Meanwhile, neighbouring Turkey…

by Antonis D. Papagiannidis

May has come for Greece with the rightfully expected normal nice weather, along with back-to-normal (well, some sort of normal…) opening-up of economic and social life, gradually easing lock-down measures and so forth.

The tourist season would normally start just right now – but the restrictive measures still in place make it an impossibility for this to happen. The fact that Northern European countries, Germany first and foremost, issue travel advisories so as to discourage their own populations to get a vacation in the South is disturbing. Local media have even challenged Greek self-image of being champion in fighting Covid-19, thus adding insult to injury.

Such was the overall situation, when news started to come our way that neighbouring Turkey – a major competitor to Greece for the tourist trade – was actively promoting a scheme providing tour operators with “Covid-19-free” certifications, to go in tandem with ostentatious coronavirus protection protocols for hotels and restaurants open to tourists. Along with a dynamic advertising campaign, could such measures secure a large part of the tourist pie to Turkey – notwithstanding its substandard performance in facing the Covid-19 pandemic?

If things stay at that, the rivalry at the two shores of the Aegean would be no more than one further wound in an ongoing dispute. Problem is that on the (far more dangerous) issue of border tussles, renewed aggresivity is manifest on the Turkish side: at the Evros land-and-river border, Turkish patrols have been firing shots towards the Greek side; such shots were directed (along with offensive gestures) even toward Germans who were part of a Frontex force.

One can always hope that such are isolated occurrences – but are they?