In a recent poll, more than a third of Turks said the European Union is a more valuable partner than China, Russia and the United States combined. Still, if tourist visas are any indication, the EU doesn’t have the same view of Turkey.
Schengen visa approvals for Turkish travelers have fallen off a cliff in recent years, sparking outrage within the political divide. After a nearly fivefold increase in visa refusals for Turkish applicants, the Foreign Office accused the EU of burdening Turks with “unnecessary and large amounts of paperwork”, and even suggested that the refusals were a “planned and deliberate act” of European countries.
There’s a lot to blame for the escalating visa crisis. With 5.5 million Turks living in Western Europe (out of 6.5 million living abroad), many believe that Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu is neglecting the interests of Turks. Given how important Europe is to the Turkish people, why didn’t Ankara negotiate better terms for its own citizens?
Cavusoglu had the opportunity to answer this question in June. During a meeting with his Norwegian counterpart, Anniken Huitfeldt, he granted Norwegians the possibility of temporarily entering Turkey using only a Norwegian identity card. But instead of securing a similar arrangement for Turkish passport holders, Cavusoglu received nothing.
On social media, the Turkish public was furious. “Such news can only be good if the same conditions apply to Turkish citizens,” one person said. wrote on Twitter. “Norwegian citizens… get an easy visa. Turkish citizens [must] document … seven generations[s]” just to spend a few days on vacation. It was an exaggeration, of course, but not by much.
For a short-term Schengen visa, Turks must provide proof of travel insurance, accommodation, flight ticket, tax certificates, social security documents, employment contracts, deeds and proof of sufficient funds. Many applicants fail to meet this threshold. Today, 20% of Turkish applicants are refused entry into the EU. In 2015, it was closer to 4%.
The EU, for its part, denies any mistreatment of any single country and insists that Turkey is not in its bureaucratic crosshairs. The European Commission says the refusal of Turkish visas in 2022 is only 0.4% higher than the global average for refusals, and that a shortage of staff and new regulations limit the visa slots available.
Meanwhile, EU Ambassador to Turkey Nikolaus Meyer-Landrut said most recent Turkish denials resulted from “incomplete and potentially fraudulent” applications.
Certainly, Turks are not without their own visa transgressions. Official visas have been hijacked by Turks to stay in European countries and seek asylum.
As of September 2020, 43 of Yesilyurt’s 45 Justice and Development Party members remained in Germany after traveling there for work. A similar incident occurred in October 2019, when Karatas district in Adana, southern Turkey, sent 30 musicians to a festival in Germany; more than half refused to return.
And yet, punishing every Turkish visa applicant for the misdeeds of a few does not sit well with the public. On eksozluk.com, one of Turkey’s largest online communities, 55 pages of furious comments are devoted to the subject of Schengen visa denials.
A user wrote that a friend with 10-year visas for Britain and the United States was rejected for the Schengen area. Another speculated that despite Moscow’s aggression in Ukraine, Russians seem to have an easier time getting into Europe than Turks (this perception could change if a new EU proposal to make it more expensive and more difficult for Russians to travel to the block is enacted).
Whatever the truth, a consensus is growing on the Turkish street that the Schengen visa is in place to keep Turks out.
The financial cost of such exclusion is immense. Turkish citizens have paid more than 26 million euros for Schengen visas over the past five years. In 2021, Turks paid over €3.6 million in fees for rejected Schengen visas, and that number is sure to increase this year.
The Turks have reason to be angry. Their currency devaluation hasn’t helped the visa debacle, but neither has their own government, which seems more interested in attracting foreign tourists to Turkey than helping Turks see the world.
Even though there has been misuse of the Schengen visa system in the past, Turkish and European leaders have a duty to address these challenges. For Europe to remain the envy of the Turkish eye, the EU must let Turkish travelers discover Europe for themselves.
This article was provided by syndication office, who owns the copyright.