Greek Visa Program Invites Turkish Guests

Greece has introduced a special visa program aimed at boosting tourism and diplomatic relations with Turkey. This initiative allows Turkish citizens to visit up to 10 Greek islands for stays of up to 7 days without needing to apply for full access to the Schengen area. The program was launched on April 1, with the Greek authorities of Rhodes Island opening a new vacation visa terminal for Turkish tourists. With tourism being a cornerstone of the Greek economy, welcoming 32.7 million visitors in 2023, this program could play a significant role in its sustained growth.

A Gateway to the Greek Isles

The islands included in this visa program are Rhodes, Lesvos, Limnos, Chios, Samos, Leros, Kalymnos, Kos, Symi, and Kastellorizo, all of which lie near the Turkish coastline and have historically been popular with Turkish visitors despite the tense Greek-Turkish relations. The visa, which costs 60 euros, includes a simplified process with a passport check and fingerprint recording, and it does not allow visitors to travel to other EU member states. This move not only underscores the islands’ allure but also their geographical camaraderie with Turkey. The program was launched on April 1, with Rhodes Island setting up a new vacation visa terminal to facilitate the application process for Turkish tourists. This move is expected to streamline the visa acquisition process, making it more accessible and efficient for visitors.

The initiative follows a series of bilateral cooperation agreements signed by Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in December, which received the green light from the EU Commission.

Boosting Tourism Year-Round

With an eye on the off-season, Greek officials aim to leverage this visa scheme to energize tourism throughout the year. Given tourism’s cornerstone role in the Greek economy—boasting 32.7 million visitors in 2023—this program could significantly contribute to sustainable growth.

Greek business owners and local officials have expressed optimism that the visa program will attract Turkish tourists, filling the void left by the decrease in visitors from other countries and benefiting the local economy. The program is expected to be particularly beneficial during off-peak seasons, helping to sustain tourism throughout the year.

Strengthening Diplomatic Ties

This visa program is a shining example of Greece and Turkey’s commitment to building a stronger relationship, marked by important visits and agreements between them. It shows both countries’ dedication to moving beyond old conflicts, focusing instead on a future where they thrive together and enjoy stronger ties. The introduction of this visa program is part of a broader effort by Greece to improve its international relations and promote cultural diplomacy. Greece places significant emphasis on cultural diplomacy as a manifestation of its foreign policy’s soft power, engaging with other nations through artistic creation, educational and cultural programs, and international cooperation on cultural heritage issues.

Conclusion

The Greek islands’ vacation visa program for Turkish tourists marks a significant step towards diplomatic and economic synergy. As Greece and Turkey navigate their shared destiny as NATO allies, this initiative not only paves the way for a stronger tourism industry but also signals a new era of cooperation between Greece and Turkey, offering a blueprint for how nations can transform their relationships through innovative policy-making and shared economic interests.

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