Delineating maritime borders is a very difficult task and, naturally, so is securing them. Understandably, there is a debate regarding issues such as territorial waters, sovereign rights, the continental shelf and the exclusive economic zone (EEZ). These concepts do nothing to curb the flows of refugees, migrants or other undocumented individuals who are crossing the border into Greece. Even less so considering the fact that Greece’s neighbor across the Aegean shows little willingness to curb these population movements.
Things are of course different where there is a land border, a clearly demarcated and (in theory, at least) secured frontier. The recent spike in the number of refugee and migrant crossings via the Evros border raises questions. So do reports that hundreds of people are crossing into the country from Albania on a daily basis to ravage the precious herbs in the forests of Grammos, around Kastoria, and in other areas along the border. Perhaps we need to accept that for all its glorious history, Greece is a defenseless country. And it remains so despite the pompous words and the bragging of ministers who are politically responsible for looking after its security and the officials who have the administrative capacity (and which is what they are paid for) to protect its integrity. In other words, those who are in charge of the army, the security forces, forest rangers and all the other agencies which were set up so that people with the proper training and discipline would defend the country’s territorial integrity and the safety of its citizens.
This is unfortunately not a rhetorical question. It is one we have to face in light of recent developments ranging from incidents that always seem to be at Greece’s expense (a Greek gunboat was nudged by a Turkish cargo vessel last week, after a Turkish coast guard patrol vessel rammed a Greek coast guard boat in February, two Greek soldiers are still being held in Turkey after accidentally crossing the border), to the easy violation of borders by devastated masses or criminals, the unchecked activity of troublemakers in and around university campuses, the rise in petty and violent crime, the occupation of public spaces, and the peculiar failure to deport foreign criminals and migrants who are not entitled to asylum.
Perhaps there is some truth in the words of cynical observers who say that Greece is not a state but an idea.