The case for possible NATO cooperation with the European Union’s border managing agency Frontex to detect and stop human trafficking in the central Mediterranean will be discussed, among other pressing issues, at Thursday’s NATO summit of foreign ministers in Brussels.
Joint NATO patrols in the Aegean – which allow the exchange of information about smugglers in real time with the Greek and Turkish coast guards – are widely seen to have had a significant impact on reducing refugee flows into Greece. And now senior-ranking American and NATO officials, including the alliance’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and Douglas Lute, the US permanent representative to NATO, are stressing the need for improved cooperation with the EU to tackle a recent upsurge in migrant flows in the central Mediterranean as the route into Europe through the Aegean becomes harder for smugglers to breach.
Stoltenberg on Wednesday referred to data from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees which states that migrant flows into the Aegean from Turkey had dropped by as much as 90 percent in April and credited the NATO patrols there “for making a difference,” while Lute said the alliance should examine the possibility of extending the patrols beyond the Aegean.
Meanwhile, Greece announced it has set up a General Consulate in Erbil, the seat of the regional government of Iraqi Kurdistan. Foreign Ministry officials said on Wednesday said that the consulate – an initiative of Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias – will help improve diplomatic and commercial ties with Iraqi Kurdistan, where Greek companies have been active in recent years.