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.

Nagorno-Karabakh: The world silently watches as Azerbaijan and Armenia resume fighting

 

Once again conflicts ensued between Armenia and Azerbaijan, two historical enemies lying in the Caucasus region on Europe’s border with Asia. Russia plays a key role in the conflict too.
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Authors: Suzanne Vink, Derek Julian Weyrather,

Paloma Álvarez, Raquel Envó,Alba Montoya
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Location of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh within the Caucasus region. (Source: Eyes on Europe & Middle East News)

Stepanakert – The so-called “frozen conflict” over the Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) region between Azerbaijan and Armenia started again in early April of 2016, the Azeri military intervened in Nagorno-Karabakh, killing several ethnic Armenians.

However, the conflict is not one sided, and victims are falling on both sides. Politico reports 18 Armenian soldiers have died in the current conflict, while at the same time 12 Azeri soldiers found the same fate. Moreover, the use of tanks, helicopters, artillery and grenade launchers show the conflict is getting serious.  Over the past two decades, about 300.000 Armenians had to leave their homes in Azerbaijan (of which 30.000 settled in NK). On the other side, there are 800.000 Azerbaijani people displaced, of whom 200.000 have fled from Armenia and 600.000 from the conflict zone.

Not unexpectedly, Russia plays a key role in this conflict. Not only is the world’s largest country busy fighting a war in Ukraine, it has also supplied both sides, Armenia and Azerbaijan with weapons. Nevertheless, on 3. April 2016 Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, called for an immediate ceasefire between the two former Soviet republics.

Russia’s call for a ceasefire is the response to diplomatic interest in the Caucasus region. While relations with Georgia have been strained since Russia’s invasion of the country in 2009, Azerbaijan and Armenia do enjoy good relations with the large Slavic nation. While Russia uses the conflict in Ukraine as an opportunity to stop gas supplies to Europe, the European Union has set an eye on the Caucasus countries, which lie in an energy-rich region, in order to diversify gas supplies from Russia.

In the meantime, Turkey is backing Azerbaijan. This is a sensitive issue, considering the fact that the Turkish government still has not recognized the genocide of 1.5 million Armenians in 1915. Recently there have been worldwide protests towards the Turkish government, as it is the 101st anniversary of the genocide.

Azerbaijan and Armenia distrust each other, respectively. According to a census published in the Caucasus Analytical Digest (CAD) (a monthly publication composed of statistics of all types regarding the Caucasus region), 63% of Armenians saw Azerbaijan as Armenia’s biggest enemy in 2012. 32% of Armenians stated Turkey as such. Simultaneously, 91% of Azeris stated to see Armenia as Azerbaijan’s biggest enemy.

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(Graph Sources: Caucasus Analytical Digest (CAD))

Already in August 2014, Azerbaijan’s president, Ilham Aliyev, threatened Armenia with war via twitter, further increasing the tension between the two countries.

Ilham Aliyev threatens Armenia with war via Twitter

(Image source: Ilham Aliyev Twitter)

Furthermore, since Azerbaijan’s has mainly a Muslim population, the Islamic world has severed ties with Armenia. Especially Pakistan, who even withdrew recognition of the Republic of Armenia as a state, also breaking off diplomatic relations.

On the other hand, Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of the European External Action Service (EEAS), called for an immediate ceasefire, stating that: “We expect both sides to respect strictly the ceasefire, refrain from the use of force and resume efforts towards a peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.”

Trick or treat? Erdogun’s AKP claim surprise victory against backdrop of terror

According to “Council on foreign relations”(1)  political conflict between Kurdish violent groups and Turkish military forces angered by side effects of the Syrian Civil War, nowadays there is an intention of peace between two sides. The Kurdish problem and the Syria civil war its causing fear in the investors of Turkey, in words of The Economist“(2), that are afraid of inventing his money in a country with real problems that can reduce their benefits. Ankara bombing, according to the BBC” (3) ,was a demonstration for peace and culminated in the worst way possible, it occurred on Saturday morning. There was a powerful explosion followed by another explosion.In June were turkey elections but any political party had the m ReccepTayipErdoğan’s AKP romped to a decisive, surprise election victory on Sunday,winning 317 of the 550 seats in Turkish Parliament. But against a backdrop of increasing terror nationwide, just how did he manage it?

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According to Hurriyetdailynews (1), a Turkish newspaper, the main reason of the victory of the AKP in the Turkish election has been the fear in the population as consequence of the terrorist attacks in the country, made by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and ISIS. Throughout the run-up to the election, Erdoğan and the AKP have capitalised on this. His election slogan? “It’s me or chaos” (8).

Also, the AKP has increase in their votes because of the strategy of other important parties like MHP and HDP. According to The Guardian (3) the MHP led by Bahçeli are against any peace process with the Kurdish guerrilla PKK and they are perceived as a party “that says no to everything” by the population, according to ABC (2). Besides, the HDP is accused by various sectors to be the political extension of the armed group PKK.

