Navy helps coast guard patrol sea borders

The Hellenic Navy has contributed two gunboats and a frigate to the uphill effort by the coast guard to patrol Greece’s sea border with Turkey and manage the waves of migrants fleeing the Middle East and North Africa.

According to Merchant Marine Ministry sources, the issue of boosting the Coast Guard’s force was on the agenda in recent talks between Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and the ministers of Defense and Merchant Marine, Dimitris Avramopoulos and Miltiadis Varvitsiotis. The initial plan had been to put all six of the navy’s gunboats at the coast guard’s service. They were to display Coast Guard insignia so their presence in the Eastern Aegean could not be construed as an act of aggression by Turkey, Kathimerini understands.

However, it was finally decided that two gunboats and a frigate would be used, for now, with two Coast Guard officers assigned to each.

The beefed up security operation is bankrolled from state coffers rather than from the European Union’s border protection agency, Frontex, which has seen funding for its Greek operation decline by 40 percent between 2010 and 2013.

A recent request by Public Order Minister Vassilis Kikilias for extra EU funds to bolster Greece’s border security was rejected by European European Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom after she had approved 3.4 million euros from the EU’s Internal Security Fund.