As the last country in the bloc, Greece’s borders are also the European Union’s external borders, the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy said at a meeting with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in Athens on Wednesday.
“We have been very clear about expressing more than European solidarity, but a commitment, together with Greece, to protect EU sovereignty and the EU’s external borders,” said Josep Borrell, who was in Athens after visiting the Kastanies crossing at the Greek-Turkish border in northeastern Evros, accompanied by Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias, earlier in the day.
“I am very happy that you got to see first-hand what exactly this involves,” Mitsotakis said of the visit to Evros, thanking the Brussels for the “solidarity we have received in [the] complicated endeavor” of defending the border.
“It is my duty to be here because you are the last European country… The last member of the European Union is the external border of the whole union,” Borrell said.
He said that the European Union will continue helping Greece defend its borders as it did in the “last events,” a reference to tension at Evros in early March when hundreds of migrants and refugees spurred by Ankara tried to force their way across the frontier in a push that lasted several days.
On the spike in tension between Greece and Turkey in recent weeks, Borrell said “I know there are a lot of overflights – and today even a couple more – on the islands and even the mainland and we have this strong problem with the drilling which affects your sovereignty, and I wanted to come in order to express this commitment, this support.”
However, he also stressed “the need to establish a minimum trust and dialogue with Turkey to stop this escalation.
“Greece is maybe the member-state most interested in having a good relationship with Turkey and I think that we have to work together in order to fulfill this purpose and to go back to a certain normal,” said Borrell.
“If we can be of any help, believe me we would be more than happy, because it’s one of the most important commitments I have to fulfill: to improve the relationship with Turkey, to protect the rights and the interests of the European Union – and for sure when I am saying European Union, I am saying Greece and Cyprus,” he added.
Responding to the comment, Mitsotakis said that Athens is “always open to a constructive relationship” with Ankara, but added that it is “important for Turkey to stop its provocative actions which infringe on the sovereign rights of Greece and Cyprus.”