A lifetime full of professional intense experiences

Alonso Álvarez de Toledo y Merry del Val, born in 1931, was graduated in Law in 1957 and entered the diplomatic service. He had been destined, among other positions, in the diplomatic representations of Spain upon the United States, France, Mexico, South Africa and Federal Republic of Germany, besides holding several senior positions in the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Mr. Álvarez de Toledo was also the Spanish ambassador in the former GDR (German Democratic Republic). Later, he was the Spanish State Chief of Protocol. Finally, his diplomatic life ended as Spanish ambassador in Luxembourg.


 

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Photo: Alonso Álvarez de Toledo y Merry del Val, Madrid.

Spain became a member of the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) on May 30th, 1982, when the Spanish government was headed by socialist Felipe González. Thereupon, on May 31st, it was going to be convoked a referendum to Spanish people for whether join in the NATO or not. Mr. Álvarez de Toledo was at that time working as a Business Manager in the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and he was told to deliver a letter to Perez-Llorca – who was in charge of negotiating the entry of Spain into NATO. In the letter was the approval of such enrolment, but neither the president nor anyone left wing were aware of this. That was because, at that time, the left wing supporters had a strong anti-NATO feeling and they were convinced that if they had known it, they would not have let Spain enter in it.

The problem was that May 30th was a Sunday, and Perez-Llorca did not give audience to anyone during the weekend. But Mr. Álvarez the Toledo held the strings in such a way as to ensure that Spain was joining the Organisation. He finally managed to hold a meeting with Pérez-Llorca, and we could say that we are in the NATO due to the intelligent action and the exceptional work done by Mr. Álvarez de Toledo.

Mr. Álvarez de Toledo began to be the German Democratic Republic’s ambassador on December 28th, 1985. The historical well-known Berlin’s Wall, which divided East and West Germany, was opened on the night of November 9th, 1989.

 “In 1989, Berlin’s Wall had for some time his expiry date, and it was opened when absolutely nobody was expecting that to happen.”

Mr. Álvarez de Toledo saw it with his own eyes, as he was at the forefront. That night he invited “Informe Semanal”– weekly magazine from TVE – team to dinner, and later they were going to a jazz concert. However, they suddenly heard the announcement of the Wall’s opening and he proposed them to approach to the nearest customs office. Upon arrival, they saw about fifty people. So he approached and asked the guard if the Wall was opened, but he was told that it might the following day. Shortly after, he watched a couple of people going through and he went back to ask if they could go, if some documentation was necessary and if they could come back. The guard said they did not need any specific documentation and, of course, they could return. So they were among the first ten people who passed through Berlin’s wall, and “Informe Semanal” were the only ones who recorded this historical event.

“West had been contributing consciously to maintain Berlin’s Wall (…) We were convinced that both, the Iron Curtain and Berlin’s Wall, were the East-West balance’s essential elements. An unstable, but indispensable balance for peace.”

Before the fall of Berlin’s Wall, Mr. Álvarez de Toledo had an experience, in which him and others NATO’s states’ representatives met for fifteen days in a Faraday Camera – a fully isolated and protected from external recording room. One day, it was said that E. Honecker – the president at that time of the German Democratic Republic – had died. Although that was only a rumour, Mr. Álvarez de Toledo thought that Mr. Honecker was in his last days, but those moments he was living were going to be historic, even he had not died yet, he would sooner or later. He was fully conscious of making history, so he began to write his experiences.

Among his publications are: “The country that never existed” – a diary of this last Spanish ambassador of the GDR (German Democratic Republic); “An orange and dusty tram” – a book in which he deals with topics such as NATO or Berlin’s Wall; and finally, “Footnotes” – the most significant and relevant book he has done, because in it he invites us to revive some of his memorable scenes, apart from the ones named above, such as: II Hispano-American Conference, I Jew-Palestinian Conference, Inauguration of Barcelona’s Olympic Games in 1992, or Expo in Seville in 1992.

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Photo: “Footnotes. Memories of a lucky man”, Alonso Álvarez de Toledo.

