HL Deb 30 January 2001 vol 621 cc43-4WA
Viscount Waverley

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is the status within the European Union of Mount Athos. [HL394]

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale

Under Article 105 of the Greek Constitution, Mount Athos has a special status. Mount Athos is governed by representatives of its 20 monasteries; a governor is appointed by the Greek state to exercise its responsibilities, such as public order.

A Joint Declaration concerning Mount Athos was attached to the 1981 Treaty of Accession of Greece to the European Communities. The declaration was: Recognising that the special status granted to Mount Athos, as guaranteed by Article 105 of the Hellenic Constitution, is justified exclusively on grounds of a spiritual and religious nature, the Community will ensure that this status is taken into account in the application and subsequent preparation of provisions of Community law, in particular in relation to customs franchise privileges, tax exemptions and the right of establishment.

A Joint Declaration on the status of Churches and non-confessional organisations was also attached to the Treaty of Amsterdam in 1997. It reads: The European Union respects and does not prejudice the status under national law of churches and religious associations or communities in the member states. The European Union equally respects the status of philosophical and non-confessional organisations.

At that time, Greece made a declaration linking this to the 1981 declaration about Mount Athos: With reference to the declaration on the status of churches and non-confessional organisations. Greece recalls the Joint Declaration on Mount Athos annexed to the Final Act of Accession of Greece to the European Communities.