Greek-Turkish relations have reached a low point as of late, but nowhere has this been more evident than in the border region separating Northern Greece and Eastern Thrace. Ever since Greece declared an embargo on Turkish products, the Turkish town of Edirne, located just a few kilometers from the Evros Borders, has seen a slump in its economy, which is largely dependent on Greek consumers.
The embargo came as a reaction to the arrest of two Greek soldiers who were accused of espionage after mistakenly crossing the borders and remain in custody in Edirne (a city of 160,000 inhabitants, mostly known in Greece by its former name, Adrianople).
Once the third capital of the Ottoman empire, Edirne is known for tourist attractions such as the Selimiye Mosque and the Rüstem Pasha Caravanserai, but the Edirne Bedesten market has also been very popular, particularly among Greeks, who had been happy to cross the borders and benefit from low prices and good quality produce.
But for the past couple of weeks – since the embargo – Edirne merchants complain that hardly any Greek visits their shops – and if they do, they don’t buy anything. “There used to be 10 Greeks per day in our shop, now there are maybe two and they don’t even buy anything,” one shopkeeper told to Ant1 tv station, while another added that “it is very difficult for us, because our economy is depends on Greeks and Bulgarians.”
It is estimated that about 1,000 Greeks visited the city on a daily basis, while 4,000 would go during the weekend, to do grocery shopping. Many of them used to take a bus, as Greek tour operators would organize regular excursions to Edirne.
Now most of them have suspended this activity, until the release of the Greek soldiers.
“We cannot spend our money to Turkey when our children sit in prison,” a tour operator said to the Greek media. So far, the two soldiers remain in custody awaiting for the Turkish prosecutor to file a case against them, despite preliminary investigation to their mobile phones containing no evidence of espionage.
The legal process is not expected to move forward before the end of March.