Mr. Álvarez de Toledo is now retired. His life is full of stories, some less positive than others, for instance, his most uncomfortable moment as ambassador was when he had to translate F. Franco – Spanish dictator who died in 1975 – but overall, the ups outnumbered the downs.

By Paloma Álvarez Carrillo

INTERVIEWING WITH MIKKEL LARSEN

NOTES ON EUROPE THROUGH DANISH EYES

In this article, we interviewed Mikkel Larsen, Chief of Communication for the Danish Embassy in Spain. Mr. Larsen, gave us his opinions on some of the current events dominating the news in Europe.  Regarding Turkey’s application to the European Union (EU), Mr. Larsen explains that it’s not going to be an automatic process for Turkey to became part of the EU. In 1993, during an assembly presided by Denmark, it was decided that a country seeking membership needed to complete negotiations on 35 chapters of the total body of the EU law. Turkey however, only passes on 15 of those 35 today. This in turn implies a long road ahead for Turkey to finally become part of the European Union. For instance, there has been a steady decline on the freedom of press and speech in the last few years and we have watched this with worry. This fact has added pressure and also made it difficult to ensure their membership to the EU. We asked Mr. Larsen if he thought one of the solutions to the current refugee situation would be to forge an agreement with Al-Asad. However, he categorically disagreed with that. He added that, Denmark wants Al-Asad gone, and that it was just a matter of time for that to happen. Right now in the EU, there is a debate on a transitional government in Siria and they are negotiating its stability. There is one main demand in this new Syrian government, “no Al-Asad”. We are sending a fleet of planes to fight ISIS, which in turn is indirectly helping Al-Asad. However, after the war, we have to be able to guarantee a strong government, which is very difficult to do (we have Libya and Iraq as good examples.) There are ongoing negotiations among Turkey, Russia, Iran, and Saudi Arabia on how to resolve this crisis. However, we recognize that Asad is the lower priority, and that there is immediate need to intervene in the fight against ISIS to stop the terrorist organizationScreen Shot 2016-06-06 at 23.57.52.pngMikkel Larsen at the Danish Embassy in Madrid. (Photo source: Raquel Envó)

Regarding the “Brexit,” Great Britain´s exit from the EU, Mikkel recognised that Denmark would be highly affected due to the close ties that link both countries. His exact words were: “First of all, we hope it does not to happen. Britain is the third biggest export market of Denmark in Europe and our strongest ally; and the Brexit would result in increased unemployment in my country. However, it would also impact the rest of Europe by shifting the centre of power to Germany and the southern countries, which would in turn affect Denmark and the Scandinavian countries. Additionally, the Brexit would it make it harder to resolve some of the problems currently affecting Europe such us the Economic and Migrant´s crisis by creating yet another crisis. I´m not trying to say that it would mean the end of the EU, but it would certainly weaken our position towards the rest of the world. Great Britain is certainly a major player in the EU.”

Now talking about issues directly affecting Denmark, I wanted to know first-hand from you about the approval in the Danish Parliament of the Act by which property is taken away from refugees who owned property worth 10,000 kroner (1,340 euros) or more. Mikkel explained the reasons that led to that enactment of the law; “first, it is important to remember that this law was adopted last year and had several objectives: the idea is to match the conditions of the Danish people with that of the refugees. “There was a situation with refugees whereby many owned property and at the same time received state aid when the law in Denmark says that a person with enough means to subsist should not benefit from state aid. This situation led to a discontent within Danish citizens reason why the Bill was taken to the Parliament and approved. However, I must clarify that this law is not applicable to property with sentimental value. It was intended to balance the subsidies provided by the Danish State to Danish citizens and that provided to the refugees. The Danish Government has created several laws but they are above all dissuasive laws, when we talk about 1340 euros, there are exceptions. The idea was that if a refugee came into Denmark with a lot of money, he or she should use his/her own means to cover their expenses instead of receiving aid. At the moment there has been no refugee that has had his or her property take away so far.” As a matter of fact, the police refused to cooperate because it did not seem feasible to enforce the law.”

