A special arrangement with the EU Commission had made it possible for Turkish tourists to travel to one of the Greek islands since the summer of 2012, without first having to go to the Greek consulate for the necessary visa application.
This scheme was valid for trips from Turkish port cities for a maximum of 15 days and for the respective holiday season from April to October. Seven of the Aegean Islands fell under the special rules: Lesbos, Chios, Samos, Kos, Rhodes, Simi and Kastelorizo. To date, the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs has had the so-called pilot program for visa facilitation to the Greek islands extended in Brussels each year.
According to a report from the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ), the EU Commission has now abolished this special visa agreement for Turkish tourists, a measure that can be detrimental to the region, as tourism and the region are economically and politically affected by the refugee crisis already. The EU Commission itself is mentioned as the reason for the non-prolongation of the special arrangement without a Schengen visa since the efforts of the concerned island governments, in particular Lesbos and Rhodes, have so far failed to convince the participating EU Commissioners.
In particular, the islands of Lesbos, Chios, Samos, Kos, Rhodes, Simi and Kastelorizo in the north-east of the Aegean Sea, which currently host about 15,000 refugees, have so far benefited from this special arrangement. A change affects nearly all areas of tourist value added: hotels, taverns, souvenir shops and car rental tenants. All of them have relied on the Turkish customers and are dependent on the revenues, as the number of visitors from Europe in the course of the refugee crisis has fallen sharply.
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