OPINION

Comings and goings in Alexandroupoli

comings-and-goings-in-alexandroupoli

Since the start of the week, Alexandroupoli has seen unprecedented traffic in the form of US military helicopters – reaching more than 150 – headed to hotspots near Ukraine and Belarus. Such American movement a stone’s throw from the Dardanelles is expected to cause no small amount of annoyance on the other side of the Aegean. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has already complained to US President Joe Biden about Alexandroupoli’s elevated role under the new Greek-US defense deal.

As the first US helicopters whirred over Alexandroupoli, the northeastern Greek city hosted a delegation from nearby Corlu in Turkey to discuss further economic and tourism cooperation at the local level. The Evros Chamber announced an agreement on holiday deals for Corlu businesspeople and workers. Northeastern Greece also sends large numbers of tourists across the border, with at least 40 buses making the crossing over the October 28 long weekend alone.

Normalcy appears to be gradually returning to the borderlands a year-and-a-half after the migrant push that edged relations between the neighbors into very dangerous territory, and amid continued tension over the Aegean and the East Mediterranean. Hundreds of Turks drive over on the weekends to enjoy the tavernas and the European way of life, just as hundreds of Greeks make the crossing to go shopping on the other side. These age-old comings and goings may halt in times of crisis, but the bonds of day-to-day life remain strong – both ways. For the people living near the borders, it is a matter of survival.

That said, this should not affect how we defend ourselves against hostile movements. The borderland people – civilians and others – always know what’s going on. The events of March 2020 proved as much.