 

To conclude, we’d like to mention that Denmark had created a law which extended the period of reunion of refugees with their families, from 1 year to 3; according to Mr. Larsen, this was passed to reduce the migratory flow and prevent Denmark from becoming a preferred destination for refugees, emphasizing that, “as a matter of fact this law was passed with the majority of the votes in the Parliament.”

Raquel G.Envo

Moscow’s turn: The Russian version of the conflict in Ukraine

 

Since 2014, the conflict in Ukraine, which started as a result of the Euromaidan, has been continuing. Western Media reported well during the first half of the conflict, the Syrian civil war taking the stage soon afterwards, Ukraine fading from the European Union’s (EU) TV-screens. However, to what extent can we believe what we hear in Western media, without hearing the point of view of Russia itself? ______________________________________________________________________________________________
Authors: Derek W. Brokowski
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Embassy of the Russian Federation in Madrid. (Image Source: Derek N. Photography)

In an interview with Mr. Evgeny Evdokimov, the First Secretary of the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Madrid, Mr. Evdokimov explains Russia’s point of view and stance in the conflict, in contrast to that issued by Western European media.


The conflict in Ukraine, which started in February 2014, by Russia’s annexation of Crimea following a referendum celebrated on the autonomous peninsula, which the Ukrainian government in return declared illegal, is one of the major political crises Europe has experienced in the 21st century.

European media has done a great job reporting about Russia’s aggressions against Ukraine, as well as the violation of bilateral as well as multilateral treaties in which both countries were included. However, the role of Western Media is an important component of how we perceive the conflict in Ukraine. In Russia, Western Media has been called out to be biased, mostly reporting in favour of Ukraine and the actions of the European Union against Russia.

Interested in the conflict, although not identifying as pro-Russian, I have decided to exclusively interview the First Secretary of the Russian Embassy in Madrid, Mr. Evgeny Evdokimov. I knew the Ukrainian side of the conflict already, however I felt the need to be able to understand those opposing me, those in favour of Russia, and not Ukraine.

An interesting aspect of the conflict are the whereabouts of former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, who is considered to have triggered the Euromaidan and as a consequence also the Russo-Ukrainian conflict, following the suspension of talks between Ukraine and the European Union regarding an association agreement between the two. According to Mr. Evdokimov, the former president left the country on the night of February 21st 2014, heading for Russia. Furthermore, the First Secretary added, Russia has granted Yanukovych asylum, reportedly due to direct threats against him and as a humanitarian act.

Rumours about Yanukovych having been granted Russian citizenship through a secret decree by Vladimir Putin, are not only being denied by Mr. Evdokimov, but also by presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who stated that he had not seen such a decree issued by the president.

In 1994, Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, USA and the UK signed the Budapest Memorandum, in which the territorial integrity, the respect of the established borders and sovereignty of the three former Soviet Republics was guaranteed by all signatories. A condition of the memorandum, was that all three former Soviet Republics give up their nuclear weapons to Russia, who in return will assure the sovereignty and territorial integrity of these countries. An alleged military intervention by Russia on Ukrainian soil, as  reported by Western media, breaches the conditions of the memorandum. Upon mentioning this, Mr. Evdokimov explained that, all military interventions are alleged, with no proof of such existing. He furthermore states that this is a propagandistic move against Russia by the West.

What are the motivations of Russia’s support for the rebels in Ukraine’s Eastern regions?

According to Mr. Evdokimov, Ukraine is a country divided by ethnicity and language. In the predominantly ethnically and linguistically Russian East, the people are in favor of close cooperation with Russia, whereas in the predominantly ethnically and linguistically Ukrainian West of the country, people hope to establish close ties with the European Union, and even go as far as to wanting Ukraine to become a member state.

Mr. Evdokimov stated that while Ukrainian products have quite some success on the Russian market, the factories and the industrial sector of the Ukrainian economy will not be able to compete with those of the EU member states. He also describes the EU as a union in which member states compete for the highest political position and the best economy, which would be an unsuitable terrain for Ukraine.

