Preparing for the Greece-Turkey Summit

Mitsotakis Erdogan

As Athens and Ankara enter the final stretch towards the first High-Level Cooperation Council in seven years, set to take place on December 7 in Greece, the shadow of the conflict in the Middle East and Turkey's firm stance against Israel looms over the proceedings.

Starting with the devastating earthquakes in Southeastern Turkey in early February and the aid provided by Greece and reaching pivotal moments like the re-election of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and later Kyriakos Mitsotakis to power, the reset in the relations between the two countries has been achieved. The goal is now to affirm this progress in Athens within ten days, where the Turkish president will depart the same day, proceeding to the next stage by signing specific agreements.

"We aim to manage our difficulties and build upon a positive agenda," declared Prime Minister Mitsotakis. As he emphasized in a recent interview, "We are not discussing concessions on sovereignty or rights deriving from sovereignty since the ability to have Armed Forces on our islands stems directly from Greek sovereignty over the islands of the Eastern Aegean."

Recall that the Greek Prime Minister and the Turkish President had agreed to convene the Council during their meeting in March 2022 in Istanbul, but this was not realized due to the escalation of inflammatory rhetoric and aggressive behaviour from Ankara. Now, there is cautious optimism in Athens ("However, we are not naive," government sources point out) that the reboot of bilateral relations is being built on more solid ground within a new framework of dialogue and cooperation between the two sides. This includes ministerial discussions between Foreign Ministers Georgios Gerapetritis and Hakan Fidan, meetings of officials responsible for political dialogue, Alexandra Papadopoulou and Burak Akcapar, and negotiations for the so-called "positive agenda," managed by Greek Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs responsible for economic diplomacy and external relations, Kostas Fragogiannis.

This agenda now revolves around 29 thematic units of economic and trade interest (trade, tourism, shipping, agricultural development, etc.), and discussions are progressing at a satisfactory pace, especially on the 25 points agreed upon in 2022, which are as follows:

  1. Activation of the Joint ICT Committee (information and communication technology)
  2. The signing of a memorandum of cooperation between Enterprise Greece and Invest in Turkey
  3. The signing of a memorandum of cooperation between the Hellenic Organization of Small and Medium Enterprises and the corresponding Turkish institution KOSGEB
  4. Convocation of the 4th Joint Tourism Committee and the 9th Forum for Tourism
  5. Joint Working Group for Maritime Issues
  6. Convocation of the 13th Working Committee on Trade and Economic Cooperation between Greece and Turkey
  7. Convocation of the 5th Joint Economic Commission between Greece and Turkey
  8. Establishment of a Joint Economic and Trade Committee
  9. Convocation of the Joint Committee on Road Transport
  10. Mutual recognition of COVID-19 vaccination certificates
  11. Convocation of the Joint Committee for cooperation in the field of combined transport
  12. Cooperation in the fields of environmental protection, waste management, and recycling
  13. Enhancement of business collaborations
  14. Cooperation in the areas of certification, mutual recognition, and modernization of technical and vocational education within the framework of alignment with the green and digital transformation of the European Union
  15. Convocation of the 5th Joint Science and Technology Committee
  16. Maritime education
  17. Signing of a memorandum of cooperation in the shipbuilding sector
  18. Customs cooperation and mutual assistance in customs matters
  19. Upgrading the existing electrical interconnection of Greece-Turkey-Bulgaria
  20. Cooperation in the field of Civil Protection and disaster prevention
  21. Signing of a social security agreement
  22. Settlement of the meeting between the Civil Aviation Services of the two countries
  23. Building upgrade of the Kipi border station in Evros (with funding of €4.84 million from the NSRF and the ROP)
  24. Commencement of negotiations for the conclusion of a cross-border railway agreement
  25. Convocation of the Joint Group of Experts for a high-speed railway line between Istanbul and Thessaloniki and combined transportation.

Significant progress is said to have been achieved on the Migration issue, where the willingness of both sides to deepen their cooperation and limit migration flows from Turkish shores to Greek islands appears evident. According to information, Athens and Ankara have reached a preliminary agreement on the migration-refugee issue, which, once finalized and implemented, will open the way for a significant upgrade in cooperation in the field. This agreement provides that, for the first time, three Greek Coast Guard officers will be permanently stationed in major coastal cities of Turkey and, vice versa, three officers from the Turkish Coast Guard in Greek cities. Their role will be to assist with their presence in better cooperation between the two Bodies, leading to the restriction of migration flows in the Eastern Aegean.

Published in the newspaper "PARAPOLITIKA" on 25/11.

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