Sunday

17th Feb 2019

Visas highlighted as irritant in EU-Turkey relations

  • Old visa stamp for entry into Turkey. Selected EU countries, like the UK, still need a visa to enter Turkey - a rubber-stamp process at the airport costing a few euros (Photo: sleepymyf)

Turkish EU affairs minister Egemen Bagis has again highlighted the EU's visa regime as a source of friction in EU-Turkey relations, but EU officials deny there is a big problem.

Speaking to a packed room of 750-or-so Turkish businessmen at a conference in Istanbul on Thursday (17 November), Bagis drew noisy applause when he said: "No other [EU accession] negotiating country is waiting in visa queues, but we are."

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

He referred on several occasions to "narrow-minded politicians in certain EU countries" - code for France and Germany - as being to blame.

Bagis told EUobserver later: "Many people are so afraid of not getting a visa they don't even apply. And businessmen get three-day visas, so they cannot complete their meetings. Can you imagine this? A senior businessman getting a three-day visa?"

Muhammet, a Turkish-origin Belgian businessman attending the event, noted that visa-issuing companies working on behalf of EU consulates can show naked prejudice.

"I know one girl, a graduate student from south-east Turkey, who was asked how much she had in her bank account. When she told them, they rejected her on the grounds that a young girl from that region could not have so much money," he said. "People in the EU still see Turks as poor farm workers as if it was the 1950s. But they should come here and see this," he added, pointing to the Istanbul skyline.

The Turkish economy grew 10.2 percent in the first half of 2011. The Paris-based think-tank, the OECD predicts it will become the second biggest economy in Europe, after Germany, by 2050.

The frustration comes after the EU rolled-out visa-free travel for Western Balkan EU candidates over the past two years. It has launched visa-free talks with Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine and is considering talks with Russia.

For his part, enlargement commissioner Stefan Fuele said in a speech: "We want to convince member states to put short-term measures into practice to improve visa issuance to Turkish applicants ... Measures include the harmonisation of supporting documents (which has been done recently); visa fee exemptions; multiple entry visas with a long period of validity and perhaps even consular coverage."

The EU's ambassador to Turkey, Marc Pierini, ahead of the Istanbul event told Bagis that visa problems are a myth - according to him, around 98 percent of visa applications by Turkish businessmen and 96 percent of private applications go through.

An EU official in Fuele's delegation said a major obstacle to visa-free talks is Turkey's unwillingness to sign a readmission agreement - a pact to take back migrants who get into the EU illegally.

A 2010 study by the Turkey and Belgium-based NGOs - IKV and ECAS - appears to give lie to Pierini's figures. Out of 823 visa applications looked at by the survey, 420 - 51 percent - were rejected.

"With [French President] Sarkozy running against [far-right candidate] Le Pen in the elections next year, there is no chance for visa-free talks with Turkey for now," Hans Martens, the head of the Brussels-based think-tank, the EPC, which put on the Istanbul event together with Turkish business organisation, Tuskon, told this website.

EU commission to confront Turkey on free press

The European Commission in its 2011 enlargement report will tell Turkey to stop attacking investigative journalists and mark "limited progress" on pro-EU reforms in many Western Balkan countries.

Cyprus-Turkey gas dispute escalates

Turkish vessel the Piri Reis has set sail to drill for gas in waters claimed by EU member Cyprus amid talk of a potential new military confrontation after 35 years of peace.

Let Turkey into Europol, British MPs say

Turkey should be allowed to become a member of the EU's joint police body, Europol, no matter what happens with its EU membership bid, a new report by the British parliament has said.

Opinion

Being fair to Turkey is in the EU's interest

Serious efforts to reform Turkey's border could quickly translate into a dramatic fall in illegal migration. But Ankara expects fair EU treatment on visa liberalisation in return, write Gerald Knaus and Alexandra Stiglmayer.

Opinion

The EU and Turkey: steering a safer path through the storms

The EU is currently focused on the turmoil in the Eurozone. That poses severe risks to economic growth across our countries. But these tumultuous economic and political times should not lead to the EU turning its back on its neighbourhood.

News in Brief

  1. Spain's Sanchez calls snap election on 28 April
  2. 15,000 Belgian school kids march against climate change
  3. May suffers fresh Brexit defeat in parliament
  4. Warning for British banks over Brexit staff relocation
  5. Former Italian PM wants Merkel for top EU post
  6. Antisemitic incidents up 10% in Germany
  7. Italy's asylum rejection rate at record high
  8. Hungary will not claim EU funds for fraudulent project

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  2. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  4. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  7. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”

Latest News

  1. Sluggish procedure against Hungary back on table
  2. Could Finnish presidency fix labour-chain abuse?
  3. Brexit and trip to Egypt for Arab League This WEEK
  4. Belgian spy scandal puts EU and Nato at risk
  5. EU Parliament demands Saudi lobby transparency
  6. Saudi Arabia, but not Russia, on EU 'dirty money' list
  7. EU agrees draft copyright reform, riling tech giants
  8. Rutte warns EU to embrace 'Realpolitik' foreign policy

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us