The level of ‘fortune’ in chaos that has befallen Erdoğan has been greeted with extreme cynicism from opposition parties, observers within Turkey, and those watching on from outside. The question on the lips of everyone – just how culpable is Erdoğan for this instability?

Erdoğan has been seen as stoking the fire of anarchy by cracking down on dissent in the east. In June, a fledgling peace with the nationalist PKK was broken, and conflict resumed. The PKKs one-sided, voluntary ceasefire in October was ignored in favour of fighting (4). The Turkish police have become more heavy handed against opposition – over 1,000 people were detained in just one week in July (5). Those incarcerated have been met with ‘severe ill-treatment and abuse’ according to the Human Rights Watch (6). An attempt to setup a self-governing enclave in Diyarbakır in August was ‘brutally suppressed’ (4). The result of these actions, instability in the east – pushing voters to seek out a party that can ‘control’ the problems.

Other accusations have been far more treacherous.Regarding the inter-election bombings in Ankara and Suruç, the level of government culpability varies based on who is asked. Writing for The Guardian, Christopher de Bellaigue has accused the government of taking advantage of the crises by blaming the opposition for the attacks – accusations ‘so laughably implausible as to suggest that he wants to humiliate the bereaved’ (4). HDP co-leaderSelahattinDemirtaş has suggested tacit complicity through a failure to act on a known threat – “the AKP’s hands are red with blood, they support this terror” (7). Others go even further. Speaking with Truthout, Turkish journalist GürkanOzturan claimed implicit government involvement in the spread of terror, accusing the AKP of incorporating “tactics or methods that include hurting people” (9).

The truth likely lies somewhere between, and may never be known – but the result is not in doubt. Erdoğan has successfully created a siege mentality in favour of his beleaguered AKP. The question now going forward is; when will the terror end?

Interview in the Turkish embassy

Turkey is the connecting point between Europe and the Middle East. It is located in a key position with a lot of civilizations. Turkey wants to be part of the European Union since 1963 and they have been negotiating since 2005.

Çagdas BILGIN is a political advisor in the Turkish embassy in Spain and he is also the personal manager in the embassy. Since he started working there 8 months ago, his function has been observing all the issues related to the support of the relations between Turkey and Spain in international organizations such as United Nations or the OTAM.

The relation between Spain and Turkey is positive and it is in an increasing process. There are very good political and economic relations. Spain has always supported Turkey in the process of being in the European Union.

I decided to know more about the point of view of Turkey as their strategic situation makes them have a different point of view of the middle East’ problems.

During the interview, I realized how Turkey put a lot of efforts providing help to people around them which have conflicts in their countries, such as the Syria conflict, and it confirmed me how media does not show this kind of help because it does not attract enough attention.

As Çagdas BILGIN said talking about how they handle the situation of being in a key position between two areas, that makes them have a mix of trade. He also answer taking up their stance: ” Turkey has been traditionally moved toward Europe since the Ottoman Empire, as we came from Europe. We have always look to Europe, we focus more on it.”

On the other hand, when I asked him about their relations with the Middle East, he wanted to be very clear about their support to the democracy in that area as he said: ” We promote legitimate governments that represents the will of people”. He emphasized the importance of stability and democracy in this situation, as more stability would help Turkey economy.

Related to their economy and its prosperity, he said that because of the European crisis, that it also affected to their trade with them, there was a trade increase with the Middle East. This has made a lot of critics of how they are getting away from Europe, and he claim : ” We had to do it. The European crisis also affected us and if we find new markets open, we have more trade partners and we can have a better strong economy.We are looking for new markets while promoting stability in our region.

He also underscored the importance of exportations in their economy, and as it is slowing down, they should look for new technology and productive methods to increase their exportations.

When we deal about what is going on in Syria and the Islamic State, he wanted to make clear the danger of being in their position because of their close situation to them, with no borders. He expressed the necessity of a political solution: ”There should be international support of the legitimate representation of Syrian people.” The solution is through negotiations with the support of the international community.

Their proposals for helping Syria is: ”Not direct intervention, but supporting the Syrian opposition. A lot are doing the political process from Turkey, promoting it.” They are also cooperating with the United States providing equipment: TRAIN AND EQUIPMENT.

Dealing with the situation of all the refugees that are fleeing from the war and going to Turkey, he stressed how they are taking in a lot of refugees, but even though they have camps they need to create more refugees and for that, the international committee has to put money. since the

beginning they have only received 6 billions dollars from the US and 2.5 millions from the international community. ”It is easy to criticize Turkey but it is all on us”.

