The fifth Greece-Turkey high-level cooperation council (HLCC) commences in Athens on Thursday after a seven-year hiatus, a period that witnessed a sharp deterioration in bilateral relations, which Athens attributed to the Erdogan government’s stepped-up belligerence, intransigence and even saber-rattling.
Nevertheless, with twin election victories this year in both countries by Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in Greece and Turkey, respectively, a distinct “thaw” and softer tones have emerged.
Both leaders will meet in Athens on Thursday, while at the same time 11 Greek ministers and deputy ministers will sit down around conference tables with eight Turkish counterparts to sign an array of MoCs and to conduct negotiations on what sources say will be eight primary fields of a so-called “positive agenda”.
The most intense and extensive government-to-government talks by the two countries in two decades will be conducted for four to five hours in four locations in downtown Athens within 600 meters of each other: the adjacent presidential mansion and the Maximos Mansion government house; the foreign ministry and the armed forces officers’ club (Sarogleion).
According to reports, three floors of the foreign ministry alone have been allocated for the ministry-to-ministry talks.
Sources that spoke to “Ta Nea” this week identified the eight fields of budding collaboration as:
-Economic and commercial cooperation, including at the institutional level, such as between Enterprise Greece and Invest in Turkey.
-Education, in the form of an exchange of know-how in vocational education and a framework for consultations and joint projects between universities and research institutions.
-Research and technology, by encouraging the cooperation between Greek and Turkish start-ups.
-Tourism, where a new “easy-visa” scheme for Turkish nationals wanting to visit 10 eastern Aegean islands, for up to three days, is set for consideration.
-Regarding illegal migration, a deepening of cooperation to stem flows in the Aegean and on the countries’ common land border is being sought. According to reports, the head of Turkey’s coast guard will probably be one of the top interlocutors of the Greek side. Media reports this week have Athens and Ankara exchanging a liaison coast guard officer for posting either country, with the Turk assigned to the island of Lesvos and the Greek officer in Izmir.
Cooperation in the health, sports and agriculture fields will be discussed.