Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has described Turkey as an “aggressive neighbour” during a panel discussion about stabilising the Mediterranean and addressing the migration crisis at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland this week.
Having come to power in 2015, Mr Tsipras reportedly said that he took the helm at a very difficult time for Greece when he did not only have to deal with the worst debt crisis and the refugee crisis but also an aggressive neighbour, sometimes unpredictable with an aggressive military activity in the Aegean.
Hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants crossed from Turkey into Greece and further into the European Union at the height of the migration crisis in 2015. It coincided with Greece negotiating its third financial bailout from international creditors to stave off bankruptcy.
Greece and Turkey work together in a deal brokered between Ankara and the EU in 2016 with the aim to tame heavy migrant flows, seeing migrants who did not meet asylum criteria or had their claims rejected being sent back to Turkey – a deal which has been lambasted by human rights groups worldwide.
But while acknowledging the agreement was difficult, Mr Tsipras said that it was important to make sure that international laws were not violated with the agreement as economically devastated Greece is processing thousands of asylum requests, while also ensuring national interests were safeguarded.
“At the same time we have to take a decision on what we are going to do with this aggressive behaviour of Turkey,” he said in response to an observation that Turkey would change its mind on the migration deal at any time.
“For somebody it is very easy to be aggressive if they are living in Luxembourg or the Netherlands because their neighbours are Belgium and Luxembourg and not Turkey. But it’s not easy for us,” he said.