The road to visa-free Europe - ERDAL TANAS KARAGÖL

The road to visa-free Europe

It has been 50 years since Turkey embarked on its adventure for European Union membership.

In the process that started after signing the partnership agreement with the European Economic Community in 1963, Turkey has always faced new criteria, obstacles and difficulties.

For Turkey, which made its full membership application in 1987, becoming a member of the EU has been a goal promised by almost every government. This is because being named a European country meant economic development and wealth.

Turkey and the EU got closer again in the mid-1990s and signed the Customs Union agreement in 1996 to strengthen economic relations.

Turkey entered the Customs Union and was accepted as a candidate country by EU members in 1999.

Due to changing conditions, this agreement caused problems for Turkey, which is in the Customs Union despite not being an EU member. There is also the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiation the EU started with the US. However, Turkey remained in the Customs Union despite this.

Visa-free period in the Asia-Europe interaction

We know that EU member countries are becoming economically stronger and EU membership makes things easier in international business relations.

But surely the first answer to the question "What will EU membership bring to Turkey?” would be “visa-free travel to Europe” against the years of unjust visa practice.

We know that the visa process, from start to end, until the visa is printed in the passport, is not easy at all.

The first problem faced by those who want to go to Europe for various reasons such as training, business and travel, is the visa barrier.

This situation crates a serious problem during the transit from Turkey to Europe. Taking into consideration that those experiencing this problem are at the same time economic players, the positive effects of the visa-free issue on economic interaction can be seen more clearly.

It was obvious in the past that European countries were not at all willing to exempt Turkey from the visa practice. But they do not have too many options in the face of the Syrian problem that has grown and reached their doorstep as a result of their long period of silence against the ongoing atrocities in the country.

They will either accept the influx of refugees from Syria or they will give up their visa requirement for Turkey, a country in the upper intermediate income group, which has made significant progressed in membership negotiations and is considered a part of Europe in the political, economic and social fields.

When the EU countries consider the cost of these two options, it would be rational to accept the proposal for visa exemption for Turkey, a candidate country with good economic and commercial relations from the past to present.

Meanwhile, requesting help on the Syria issue from Turkey, which they unjustly stymied and criticized for years, and understanding that they can solve the problem with Ankara alone, is not enough for Turkey. In the statement by the EU Commission, it was said that Turkey demonstrated serious performance to attain “visa exemption.”

Now when we look at this statement, it seems there is an attempt to give the impression that Turkey needs to pass a test for visas to be lifted. However the actual test here is the Syria test for European countries, and it seems that the EU failed this humanitarian test.

But while the EU's Syria policy is obvious and the problem is growing like a snowball, posing a threat to all of Europe, the “visa exemption” decision for Turkey will lessen the EU's sin to some extent.

What effect will visa exemption have?

It should be kept in mind that within the scope of the visa exemption granted by the EU, those traveling from Turkey to Schengen states will not be required to get a visa for short-term visits. Namely, this visa exemption does not give our citizens the right to work or reside in EU countries. Hence, visa exemption does not mean that our citizens will migrate to EU countries.

However, in the case visas are lifted, the strengthening of economic ties between Turkey and European countries is inevitable. In addition to touristic travels, the removal of the visa barrier will lead to a synergy that can impact economic and social indicators such as education, work and family.

The positive contribution of this synergy will be seen in many areas such as the indicators of trade volume between EU countries and Turkey, the number of incoming-outgoing tourists, resources used for education and the reflection of the training received on the return to the country on Turkey's economy.

The real contribution is breaking the “visa” taboo in people's mindtwitter.com/erdalkaragol

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