European Commission considering visa freedom for Turks in Europe


In March, the European Commission signed a deal with Turkey regarding the refugee crisis. One of the conditions for Turkey taking in all refugees with Greece as a destination, was the guarantee of visa freedom for Turks while travelling within the European Union.
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Authors: Derek J. W., Suzanne Vink,
Paloma Álvarez, Raquel Envó, Alba Montoya
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Merkels Türkei-Reise

(Image source: Spiegel Online)

 
Last week, the European Commission discussed the potential visa freedom for Turkish citizens when travelling within the European Union. For Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan this was an important condition of the refugee deal the European Union has signed with Turkey. In the deal Turkey and the EU agreed that refugees arriving in Greece will be sent back to Turkey in order to properly register them before granting them asylum in different member states.

Even though, Turkey has not yet fulfilled the 72 criteria which are obligatory in order to obtain such visa freedom, the European Commission has the obligation to keep its promise.

There are many critics arguing against this visa freedom, stating that the deal with Turkey would play right into the hands of right-wing populists, such as the Alternative for Germany (AfD), the Front National in France or the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ). These argue that refugees from Syria portray a major threat to European internal security.

German news magazine, Der Spiegel, spoke to expert Gareth Jenkins. He explains there are 400, 000 internally displaced Kurdish refugees in Turkey, as the situation is developing almost like a civil war in the south-east of the country. He predicts that “a substantial number of Turks would come to Europe and either apply for asylum or disappear into the underground economy, especially in Germany and the Netherlands, where so many Turks have relatives.

To whom is this deal an advantage?

As a lot of Turkish people are living in Europe -alone of Germany’s 80 million inhabitants, around 2 million are of Turkish origin- it would be increasingly more convenient to have relatives visit. Furthermore, the visa freedom is a form of appeasement in order to maintain Turkey’s support for handling the refugee crisis Europe is currently experiencing. While keeping Turkey satisfied, the European Union hopes to have an easier approach at dealing with the waves of refugees arriving from Syria, while trying to solve internal problems with member states such as Hungary or Slovakia.

EU Summit

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels on 18. March 2016. (Image source: New Europe)

 
Turkish president Erdogan argues to have the upper hand in the EU-Turkey deal, opposed to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the European Union itself. Earlier in March, he stated that: “The European Union needs Turkey more than Turkey needs the European Union,”.

Simultaneously, the Austrian EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn exhorted the Turkish president to negotiate with and not threaten the EU.

How many Turks can we expect to make use of this visa freedom?

While some predict a large influx of Turkish Kurds applying for asylum, others expect the numbers will be less dramatic. Currently, Turkey is one of the countries in Europe with the highest prices for obtaining a passport. With the future introduction of a new biometric passport, the Turkish passport will cost around €300, which not every Turk will be able to afford. Since Turkey is not a member of the Schengen agreement, Turkish travelers have the obligation to travel using their passport within the EU, being unable to use their national ID as documentation.

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