused. It is to be noted that the NCHR, as stressed in its Comments, has recommended, in 2004, the abolition of the abovementioned Article 1350 (2) CC.
45. It is to be noted that there is an ongoing discussion in academic circles, as well as in the context of the National Commission for Human Rights, on the relevant legislative framework and practice. Such proposals or suggestions are studied carefully.
46. Finally, it would be important to clarify that in Greece there are no “parallel legal orders” or “separate societies”, depending on the religious affiliation of Greek citizens. Muslim women of the minority are fully included in gender equality policies and participate in relevant programs implemented by the competent authorities, as already explained above.
47. Greek Roma constitute an integral part of the Greek population; they have unequivocally expressed the wish to be considered and treated as Greek citizens, and not only as persons of Roma origin. As Greek citizens, they are subject to the Constitution and the laws of the State. Moreover, taking into account their special way of life, living conditions and needs, they have been recognized by the State as a vulnerable social group, to the benefit of which special (positive) measures and actions have been adopted.
48. The situation of Roma in Greece poses a series of challenges to our authorities and to our society in general.
49. The Office of the Ombudsman has repeatedly investigated allegations of exclusion in different fields. As it is stressed in a recent report, the involvement of the Greek Ombudsman aims at developing projects of broader scope and seeking solutions at the level of coordination between state agencies, local government and civil society, as well as that of legislative or administrative regulations. The strategy pursued by the Ombudsman, in its capacity also as the national equality body for the public sector, focuses on the current settlement practices of the Roma; the particular manner in which various types of settlement are connected with the more specific problems of social exclusion, particularly with regard to health, employment, education, etc. The relevant actions have been developing through a number of visits to Roma settlements throughout the country and through meetings with the responsible agencies of local government and of the central administration, as well as Roma individuals directly affected. As stressed in the NCHR’s Comments, the Ombudsman has indicated that local government agencies have not always been able to ensure effective solutions to issues affecting the Roma The Children’s Rights Ombudsman has addressed issues related to the education and medical care of Roma children. The experience of the Ombudsman has demonstrated the importance of the coordination of actions and the ongoing cooperation of the agencies involved, in addition to the creation of a relationship of trust between the state agencies and the Roma themselves.
50. A detailed report containing relevant recommendations on the situation of Roma was issued in 2002 by the National Commission for Human Rights. The NCHR is currently preparing a new report on the same issue; to this effect, it has organized two round tables, in which participated representatives of competent authorities, NGOs and the Roma.
51. Monitoring bodies, both at the regional and the universal level, have been raising issues of concern regarding Roma’s living conditions, in particular housing. The relevant reports and recommendations of the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) and the European Committee of Social Rights, as well as the Concluding Observations of UN treaty bodies, have drawn the attention of our authorities to a wide range of difficulties and shortcomings. The competent bodies of the Greek Government attach great importance to the abovementioned reports and recommendations and use them as a guide in their effort to take concrete steps in order to improve the situation in the field.
52. Clearly, the integration of Roma into the society is a very complex, multi-faceted social problem, which all European countries with a Roma population face. It is a problem which can be solved only through the application of consistent efforts, financial support, and a constructive attitude from all sides involved, including local societies and the Roma. Greek authorities are fully aware of the urgency of this problem and have repeatedly expressed, and shown in practice, their political will to find appropriate and effective solutions.
53. Greek Roma are not registered separately from other Greek citizens, either during the national census, or in the municipal rolls. As a result of this, there is not a precise official number of Roma population as such. Some studies drawn up with a view to designing and implementing social actions and programs for the Roma indicate a population of approximately 250,000 to 300,000 persons.
54. Within the framework of the fight against any form of discrimination and the effort to promote equality of treatment for all persons, with a particular focus on those belonging to socially vulnerable groups, the Greek State launched, in 2002, an Integrated Action Program (IAP) for the social integration of Greek Roma. The IAP was established within the framework of the National Action Plan for the Social Integration of socially vulnerable groups of the population; along with the aforementioned Law 3304/2005, it aims at combating social exclusion and discrimination through the implementation of special (positive) measures to improve the
situation in the field. The IAP is coordinated by the Alternate Minister of Interior within the framework of an Inter-Ministerial Committee, in which participate all jointly responsible Ministries with actions affiliated to the Program.
55. The IAP is structured upon two priority axis aiming at the housing rehabilitation of the Greek Roma (1st priority axe - infrastructures) and at the provision of services (2nd priority axe - services) in the fields of education, health, employment, culture and sports, giving priority though to areas holding projects of organized town building.