He wanted to explain me the situation,: ”At first, people were helping a lot because we had resources and we didn’t think it was going to take so long, but in this situation, they are getting concentrated in some neighborhoods, and they are stating to see them as strangers and that is creating tensions”.

Finally, trying to sum up all the information related to the same issue, my last question was about why Turkey does not join the international coalition that is bombing right now the Islamic State, allowing them to use their air basis. His answer was very strict: ” Turkey is supporting them. Cobani was saved thanks to Turkey, they crushed the Turkish borders, we didn’t intervene but we accept and provide aid to people. That doesn’t appear on TV. If you want a coalition to make an attack, let’s do it all of us, not just bombing.”

Inside the European Parliament

On monday the 9th of June, I had the pleasure to interview such an important person in Spain as Mr. Ignacio Samper, as he is the director of the office in Spain of the European Parliament. This interview mainly consisted in questions about the European Parliament and many concerns that many people do not know about it such as issues such as future goals, Turkey or immigration.

To start the interview, I found appopiate to start asking him why was it important to have an European Parliament office in Spain. Mr. Samper explained to me that “there are offices all around the world in order to inform citizens, media and institutions about the activity and functions of the Parliament”.

As many people didn’t know what they actually voted for on the past elections, held on the 25th of May of this year, I had to ask him about the Parliament and its actual functions and why are they so important. He responded with a very detailed answer; “The EU Parliament that validates the ligitimity of the European Union and makes possible the effective participation of the citizens in the process of the European integration”. In addition, due to how the Parliament also decide in nearly all the issues that are within the European Union, those where the reasons why the past elections where different to others; they were going to be the first elections after the Lisbon Treaty which alloed the members of the Parliamente vote for the president of the Comission.

To continue explaining me about the functions of the Parliament, he also explained to me what the members do in the Parliamente is “debate, vote, propose amendments and finally approve or reject norms. The last legislature, the were more than 20.000 votes and more than 2.500 texts where approved were 952 were legislative texts” and the reason some countries send more members than others is due to the reason that the numbers of members sent by a country must be equivalent to the size of their population as the Parliament represent the citizens, not the nations.

Moving to more controversial questions which have been alive for many years, I decided to ask Mr. Samper about Turkey and immigration respectively. To start of, I asked him if Turkey was still interested in joining the Union and why and what do they have to do be part of it. He explained to me that “Turkey is one of the 5 candidate countries in joining the Union. It is important to explain that to join the UE, the country must fulfil the Copenhague criterias, which establish a mínimum of requirements not only economic, but also political and legal, the existence of stable institutions which guarantee the democracy, the state of Rights and human rights”.

About immigration he explained to me that after what is happening in southern European countries, there’s a necessity to approach an immigration policy from a paneuropean point of view. The Parliament has played a very important role in a very complex issue which is to get legal immigrants an equal treatment within the employment and economic areas. The Parliament have also decided to establish a “Common European Borders Supervision (Eurosur) in order for the member states are better equipped when they have to prevent and combat ilegal immigration and react more quickly when the immigrants life are in danger”.

To conclude with this interview, I thought it would be good to end it with Mr. Samper explaining the economic objectives of the Union for this and next year. The explained that the main objective was to overcome the recession and to reduce the unemployment rate. “The EU wants to increase to a 75% in 2020 the employment rate of European population between 20 and 64 years. The Parliament has adopted numerous anti-recession measures in the past years in order to get Europe back to the path of growth and employment, such as the approval of a budget of 80.000 million of euros for a Social European Budget for 2014 to 2020, which objective is to promote employment, improve productivity and work quality, increase the mobility and impulse the social inclusion.”

This interview to Mr. Samper has allowed me to get fully detailed answers about doubts I had about the parliament and will allow all European and non-European citizens to know how important the European Parliament is, what their functions are and how important it is for each citizen to contribute to make Europe a better place to live in.

Alberto Puente Saavedra

A View from Within

A fight starts for many reasons. Sometimes such reason can be resolved in a few minutes, but in some cases a fight can take huge dimensions with a lot of characters involved with the same objective: a fight for rights.

In Turkey such fight has been going on for several months, but it was in May that it really started and most of the protests took place around this date. Most of the reasons are about preservation of some places in Istanbul, such as Gezi Park, and the right to freedom of speech without the harassment of authorities. Also, the constructions of a third bridge and a third airport are also complaints of the protesters, in which such would provide less groves to be seen by satellites. Having said that, how is the perspective of a random student about such protests? Approval or disapproval? The following article will show this vision concentrating on the Turkish fight for rights and freedom of speech by way of interview.

The student in question is named Burak Mermi, a 21-year-old student of Publicity at Yeditepe University. He lives in the Asian side of Istanbul at Kadiköy, where he lived his whole life. The interview was made via skype, with pre-determined questions, and questions that developed into new ones.

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Burak Mermi

What is your position in relation to the demands?

