Katimerini newspaper reported today on comments made by the Assistant Executive Director for Frontex, Gil Arias Fernandez. Frontex is the European force tasked with monitoring the EU’s borders.
Fernandez stated that unless Turkey starts cooperating there will be no easing of the influx of illegal immigrants via Greece. When asked by reporters as to the airspace within which Frontex aircraft operate Fernandez categorically stated that they only operate within Greek airspace. He was also asked about the various interventions by the Turkish military to Frontex aircraft, accusing them of breaching Turkish airspace. To this he responded that the pilots of the flights have submitted their relevant reports to the European Commission which will study them.
Furthermore, Fernandez stated that it will be difficult to work with Turkey as in any possible agreement Turkey is trying to obtain either funds or resources which Frontex cannot spare. The flow of immigrants to Greece cannot be tackled without Turkish cooperation (see some more interesting information here). Indicatively the example of Spain’s Canary Islands and Italy was used. Spain has made repatriation agreements with several countries in West Africa, amongst others, and Italy is aided by the agreement reached with Libya, which now patrols several Mediterranean routes.
Greece has the largest coastline in the European Union (over 13,000km) and over two thousand islands. It is difficult to monitor areas, especially if Turkey remains uncooperative.