Greek authorities have ruled out, again, the possibility of joint sea patrols with Turkey in the Aegean but have indicated, for the first time, that they would be willing to consider opening the fence on the Evros border with the neighboring country if a broad agreement with European Union members could be reached.
Speaking to the semi-state Athens-Macedonian News Agency on Saturday, Citizens’ Protection Minister Nikos Toskas indicated that Athens will not engage in any further discussion on the idea of common sea patrols.
“This matter has closed,” he said. “There is no chance of joint patrols taking place. What can happen is coordination in the sea or whatever other borders, but each side has to be responsible for its own territory, its own territorial waters.”
Athens is opposed to the idea of joining forces with Turkey to patrol the Aegean in order to deter human trafficking gangs from sending refugees across to eastern Aegean islands because Ankara disputes Greece’s territorial rights in the sea separating the two countries.
“We are a sovereign state and we will not try to solve one problem by creating another bigger one,” said Toskas.
However, the minister suggested that the Greek government would be willing to consider opening a safe passage for refugees through the fence on the Evros border in northeastern Greece if there is an agreement with Turkey, Bulgaria and the European Union.
“We can’t just open everything when there is a danger that everything will close in Europe,” said Toskas in reference to other eastern and central European countries installing fences at their borders.
“Evros is not just the 12-kilometer fence on its land border with Turkey, there is also a 140-kilometer river,” added the minister, who visited Alexandroupoli in northeastern Greece on Saturday.