Greece prepares visa easing for Turkish citizens visiting the Aegean Islands
In a significant step reflecting the recent upswing in Turkey-Greece relations, Greece is gearing up to facilitate travel for Turkish citizens wishing to visit the Aegean Islands. According to the latest reports in the Greek media, this decision stems from an agreement between Ankara and Athens regarding the refugee issue, under which visa simplifications will be introduced for Turkish passports for specific Aegean Islands.
The new measures, as per the Greek media's latest insights, represent Athens' move to fulfill a longstanding request from Ankara. This request, a vital part of the negotiations between Ankara and Athens, revolves around easing access for Turkish citizens to seven islands in the Eastern Mediterranean.
If implemented, Turkish citizens will be able to visit the islands of Rhodes, Lesbos, Chios, Samos, Kos, Leros, and Kastellorizo more easily for up to one year. Upon arrival at these islands, Turkish visitors can obtain a one-year visa at border points.
The project, termed "visa facilitation," has been extensively discussed by Greece's Minister of Migration and Asylum, Dimitris Kairidis, and European Commission Member Ilva Johansson. According to recent updates, the Aegean Islands have been selected as a pilot region to ease further Turkish citizens' travel to the rest of Europe.
The visa facilitation is part of a larger agreement, as reported by the Kathimerini newspaper. The agreement between Greece and Turkey for the swift visa issuance to Turkish nationals is seen as a segment of a broader effort to address migration issues between the two nations. Ongoing negotiations related to this new agreement are expected to conclude at the High-Level Cooperation Council in Thessaloniki on December 7, attended by Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The council aims to issue a joint declaration or a "memorandum of understanding" at its conclusion.
The new agreement envisions a better understanding between Athens and Ankara on controlling migration flows, a shared objective for both sides. It includes the permanent assignment of a Greek Coast Guard officer in Izmir and a Turkish officer in Lesbos. These liaison officers will aid Greece and Turkey in monitoring maritime activities in the Aegean Sea.