Greece is “always open to dialogue but will not enter into talks under duress nor assist the legalisation of continuous violations of legality on Turkey’s part,” Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said during his visit to the military border post 1 at Kastanies, Evros.
He was accompanied by EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell.
Their visit comes amid fresh concerns of a possible attempt by Turkey to push illegal immigrants into Europe.
Dendias referred to the incidents at the Greek-Turkish borders: “At this spot less than four months ago, Greeks, Europeans and the international community became witnesses to an unbelievable situation; the exploitation by Turkey of the hopes of thousands of people for a better life.”
He noted that the “sordid attempt to blackmail the EU to gain concessions has failed”, adding that “here in Evros, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis along with the presidents of the European Council, the European Parliament and the European Commission, as well as the Prime Minister of Croatia, on March 3 voiced the EU’s determination to protect its external borders effectively, according to European and international law.” In the days that followed, Frontex forces were deployed in Evros and still remain there, Dendias added.
“Today, after a short interval due to the pandemic, Turkey has once again stated that its land borders with Europe are open, its coast guard is escorting boats loaded with migrants heading toward the Greek islands and it insists on undermining security, stability and peace in the Eastern Mediterranean,” Dendias continued, while he referred in detail to Ankara’s provocativeness and said that Turkey has caused problem for all its neighbours.
“Greece has proved in practice its will and ability to resolve long-standing differences with its neighbours on the basis of international law, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the principles of good neighbourliness. Conditions sine qua non for any EU member-state but also for any country that wants to become an EU member…Dialogue between neighbouring countries with facing shores for the delimitation of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and continental shelf is the only legitimate way, according to the Law of the Sea,” he said.
Earlier, Dendias and Borrell were briefed by a Greek police official and held talks with Frontex officers stationed in Evros.
“It is clear that we are determined to protect the EU’s external borders and strongly support Greece’s sovereignty,” High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell said.
Borrell thanked Dendias for the invitation, the warm welcome and for accompanying him on his visit to the region, at the “borders of Greece and also the borders of the European Union,” as well as the Army and police officers who briefed him on everything that happened in the area a few months ago.
“I wanted to come here and see for myself the situation on the EU’s external borders,” he said, adding that this, combined with information received from Dendias, the Greek army and police, allowed him to better understand the situation that Greece faced and may face again in the future.
Borrell noted his awareness of Turkey’s drilling activity in the Eastern Mediterranean but also the violations of Greek airspace that have worsened the situation between Greece and Turkey and, consequently, in Euro-Turkish relations.
Also had opportunity to visit Greek-Turkish border.
EU interests, border protection, and regional dialogue and stability: this is what we are working on. pic.twitter.com/e39Ayml0wi
— Josep Borrell Fontelles (@JosepBorrellF) June 24, 2020
“We share your concern, we discussed how we could stop the dynamics of escalation (tension)”, he said and expressed confidence that “we will be able to develop a common agenda to strengthen co-operation on these issues of common interest but also to seek dialogue with Turkey in order to protect our interests and strengthen regional stability.”
“No one has more important reasons than Greece to have good neighbourly relations with Turkey because, at the end of the day, we should be good neighbours. After all, this is why the European Union was founded, in order to have good relations,” he said, adding that it would be in the interests of the EU, Turkey and Greece to try to resolve current difficulties and to improve relations.
He even referred to the EU’s example of good neighbourliness, saying “the EU is the best example in the world of how you can improve relations with your neighbours.”
Borrell also mentioned Frontex’s presence in the region, and the roughly “100 staff from 20 different countries who will remain here to demonstrate the EU’s support,” he said.
Turkey’s (failed) asymmetric invasion attempt in March sounded the alarm to prepare intensively for any new attempts, as reported by Greek City Times.
Greek police have stockpiled a huge supply of arsenal and logistical equipment to arm the forces taking part in the border protection operation.
The Ministry of Civil Protection has ensured the strengthening and lengthening of the Greek-Turkish border fence, as well as strengthening the arsenal of the police forces with large quantities of tear gas.
In the meantime, all the staff who will be involved from now on in the operation of managing the immigration and preventing possible movements of large groups with the aim of entering Greece, will wear a bulletproof vests. A fund of 3,540,000 euros has been committed to purchase 15,000 bulletproof vests.
The purchase of anti-ballistic helmets has already been ordered, while the Ministry of Civil Protection also supplied plastic helmets of high-strength for police operations, worth 1,532,640 euros, as well as shields against for the amount of 421,600 euros. The protection equipment of the police forces includes chemical masks worth 762,600 euros.
The broader deterrence plan includes self-propelled specially transported dams and water launchers with the simultaneous upgrade of the Evros border surveillance system.
The Alexandroupolis Police Department proceeded to purchase 2 polyester river boats, with outboard engines, transport trailers and other accessories for the needs of the Border Guard Services, while repairing the available vessels. These are 7 wooden river boats (blades), 17 outboard engines of wooden-inflatable river boats and 1 speedboat with outboard engines.
With these necessary, and albeit expensive upgrades, Greek border forces are far more prepared for the next Turkish-induced border migration crisis that they have promised to restart.