European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker reiterated his request that Greece and Turkey should conduct joint patrols in the Aegean, a proposal that Athens has rejected.
Juncker spoke in Frankfurt on the occasion of his one-year anniversary in the Commission presidency. The top European Union official said that in order to have open borders within the EU, the external borders should be better protected. He also expressed wonder that Greece rejected the idea of joint operations while Turkey agreed.
“Internal borders must remain open. And if we want to secure that internal borders remain open, the external borders of the EU must be better guarded. Now everyone says that external borders must be guarded more effectively. We are working to this end, but it is more difficult than one imagines,” Juncker said.
“I had proposed, and I faced great reactions, for the Greeks and the Turks to form a joint coast guard between Turkey and the Greek islands. The Turks agreed, the Greeks did not. What kind of world are we living in? Is it more important now to fight over 10 kilometers of sea borders or to save human lives? Sometimes we talk away from the real life issues,” the EC president said.
“We need even more staff where there is need. This additional European staff must be in the [refugee processing] centers on the islands, instead of trying to secure the coasts. You cannot explain to someone, that even now, after all the effort, these 10 kilometers of sea between Turkey and Lesvos are still a grave site,” Juncker added, according to the Athens Macedonian News Agency.