I agree with all the demands, especially with the preservation of Gezi Park, which is a landmark of Istanbul. They want to turn the place into a dictatorship, but we won’t even let them start. They try to invade private life of people, with one of the ideas that women should have a minimum of three children. What good can come from that kind of government?

How did you end up knowing about the protests?

Only in social media, because all other media were showing little or nothing at all, just to protect the image of the city. That is why most of the protesters are young and students who are the demographic interested in that kind of media. CNN and NTV are good examples of biased media, who mostly only have interest in protecting the government’s image.

How was your involvement in the protests?

I went to the protests and prepared barricades to help against the police with some friends, but it was not of much help because they threw tear gas near us and we needed to disperse to protect ourselves. Me and my friends ran really fast without looking back, seeing that there is no way not to fear the police. Later we saw in the news that some were not as fast as us.

Do you have a lot of people you know involved? Friends or relatives?

Not that much, and I also don’t try so hard to convince them, because that kind of thing must come from within each person. It won’t make much of a difference if you just go because of influence. If you just go to take a picture and post it on Facebook and walk for fifteen minutes to then go home, you are better at your couch watching CNN.

Is there any other way to improve the rights of people instead of protesting?

Actually I don’t think there is another or better way to do it. What each one of us need to is keep going on and not forget about what we are fighting for. They can throw a bone at us and think that we will forget about the demands, but is our job not to, and to especially make them always remember what we are claiming for, so that the demands can be done.

The protests in Turkey influenced Brazil to start going out to the streets also. What kind of advice would you give out to them?

Mostly the same thing from the last answer(laughs), but also that if you are participating don’t ever go for violence, or you will end up giving them reason to do what they are doing.

I thanked Burak for his attention and he also did thanked me, saying also that he knows more or less about the situation in Brazil, mostly the corruption that occurs from time to time. He told me that if we ‘’nag’’ as much and as long as we can they would soon give up our rights. I thanked him once again.

Kim Gomes

To Be European – Begumhan Idil Aydin

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In the world, there are different regions which have unique characteristics. Also people who live in different regions have their own cultures and customs. Of course, those differences be formed by us according to life experience and the situations.

Ozlem Ozer who is Turkish, was born in Bielefeld, Germany decided to continue her life in there. She prefers to live in Germany rather than Turkey. Despite those two countries belong to Europe, Germany has better life conditions. Of course, in the beginning it was not her decision but later on when she realizes that life is much better and easier in Germany because they have advanced human rights, so she makes sure about her decision.

Her family moved to Germany many years ago. First, her father moved to find a job. After when he got married with his wife, he took her too. At the beginning, they thought that they would move one day back to their home country, but till today they are still living in Germany.

She thought that it is easier for her to live in Germany because she was born there and also studied there. She doesn’t know the opposite way and how it feels like to live in Turkey.

After she graduated University, she moved to Frankfurt and started working in a computer programming company which called “ReadSoft”. She thought that also living in Germany is good for her because she grow up learning German which is a common and a valid language in all over the world. She told that there are some cultural differences in private and the work life but you have to be open to the other cultures and you have to show up self-confidence. Because if you show respect to the others, you will get it back too.

Being a Turkish in Germany is a complicated thing. There are some people who won’t accept you because of your origin and especially because of your religion.

She almost spent all her summer vacations in Turkey. She told that without no doubt, she loves Turkey. But somehow she feels her home is Germany. Home means for being with family and friends that’s why she feels like this. She thought that it is a special gift to have the possibility to grow up with two cultures. You grow up more open-minded and respectfully to other cultures. Also it is a good advantage to contact easily with new people from all over the world.

Living and working in Germany or other countries of Europe means that you have high standard conditions because the gap between poor and rich people is not so big as in other countries.

And also the most important reason that realize everything is “European Union” that has many meanings inside of it. The social advantage is going abroad without visa. In most of European countries except Turkey, they have many rights about workers. Many cooperations on issues of national security. They protected from exploitation, in addition consumers are granted consumer rights not seen almost anywhere else in the world. These European countries have a greater influence with world affairs, as they represent themselves and are represented by the EU. And they have many privileges in health insurance. They have a special card which called “Health Insurance Card” that if you get injured in any EU country, you can get the same medical care like the citizen of that country. Also those countries don’t have strict conflictions about politics because they are educated and they know how to respect each other.

Ozlem said that “ In every country, there are many differences of thoughts about politics. But the most important thing is to respect each other. For example, I think that Turkey is lack of this position. But in Germany, people have their own rights like freedom of speech. Of course it depends on regions but we see that it is also depends on the countries like Germany and Turkey.”

Regions have their own cultures,politics,economics and many differences. Ozlem is a member of European region and she is very lucky because Europe has many privileges more than the other regions. 

Begumhan Idil Aydin