Additionally, Mr. Evdokimov reminded us, that the West has been violating commitments made in 1990, which included the non-expansion of NATO to Eastern European countries such as Poland and Romania, formerly members of the Warsaw Pact or the Soviet Union, as is the case of Ukraine. The First Secretary also stated that according to Western media, this commitment was not a written one, but rather an oral agreement, therefore not making it valid.

This is evident in the case of NATO offering Montenegro, a former Yugoslav Republic, membership on 02. December 2015, which was met by strong disapproval from Moscow, who in return suspended common projects with the small Balkan country, in response to a possible accession to NATO. However, the population of Montenegro is split, both parties, the one in favour and the one against an accession being almost equally big, the protesters reportedly being “Russia-friendly”.

As for the Minsk II Protocol, Mr. Evdokimov stated that Russia is doing everything possible on its part to comply with the protocol and it is up to Kiev to do its part, reminding us that Russia cannot make any changes in agreement with the protocol inside of Ukraine.

In June 2015, the Ukrainian government published the so-called “Kremlin’s Black Book”, in which it lists Human Rights violations committed by Russia and statistics about the ongoing war in the Donbass region, such as casualties and destruction of Ukraine’s industry in the region.
Russia, in return, published the “White Book on Violations of Human Rights and the Rule of Law in Ukraine”, in which it lists alleged Human Rights violations by Ukraine in its Donbass region, also including reports by Amnesty International.

Concluding the interview, Mr. Evdokimov stated that it is important to consider Russia’s point of view, as well as that of the West, regarding the situation, in order to set an end to the conflict in Ukraine.

Switzerland under pressure from the European Union; an ambassador’s perspective.

Switzerland is worldwide known as a neutral country and as a tax haven paradise for companies, which is now witnessing a new chapter in its history. The Swiss Confederation is formed by 26 member states, called cantons, with four official languages: French, German, Italian and Romansh.

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Thomas Kolly, the Swiss ambassador to Spain and Andorra. Image source: DFAE

The wealthy country, is a non-European member “as the majority of people are still unwilling to adhere to the EU. Nonetheless, we have a close relationship since Switzerland and the European Union have several treaties in common like the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and the Schengen treaty. Plus, a bilateral agreement in terms of free circulation of people and trade, which has recently been modified on February 2014, causing severe pressure in the EU”, said Mr. Kolly.

Thomas Kolly is the Swiss ambassador to Spain and Andorra who works at the Swiss Embassy in Spain since 2013. He previously exerted the same charge in Guatemala in 2010. Mr. Kolly did his university degree in Law in Freiburg, subsequent to a postgraduate in European studies at the European School of Brujas, Belgium. In 1988, Thomas started to work at the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs.

Since 2002, he has been in charge of the current affairs between Switzerland and the European Union. In 2005, Thomas became responsible for the International Affairs division of the Federal Office for the Environment, and participated in the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, 2009.

On Monday 30th, I had the real pleasure to meet with Mr. Kolly in his office at the Swiss Embassy in Madrid. During the interview, we discussed the diplomatic relations between Spain and Switzerland, the Syrian conflict related to refugees, and the current situation between Switzerland and the European Union.

“I am the government representative for Switzerland in Spain. I deal with the diplomatic affairs and current issues laying on the table between both states. But, I consider the most important function to talk with the government and foreign ministers about the situation between Switzerland and the European Union”, he started explaining.

When thinking about the contrast between the Swiss and the Spanish economy, as Switzerland being one the richest countries, with a 3% of unemployment against a 20% in Spain. Thomas remarked that ““the Swiss Professional formation is the key for the wealthy Swiss Economy”. Adding that “Switzerland and Spain have a great relationship economically, with lots of investment from Swiss companies in Spain and vice-versa”. Nonetheless, “it is fundamental to consider that Spain has also a solid and strong economy based on the agricultural and tourist sector”, Mr. Kolly pointed out.

Considering now the Swiss immigration referendum “against massive immigration” on February 9th, 2014. Final results showed a 50,3% in favor, highlighting that this initiative goes against the principle of free movement of people between the EU and Switzerland. The approval caused much controversy in the EU, affecting Switzerland negatively. The Erasmus+ program has been suspended, as well as, the possible participation of Switzerland in Horizon 2020.

