Relations between Turkey and Greece

A new era has begun in the Turkish-Greek relations as of 1999, marked with the establishment of a variety of dialogue mechanisms such as regular political consultations, exploratory contacts on Aegean Issues, Confidence-Building Measures, High-Level Cooperation Council meetings as well as high-level visits and contacts. Enhancing bilateral relations with Greece in every possible field and the implementation of tangible projects to the benefit of two countries is one of Turkey’s priorities.

In 2010, the High-Level Cooperation Council (HLCC) between Turkey and Greece was set up. Co-chaired by the Prime Ministers of both countries and under the coordination of Foreign Ministers, the HLCC is envisaged to convene in Turkey and Greece alternately. The HLCC aims at addressing various issues of Turkish-Greek relations at high level, thus contributing to progress in existing and prospective areas of cooperation, and rendering an “institutional” ground for Turkish-Greek relations. Four HLCC meetings have so far been held. The first meeting in Athens on May 14 and 15, 2010; the second meeting in Istanbul on March 4, 2013; the third meeting in Athens on December 6, 2014, and the last one in Izmir on March 8, 2016. 54 agreements/protocols/MoUs were signed during those meetings. Business Fora are also being held on the side-lines of the HLCC Meetings.

High-level visits have also picked up momentum over the last couple of years. Upon the invitation of President Mr. Erdoğan, Greek President Mr. Pavlopoulos visited İstanbul to attend the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) Summit on May 22, 2017. Although it was not an official visit, it was still the first visit at the level of heads of state between Turkey and Greece since the official visit of the then President Celal Bayar to Greece in 1952. Prime Minister Mr. Yıldırım paid a working visit to Greece on 19 June 2017, upon the invitation of his counterpart Mr. Tsipras. Prime Minister Mr. Yıldırım after completing his programme in Athens visited Western Thrace to meet with the Turkish Minority.

Regular political consultations are held between the Foreign Ministries at the level of Undersecretary/Secretary General. The last political consultations were held in Athens on June 9, 2017.

Commercial and economic relations with Greece have also gained momentum since 1999 along the lines of positive developments witnessed in bilateral political relations. The establishment of the HLCC mechanism in 2010 in particular has also paved the way for a substantial increase in commercial relations. The bilateral trade volume thus doubled between 2010 and 2014, reaching 5.6 billion USD by the end of 2014. However, according to the Turkish data, the bilateral trade volume in 2016 totalled 2.6 billion USD. In 2012, during the Second HLCC Meeting, 10 billion USD of trade volume, was declared as a common goal and both sides are committed to exploring ways and means to reach this target.

The stock of direct investments from Greece reached 6.1 billion USD by the end of 2016. Greek investors, apart from the financial sector, operate in information technology (IT), agricultural applications, packaging, plastics, pharmacy, cosmetics, fisheries, tourism and construction sectors in our country.

The stock of direct Turkish investments in Greece, including the investments via the other European countries amounts to approximately 500 million USD. Turkish investors mostly focus on investing in marinas, ports and the overall tourism sector in Greece. Furthermore, Ziraat Bank has branches in Athens, Xanthi, Komotini and Rhodes.

Transport is another field where both sides are willing to intensify their cooperation. Currently, Turkish airline operators are conducting 49 flights a week between Turkey and Greece. The implementation of projects regarding the Izmir-Thessaloniki Ro-Pax ferry line and the high-speed train link between Istanbul and Thessaloniki will pave the way for an intensified cooperation in maritime and railroad transport between Turkey and Greece.

Tourism is one of the promising fields of cooperation between the two countries. In 2016, 785.905 tourists from Turkey visited Greece. In the same year, Turkey attracted 593.150 tourists from Greece. The facilitated visa procedure for visiting seven Greek islands close to Turkish shores has been in effect since 2012. It has also been instrumental in the increase of the number of Turkish tourists visiting Greece.

There are some issues between Turkey and Greece concerning the Aegean Sea. For detailed information, visit Home Foreign Policy Main Issues Maritime Issues.