Dimitrios Kairidis, the Greek Interior Minister, stated that Athens desires to broaden a migration agreement with Turkey.
In March 2016, during the height of the migration crisis, the European Union came to a controversial agreement with Turkey. This agreement stated that any undocumented migrants who arrived in the Greek islands from Turkey without proper asylum applications would be sent back to Turkey.
According to Kairidis, the agreement is currently ineffective as Turkey is not accepting repatriated individuals.
Following a meeting in Brussels on Thursday with EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson and German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser, Kairidis stated that there has been increased cooperation from the Turkish side and improved border protection. Germany is particularly worried as a large number of migrants entering the EU through Turkey intend to settle in Germany.
Kairidis stated that there has been visible progress, particularly on the land border.
The relationship between Athens and Ankara has been tense due to issues surrounding migration and territorial disputes. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey severed ties with Greece when Mitsotakis asked U.S. lawmakers in May 2022 to prevent arms sales to Turkey. However, Greece’s quick response to the earthquakes in Turkey in February of this year has provided a new opportunity for improved relations. This summer, leaders from both countries have agreed to restart discussions.
Following the recent election in Turkey, where Erdoğan narrowly secured victory, Ankara has shown renewed interest in discussing Turkey’s potential membership in the EU. In 2018, EU leaders declared that negotiations had reached a stalemate. In June of this year, the European Council requested a report from the European Commission and high-ranking EU official Josep Borrell on the current status of relations with Turkey.
Kairidis emphasized the need to revitalize, refresh, and extend the EU-Turkey migration agreement. He acknowledged that there is still much progress to be made, particularly in terms of border security and tackling smuggling networks.
According to Kairidis, the initial agreement did not cover migrants entering Greece through the “land border, only the islands.” However, there is now a consideration to expand the agreement to include monitoring of the land border in order to potentially return migrants who enter through that route as well.
The potential for visa liberalization for Turkish citizens, which has been a concern for Turkey for a long time, could be pursued if cooperation between the EU and Turkey continues to progress. A roadmap outlining necessary steps has been identified to reach this goal.
The matter of financial support is also worth considering. According to Kairidis, the EU-Turkey agreement has been backed by approximately €10 billion thus far, and the EU may now contribute an additional €3 billion.