56. The Ministry of Interior focuses on the rehabilitation issue of Roma given that the development of their living conditions is fundamental to their empowerment as well as to the combating of social exclusion. The aim is the achievement of permanent housing rehabilitation for all Greek Roma, as far as possible, and the improvement of living conditions in existing settlements. More in detail:
57. Granting of 9.000 housing loans of 60.000€ each, to Greek Roma living in shacks, tents or any other construction that do not meet the minimum requirements of a permanent habitation. As explicitly provided for in the relevant Law (Law 2946/2001, Article 19), the funding of the program, exclusively from national resources, is guaranteed by the State Budget. Loans are granted on favorable terms as regards the payment thereof: beneficiaries are subsidized by the State at a rate of 80% of the loan’s interest, and may conclude with the payment in a period of 22 years; 100% of the loan and of its interests is also guaranteed by the State Budget (for the banks participating in the program).
58. The loans are provided strictly for main residence purposes, whether this involves purchasing, building, completing of building or even engagement in organized town building held by the local authorities. This last option of engaging in projects of integrated settlements constructed by the competent local authorities request beneficiaries’ definite consent, assignment of state property (municipal or public) and application of minimum technical standards (i.e. legal obligation for the construction of houses of at least 85m2 net space each).
59. Ever since its launch in 2002, the above program has been thoroughly reviewed and amended in order to adjust to evolving conditions and needs. Along with all necessary legal amendments, effective implementation requires constant cooperation among all stakeholders - the Ministry, the local authorities and the Banks involved. A recent amendment of the legal framework was completed in June 2006, taking into account the Concluding Observations and General Comments of UN treaty bodies, including CERD (in particular General Recommendation XXVII (57) concerning Roma), as well as recommendations issued in the framework of the Council of Europe, in order to:
• Establish social assessment criteria, taking into account Romas’ particular living conditions and lifestyle (e.g. one-parent families, families with many children, people with disabilities, people of low income etc.)
• Establish evaluation committees at the local level with the participation of Roma representatives and social workers with respect to the particular needs of the Roma
• Guarantee the allocation of loans with respect to existing housing needs throughout the Greek territory
• Promote the local authorities’ active engagement by giving priority to housing projects carried out by the local authorities and supported by Roma too
• Promote further the program’s effectiveness by updating files in terms of existing families’ needs
• Simplify the application procedure through the establishment of direct communication among all authorities in charge
• Establish new, stronger monitoring terms on the disbursal and use of the loans
60. Additionally, with a view to the effective implementation of the program, a new database has been developed since 2005, for the handling of the applications submitted and of any other existing information-data regarding the assessment and the qualification of successful applicants.
61. Following the amended assessment procedure, the Ministry of Interior has allocated 7,582 housing loans to an equal number of families all over Greece. Up to date, 6,350 families have been successfully nominated, whereas (out of 6,350) a total of 5,493 beneficiaries have already disbursed their loans (86.5% increase) from the banks participating in the program. Additionally, the Ministry is processing the allocation of 1,195 more loans all over Greece.
62. With regard to the promotion of equal gender participation, and in order to promote women’s empowerment and participation in social life (e.g. application of one-parent family criteria) the following data have emerged from the completion of the application procedure in 2005: among 15,665 applicants, a total of 6,117 were women (61%), whereas among 5,747 successful applicants 2.114 were women (63%).
63. From another point of view, statistical analysis of the documentation submitted proves that the housing loans program also served as a strong motivation to Roma persons for registering and obtaining identification documents. In that view, it has achieved in an indirect way the effective settlement of the civic status of the Roma population and has also promoted awarenessraising, from a social point of view, regarding the existence of the necessary services and the importance of making use of them.
[*] This document contains the sixteenth, seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth periodic reports of Greece, due on 18 July 2003, 2005 and 2007, submitted in one document. For the twelfth to fifteenth periodic reports and the summary records of the meetings at which the Committee considered the report, see documents CERD/C/363/Add.4 and CERD/C/363/Add.4/Rev.1 and CERD/C/SR.1455-1456.
[**] In accordance with the information transmitted to States parties regarding the processing of their reports, the present document was not edited before being sent to the United Nations translation services.
 See the decision 405/2000 of the Thiva First Instance Civil Court, according to which the jurisdiction of the Mufti, who exercises this jurisdiction in a subsidiary manner to the Greek Courts, may not endanger the civil rights of the Muslim population. The State is obliged, in the case of a conflict between the Sharia and civil rights, to grant the Muslim Greek Citizen the freedom to choose the legal order whose provisions shall regulate the difference that has arisen.
 See also the relevant Resolution dated 29.5.2003 of the NCHR. The NCHR stressed the importance of respect for cultural and religious identities in a pluralist, democratic society. Taking into consideration the relevant principles and rules of international, European and Greek human rights law (including Article 23 (3) ICCPR), the NCHR reached the conclusion that the Muslim wedding by proxy is against the Greek public order.
 See the Ombudsman’s report “Promoting equal treatment. The Greek Ombudsman as National Equality Body”, 2006, pp. 28 et seq.