ATHENS – The tightening of ties and ratcheting down of tensions between Greece and Turkey will see Turks be able to get temporary visas to visit some Aegean islands for limited periods, creating a bridge between the countries.
That came during a meeting in Athens between Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who said they want to put provocations aside in favor of diplomacy to settle issues and disputes.
The European Commission has approved Athens’ decision to grant this temporary visa an official not named told the Bloomberg news agency, although Erdogan earlier said he coveted return of some Aegean islands ceded to Greece under the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne that he doesn’t recognize.
Speaking to Turkey’s Anadolu agency, Greek Migration and Asylum Minister Dimitris Kairidis, said, “It was undoubtedly a very good day for Turkish-Greek relations after a long time. And I think we can be much more optimistic today than we were before. Everything went very well. Better even than expected.”
Pointing out the role of the politicians in managing the bilateral relations, the minister asserted: “We, politicians from both the Turkish and Greek sides, want to solve problems, not to perpetuate, or increase them.”
Kairidis said the visa facilitation scheme he pushed was an important part of improving relations and opening doors between the countries, especially on the Aegean islands where there is so much shared heritage.
He noted that Turkey is the only European Union candidate country that doesn’t have visa-free access to the Schengen area and that Greece has both supported Turkey’s EU hopes and for visa-free access to the bloc.
He said Greece wants more Turkish tourists that he said are valued and big spenders and help the sector financially as well as culturally, with so many shared values between Greeks and Turks among families.
“We eventually managed to convince the European Commission about the benefits of the scheme in bringing the Turks and Greeks together,” he said.
As such, Kairidis added: “This is truly a win-win solution for both countries.”
Kairidis explained that the program will permit Turkish citizens, throughout the year, to visit 10 Greek islands – including Lemnos, Lesvos, Chios, Samos, Leros, Kalymnos, Kos, Rhodes, Kastelorizo – up to seven days.
That would be done by having their special type of visa issued by the Greek police upon their arrival, after their data is checked on the Schengen visa and Europol databases, instead of going through a regular visa application process.