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Thursday, 5 July 2001 - StrasbourgOJ edition

Question no 66 by Anna Terrón i Cusí (H-0567/01 )  
 Subject: Violation of the principle of equality on Mount Athos

Since the 11th Century women have been banned from Mount Athos and its monastery. Law No 2623 of 1953 enshrined that ban in law and laid down penalties to be applied in the event of non-compliance. The entire area has been designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, and it is common knowledge that cultural assets must be placed at the disposal of society. A whole series of legislative provisions exists at European Union level to combat gender-based discrimination, the most recent of which is the 2001-2006 action programme to combat discrimination.

Would the Commission not agree that this ban violates the individual rights of women and is in breach of Community legislation? Does it intend to take action to remedy this situation, given that Community funds are provided for the upkeep of Mount Athos?


The European Commission expressed its position on the issue raised by Mrs Terrón i Cusí in its response to written question E-1055/01 by Mr Glyn Ford.

On an introductory note, it should be noted that the joint declaration on Mount Athos annexed to the Final Act of the Agreement on the Accession of the Republic of Greece to the European Communities (OJ L 291 of 19.11.1979, p. 186), recognises that the special statute is granted to Mount Athos solely on spiritual and religious grounds and that the Community will ensure that it takes account of this in the application and further development of provisions of Community law, particularly with regard to exemptions from customs and excise duties and the right of establishment.

This declaration was confirmed both by the Treaty of Amsterdam (Declarations of which the Conference took note – Declaration by Greece on the status of churches and non-confessional organisations OJ C 340 of 10.11.1997, p144) and by the Final Act of the Agreement on the Accession of the Republic of Greece to the Convention implementing the Schengen Agreement (OJ L 239 of 22.09.2000, p. 83-89).

In consideration of these provisions and of the fact that the total ban on the access of women to Mount Athos is a tradition which has been practised for a millennium and is based on religious grounds, the European Commission does not intend to take any action to remove this ban.

Finally, it should be noted that the access of men to Mount Athos, which is an autonomous region of the Greek Republic, is subject to authorisation from the authorities, even where Greek nationals are concerned.

Last updated: 27 August 2004Legal notice