Greece has told its NATO partners that it will accept naval patrols in the Aegean, including on the Greek side of the sea, under certain conditions despite initially seeming opposed to the idea due to concerns about sovereignty issues.
Following lengthy talks between defense ministers from NATO countries in Brussels on Wednesday, Defense Minister Panos Kammenos tweeted that the negotiations were “successful,” indicating that the proposal put forward by Germany and Turkey to deal with the refugee crisis had been accepted.
Sources said that Kammenos made it clear to NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg that Greece would accept the patrols as long as the Greek and Turkish ships involved would patrol in their own territorial waters and that neither Greece or Turkey would take on the rotating leadership of the rapid reaction force in question.
The patrols are to be carried out by NATO Maritime Group One, which currently consists of four vessels: One each from Germany, Greece, Turkey and Canada. Germany holds the group’s leadership at the moment.
Sources added that Kammenos also stressed territorial rights should be fully respected in search and rescue missions and that Turkey would be obliged to submit flight plans for any of its aircraft that take part in NATO missions over the Aegean.
The final wording of the agreement is expected on Thursday.
The European Commission noted on Wednesday that Greece has made progress in dealing with the influx of migrants and refugees. It said that 78 percent of arrivals were fingerprinted in January, compared to just 8 percent in September.
Despite Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos calling this a “spectacular” increase, Athens is still deemed to be falling short of its responsibilities. EU leaders are expected to rubber-stamp a report later this month outlining Greece’s deficiencies in this area, providing Athens with a three-month deadline to take corrective action. If Greece fails to meet the requirements, EU member-states will be able to reinstitute border checks within the Schengen area for up to six months.
European Council President Donald Tusk is expected in Athens on Monday to discuss the refugee crisis with Greek officials.