Juncker: ‘Ridiculous’ to claim two Greek soldiers posed a threat to Turkey

It is “ridiculous and absurd” to claim that the two Greek soldiers currently imprisoned by Turkey had posed a danger to that country, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said on Wednesday. Addressing a plenary session of the European Parliament, he repeated a call for the immediate release of the two Greek soldiers, who he noted had committed no crimes and had simply wandered into Turkish territory. Juncker’s statements about the two Greek servicemen were welcomed by European Parliament President Antonio Tajani, who particularly thanked him for his remarks on this issue and said it was a position that he shared.

Among others, Juncker said that he had repeated the same position in talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during the press conference after their meeting in Varna, calling their detention unacceptable and urging the release the two Greek soldiers before the Orthodox Easter.

The statements were made during the presentation of the conclusions of the European Council meeting of 22 and 23 March 2018, with European Council President Donald Tusk. The issue was raised during the session by Greek MEPs Dimitris Papadimoulis and Notis Marias, following Tuesday’s debate by the EP plenum on the illegal detention of the two Greek servicemen, who have yet to be charged, by Turkey.

Papadimoulis pointed out to Juncker that the Orthodox Easter had come and gone without their release and that MEPs were due to vote unanimously on Thursday to demand that Erdogan’s government immediately release the two soldiers, who were taken while guarding the Euro-Turkish border.

“We ask more of you than just positive statements but also pressure, initiatives and measures so that the two Greek soldiers, who defend European policy and the European borders in accordance with international law, can immediately return to their country, the Greek army and their families. This is something that not just Greece but the European Union unanimously demands. And you, Mr Tusk and Mr Juncker, must demonstrate this by increasing the pressure [on Turkey],” Papadimoulis said.

Marias, on his part, noted that EU appeals to Turkey brought little practical result and asked what practical measures and sanctions would be taken in support of the two Greek soldiers, such as freezing Turkish accession talks and European funds to Turkey, or an embargo on Turkish agricultural products imported into the EU.