Notwithstanding the confrontation, Switzerland has been able to recover by extending the same agreements with Croatia as for the rest of the European Union. Thus, the Swiss confederation recovered its participation in Horizon 2020 and Erasmus+.  Still, the situation remains delicate. “Both sides must show a good will and relinquish in order to find the best possible solution”, Thomas opined.  “What could happen in the future about Switzerland being part of the EU depends a lot on the eventual development of the European Union”.

After discussing about the controversy among Switzerland and the EU. The interview focused on the Syrian conflict, and most important refugees. Mr. Kolly firmly stated that the media always talk about Germany and Sweden, but do not mention the 38,000 refugees sheltered in Switzerland, and most important, the Humanitarian Assistance that it is providing through the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) located in Geneva, and mainly financed by the Swiss Government among other voluntary contributions.

To conclude the interview, we discussed how countries could balance their interests and leave without conflicts internationally speaking. Thomas response was that this is a huge defiance facing our society. It is inhumane how people are dying as they are lacking basic needs, while we have all the required resources to eradicate such injustice. From my personal experience in Guatemala, I would like to share how babies or kids are daily dying due to the dreadful level of undernourishment. The sorrowful situation kept me awake for many nights, thinking of a possible measure to help them.

Finally, he ended by saying that the situation is mainly due to the lack of international political will. If all states would collaborate and reach agreements, it would merely be a question of time that peace will be attained globally.

By Alba del Mar Montoya Sacristán

 

 

 

Forgotten wars and far away places: an interview with Lennart Hofman

Lennart SchrijftBy Suzanne Vink

Lennart Hofman is a Dutch journalist who reports on so-called “forgotten wars”. He has written about Djibouti, where they used to smuggle refugees to Yemen and now are taking in refugees from Yemen themselves. He traveled to countries such as Sudan, the Western Sahara, Mali, West-Papua, Burma, Syria, Thailand and more, to write about their forgotten conflicts. I spoke with him to find out what drives him.

“What drives me is actually like a basic journalistic attitude, that you want to tell a story which you think is important. You should not be put off by the fact that it can be scary, that is why you are a journalist. I find it important to write about human rights violations. I want to find out how a situation started, who is responsible and eventually how we can solve it.“

To get to this point, Lennart made a pretty long journey. “I first studied for quite a long time. I have a bachelor in anthropology, a bachelor in religion studies, two masters, and I studied journalism. I also always travelled a lot, also in difficult areas and I learned different languages. So knowledge-wise I prepared a lot and after that I just went”

In addition, he has some advice for people that want to work in the field of human rights, or areas where there is war or conflict. “I think people that want to work with human rights should realize that there is a broad range of options, and you need to find out what suits you best. For instance, if you work for a large NGO or the United Nations, you will have to stick to their policies and those of the governments funding them. You will spend a lot of time with expats in expensive restaurants or clubs, and it will be difficult to keep that feeling of being an activist alive. I think many people who really want to change the world, will not feel happy there.”

Since a few years Lennart has been working for “De Correspondent”, which is a critical medium that does not publish without thorough research. About the media landscape in the Netherlands he says: “They often cover the same topics, Syria, refugee crisis. There is a need to also zoom out and discuss what is really going on. However, that takes research. The public debate is not always based on facts. Columnists write their opinions and it is often just what people want to hear, out of context. Columnists are very popular nowadays, but per definition they need to have strong opinions to profile themselves. This leads to extremes while reality is often more complex.”

In the past we have seen, for example with Vietnam, that the media can move people to hold the government responsible. The question is of this is still possible today. “The Dutch government will not really change its policies on large international themes because of public pressure or news articles. They follow America on these issues and work with long-term strategies based on geo-political dynamics. In the beginning of the war in Syria journalists wrote a lot about it and it made many realize we need to intervene, but that was vetoed by China and Russia in the UN. It wasn’t possible, even if the government wanted it.”

