A day after the Greek Foreign Ministry ruled out conducting joint patrols in the Aegean Sea with Turkey, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Wednesday called on Athens to reconsider, noting that the refugee crisis is “a European issue, it’s not an issue of Greek-Turkish relations.”
Speaking at the European Parliament in Brussels ahead of a two-day summit of European Union leaders on migration, Juncker asked Athens to rethink its position as the cooperation of the two countries’ naval forces, “under European auspices,” would be “very useful” in the Aegean.
Describing Turkey is an important but difficult partner, Juncker said joint patrols of the Aegean were crucial as Turkey has become a gateway for hundreds of thousands of refugees. He suggested that Turkish authorities were open to the idea of joint patrols.
German government spokesman Steffen Seibert struck a similar tone, stressing the need for a “coordinated situation” between Greece and Turkey in the Aegean and at the EU’s external borders to obstruct the activities of human smugglers.
In a related development, the head of the EU’s task force in Greece, Maarten Verwey, said that the process of identifying and registering migrants and refugees by Greek authorities had improved, noting that officials on the island of Lesvos, a key entry point, were registering up to 3,500 migrants daily.