Why it makes sense to reopen the Turkish-Greek border – expert

Turkey and Greece should work to reopen their air, land and sea borders after more than a year after closing them during the COVID-19 pandemic, Ilay Romain Ors wrote in Greek daily Ekathmerini.

Ors, an associate professor in social anthropology, a research affiliate at the University of Oxford, and an instructor at The American College of Greece, wrote that there were a number of arguments that favoured a reopening of the Turkish-Greek border crossings. She described the initial reason for closing borders because of the pandemic as sound, but believes now there is less impetus to keep these crossings shut.

“The virus has not yet left us entirely, but advances in medical science are making it possible for us to resume our lives without jeopardizing public health and safety,” said Ors. “Re-establishing controlled connection between neighboring countries would be a good step on the road to normalcy.”

A decision to reinvigorate tourism between Greece and Turkey was made after a meeting between the countries’ foreign ministers on June 14. During that meeting, both agreed to recognise each others’ vaccination certificates as a measure that was seen as intent to resuscitate travel. 

Since that agreement, the Kipoi and Ipsala gates, as well as at the Kastanies/Pazarkule land crossings have opened with strict restrictions. Sea and air travel also remains curtailed.

New concerns about the delta variant of the COVID-19 have also drawn into question whether or not the gradual reopening of national borders will last before new restrictions are announced.

Ors argues that the continuation of restrictions on cross-border travel go beyond practical concerns about COVID-19. While Turkey has fully reopened for Greek visitors, Ors suggest Greece maintains its current restrictions after a threat from Ankara in March 2020 to allow migrants and refugees to stream across the Turkish border into Europe. 

Another concern remains lingering tension in the eastern Mediterranean Sea where Turkey has made sweeping maritime claims that Greece says infringes on its maritime boundaries. Turkish involvement in Libya and its increasingly hardline position on Cyprus’ division also complicate relations, even as attempts are made to de-escalate bilateral tensions.

Ors however believes that the two tourist dependent economies would be well served by a wider restoration of travel across reopened borders. This would also contribute towards a advancing work to reconcile Greece and Turkey.

“For the sake of good-neighborly relations, bilateral political reconciliation, and economic recovery, therefore, it makes sense to reopen the Greek-Turkish border now,” said Ors.


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