Greek Business File, January-February-March 2020, No 124

By Kyra Adam 


Migration and Greek–Turkish relations , the  permanent  migraine of the Greek government.

Since Day One, the ruling party of ND has  faced two permanent crises, difficult to resolve, which negatively affect the much needed “bright image” of the new government; These are the migration issue and the ongoing perilous Greek-Turkish relations.

According to recent surveys the majority of Greek citizens have strong reservations about governmental policies on the migration issue and thus the problem remains of top priority. The mini reshuffle of the government (and the creation of a brand-new Ministry of Migration) is proof that PM K. Mitsotakis urgently needs “some success” in  this matter.

This is difficult to achieve.  The citizens of the East Aegean islands are fervently protesting the “inertia” of the government and they are joining forces with local communities on  the mainland who reject permanent relocations of refugees near their communities in order to alleviate the overpopulated hot spots on the islands. These strong protests are supported by an increasing number of locals of the ND ruling party and mayors, politically close to the same party.

So far governmental policies to deal with the migration crisis have been unsuccessful. The big announcements for the protection of the “Greek frontiers in the sea” with Turkey have no result, not only because there is no  official  sea border demarcation between Greece and Turkey, but mainly because Ankara shows no political will at all to control – on her soil – the numbers of refugees/immigrants trying to reach “ European land”, that is, to be permanently trapped on the Greek islands. On the contrary, Turkey has “weaponized” the millions of refugees/immigrants on Turkish and Syrian soil against leading EU countries, blackmailing them with the  possibility of millions of refugees at  their door, unless the EU decides to pay hard cash for the “relocation cities” on the Turkish occupied Syrian soil.

The majority of Greek citizens disapprove of l the EU countries “lack of solidarity” in accepting numbers of refugees from Greece and are skeptical about the “migration issues, new plans and directions” of the new European Commission.

Nevertheless, the permanent major worry of Greek public opinion is the ongoing escalation in Greek-Turkish relations and the lack of a clear and effective Greek diplomatic response towards the constant Turkish provocative diplomatic and military actions in the Aegean and particularly in the East Mediterranean Sea.

Through the permanent violations in the UN recognized Cyprus EEZ with illegal Turkish research and drillings activities and  the permanent demand for –  in advance “kazan – kazan” ( half- half) – distribution of the gas profits  between the two communities on the island (if and when confirmed) and, through the recently announced Turkey-Libyan EEZ, disregarding obvious Greek sovereign  and economic rights in the region and unilaterally “deleting” the EEZ of the Greek islands (from Kastelorizo up to… Crete), Turkey is trying to isolate the Aegean EEZ from the Mediterranean EEZ, therefore applying  a “cevik pence” to the EEZ of the Aegean Sea.

The Greek government, followed by the majority of the main opposition parties, has no other way out but to propose the mutual application to the ICJ at Hague “for the delimitation of the EEZ in the Aegean and the Maritime Zones in the Mediterranean Sea”. This seems to be a rather tricky way – even a trap – of the Greek government handling the issue , because Ankara has long insisted that there is not going to be any final decision on the Aegean EEZ if the “legal status of many Aegean islands” is not defined in advance”. Thus, rejecting the Greek “ownership” of islands not namely defined in the Lausanne Treaty (for example the heroic Greek islands of Psara and Oinousses!!)

So, the option of an extreme escalation in Greek–Turkish relations cannot be excluded and that is the source of considerable Greek public opinion concern that the ND government wants to manipulate.

PM K. Mitsotakis in advance overestimated the results of his unofficial visit to the White House and the meeting with President Trump. He desperately needed full and clear American support of Greece versus Turkish activities. He did not get it. The White House and the American administration, through official and unofficial channels steadily supports the “bilateral dialogue” for the solution of the problems and insists on the peddled advice of non-escalation in the region.