The European Commission on Wednesday approved a one-year extension to a special visa agreement between Greece and Turkey that allows Turks who want to visit seven Greek islands to apply for a visa directly at their destination.
The scheme, which first came into effect in 2012, is of crucial importance to the islands of the eastern Aegean, whose local economies rely heavily on tourism and have been severely hit by the refugee crisis. It was discontinued by the European Commission in 2016 after its trial period expired, but Greece lobbied heavily to have it restored.
The scheme is an exception from the Schengen zone rules and grants Turkish tourists and third-country nationals living legally in Turkey a short-term visa to visit the nearby islands of Chios, Lesvos, Samos, Symi, Rhodes, Kos and Kastellorizo, bypassing the regular application procedure at the Greek consulate.
The Foreign Ministry said that it was informed of the decision to green-light the plan for 2018 by European Commissioner for Migration Dimitris Avramopoulos.
"This visa plan, which has been successfully implemented in previous years, is particularly crucial for the economy of the islands. That's why its continuation this year was a long-standing request by all local bodies," the ministry said in press release.