Türkiye’s ‘TurkAegean’ tourism campaign sparks backlash in Greece

The Türkiye government’s tourism promotion campaign, TurkAegean, has stoked anger in Greece, which has accused its NATO ally of cultural appropriation.

The root of this promotional campaign is the word ‘TurkAegean’ used by Türkiye. It is related to territorial sovereignty over a group of islands spread out in the Aegean Sea, which has been a contentious issue between Athens and Ankara.

The region sees a large influx of tourists during the summer season from all over Europe. The sandy beaches and the blue waters of the Aegean Sea have been the main tourist attractions.

With its western shores on both sides of the Aegean, Turkey wants the region not to be associated exclusively with Greece. Last December, it even filed an application with the EU intellectual property office to register the term TurkAegean.

The application was made public after it got approval from the intellectual property office, sparking a backlash from top Greek politicians.

“Some people… just didn’t do their job well,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said.

Greece’s European Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas has sent a strong letter to Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton demanding a review of the decision, Greek media reported on Thursday.

But Turkey has always viewed the Aegean region as part of its territory, even as it battled Greece over claims to maritime borders and its continental shelves.

In November, Turkey’s Deputy Tourism Minister Nadir Alpaslan said in an interview that Greece “has made the world perceive the Aegean as its own region,” according to Politico.

“We will do this more strongly next year and show that the Aegean is not a region of Greece, but also a region of Turkey, a tourism brand.”

However, the controversy surrounding the Aegean Sea claims is related to security concerns.

Ankara has accused Athens of deliberately militarizing islands near the Turkish coast in contravention of international treaties, The Guardian reports.

In a move that raised further concerns among EU diplomats stationed in Athens, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu warned last month that Turkey would challenge the status of Greece’s eastern islands if troops were not withdrawn.

Athens argues that it has the right to defend itself on its own soil, pointing to repeated air raids by Turkish warplanes and Ankara’s longstanding threat of war should territorial waters be extended.

Erdoğan has repeatedly invoked the 1919-22 Greco-Turkish war, which ended in Athens’ military defeat, saying that, 100 years later, Greece should not bristle over a fight it would once again “regret”.

Greek politicians said Ankara’s TurkAegean campaign should be seen in the context of the strategy the Turkish president was pursuing in the run-up to the 2023 elections.

(With contributions from agencies)

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