“Vietnam was a different time, I think that at that time people were maybe also more politically engaged. It was a small group, but they were very capable to make themselves heard. Now, with internet and blogs and all that, everyone can make themselves be heard. This includes people who are not really interested in the details of the situation but rather care about their own safety “

Lennart wrote a couple of articles about ISIS, which is of course a topic you cannot avoid as a war journalist. For most people it is a topic that they cannot really relate to, but with his articles about the Philippines, Lennart showed ISIS is not merely a problem of the Middle East. Filipino rebel groups are one by one joining ISIS. I asked him if he thought that the developments that are happening there, are possible in Europe as well. “I think that that is already happening. One of the things I wanted to show with that article is that through internet these ideas spread over the world easily. Especially those youths in the Philippines are susceptible for that, because the see injustice in their environment. They are angry and frustrated, they have questions. The ISIS propaganda have the most logical answers to them. You see literally the same thing happening in the Netherlands.”

Lastly, I discussed with him whether there is anything Europe and the USA could do to support the Middle East and Asia, and whether that is a battle against radicalization, or one that needs to be fought with weapons. “That is very difficult. We should think very deeply about image formation and the message that we send. I think it is important to be strict on the online radicalization propaganda and to invest much more in preventing the process of radicalization. We used to have good policies in the Netherlands, research showed we had to be very inclusive towards youth that are drifting. That was seen as leftist softness, and right wing parties that had the majority got rid of these policies and said you had to be strict and clear instead. I doubt that is more effective, and many examples prove it is not. I can see the same thing happening through my work in the field, in different countries.”

If you would like to read more about Lennart’s work, click here for his blog.

Picture belongs to Lennart Hofman

 

 

Time to take a turn: Opening up for drugs

For years Europe has been hidebound and paternalistic about drugs legislations. Time to take the arguments under the loop and open up the debate.
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Authors: Paloma Álvarez, Derek J. W., Suzanne Vink,
Raquel Envó, Alba Montoya

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drungs
(Photo source: Indian Express)

Aside from a few countries that have partial or full decriminalization of certain types of drugs, most countries in Europe have strict prohibitions for all types of drugs. Research has shown many good reasons for reform, yet time and time again one-sided views and a special treatment are preferred.

In the Netherlands for example, back in 2007, a girl committed suicide while under the influence of mushrooms. Immediately the government banned most species of mushrooms. In perspective, worldwide 736, 000 people die of sugar and fat; 115, 000 of tobacco and 63, 000 of alcohol each week.  Time to shake up the debate and become more open-minded about how we  can truly make a healthier and safer society.

Moreover, an indispensable fact to mention is how criminalization of drugs has a negative consequence on people. In fact, as drugs are not regulated, it involves not only the use of unsafe drugs mixed with all sorts of things due to the lack of information, but also lower quality standards. Thus, by regulating drugs, the amount of people dying from overdoses will decrease since they would be knowing exactly what they are consuming and the appropriate amount to take, avoiding any risks.

An example to look at is Portugal, where drug decriminalization was approved in 2000, resulting in a decrease from 1,016 HIV infection cases to 56 in 2012, and overdose deaths have also declined from 80 on the year the law was implied to 16 in 2012.  Ricardo Fuertes, project coordinator at GAT, an organization for people living with HIV, says: “Usually the focus is on the decriminalization itself, but it worked because there were other services, and the coverage increase for needle replacement, detox, therapeutic communities, and employment options for people who use drugs”.

Besides, services among citizens would increase with the money saved in customs, legal and juridical systems.

Additionally, are different types of drugs really that addictive? It has been the favorite argument for strict regulations, but research might prove otherwise. Bruce Alexander showed addiction has more to do with social circumstances than with the actual chemicals. However, he did his experiments with rats, and rats are not people. Nevertheless, he might be onto something. Anneke Goudriaan (Professor Treatment of Addictions) explains: “Many substances are addictive for some people. How addictive a substance is depends on how strong the effect of the substance is and how long it has effect on the body”.

There is no need to immediately turn 180 degrees and overturn all existing legislation. However, we would serve ourselves and victims-to-be well if we would open up the debate. Let us take thorough research as the standard for our arguments instead of emotional statements based on fear. Making good policies is difficult, so much the more it is important to inform ourselves well.

 

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.