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Latest Situation in “Visa Facilitation” and “Visa Liberalization” Talks


Latest Situation in “Visa Facilitation” and “Visa Liberalization” Talks

Turkey and the European Union (EU) continue negotiations on the Schengen visa issue, which has become one of the most chronic problems in bilateral relations. The last meeting on this issue took place yesterday. “Visa Ease” and “Visa Freedom”

Discussions on “visa liberalization” and “visa facilitation” regarding the Schengen visa took place in Ankara between Minister of Foreign Affairs Hakan Fidan and European Commission Member Responsible for Neighborhood and Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi.

The blockage in visa liberalization and the failure to fully and effectively implement the visa facilitation process shows that the problem is difficult to solve in the short term.

According to the 2023 statistics announced by the EU Commissioner for Migration and Home Affairs, China and Turkey were the two countries that requested the most Schengen visas, with one million applications each.

When compared to population, Türkiye is by far the country with the most Schengen applications. The fact that the number of applications, which was around 700 thousand in 2022, increased by 30 percent in just one year is seen as a concrete statistic showing how much interest from Turkey to the EU has increased. “Visa Ease” and “Visa Freedom”

The same statistics show that 16.1 percent of visa applications from Turkey are rejected. This rate is balanced with the rejection rate the EU generally gives to applications made by third-country nationals.

However, the main source of the problem is that the appointment time for Turkish citizens is very long and the visas are given for short term and single entry purposes.

Applications from Turkey are mostly made for countries such as Germany, Spain and Italy, and Turkish citizens wait for months to get an appointment.

This was the complaint that EU Neighborhood and Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi, who had contacts in Ankara yesterday, heard most from his Turkish counterparts.

According to the news in BBC Turkish, Varhelyi held meetings with Vice President Cevdet Yılmaz, as well as Minister of Foreign Affairs Hakan Fidan, Minister of Trade Ömer Bolat, Minister of Internal Affairs Ali Yerlikaya and Minister of Finance Mehmet Şimşek.


Foreign Minister Fidan emphasized at yesterday’s press conference that a two-stage effort was being made to solve the problem under the headings of “visa facilitation” and “visa liberalization” and noted that studies with the EU and member countries are continuing.

Visa liberalization, which includes visa-free travel for Turkish citizens to the Schengen area, has been on the agenda since 2013, but is an incomplete process due to the Turkish government not meeting the last 6 of the 72 required criteria.

The most important one among these 6 criteria is the amendment that needs to be made in the Anti-Terrorism Law (TMY). The EU argues that Turkey’s definition of “terrorism” is broad and vague, so it wants it to be regulated in accordance with EU standards.

After the coup attempt on July 15, 2016, Turkey stated that it could not make changes to the TMY under the current conditions and asked for flexibility from Brussels, but did not receive the response it wanted.


In his statement yesterday, Foreign Minister Fidan emphasized that Turkey’s aim is to complete the regulations regarding the remaining criteria for visa liberalization and to fully begin negotiations with the EU on this issue.

To start this process, in addition to the TMY, harmonization of the Personal Data Protection Law and its institution with EU standards, realization of judicial cooperation with all member states including the Republic of Cyprus, signing of the operational cooperation agreement with EUROPOL and implementation of the recommendations of the European Council’s GRECO (Group of Countries Against Corruption) steps also need to be taken.

Turkish diplomatic sources note that if the government demonstrates the political will in this direction, the remaining criteria can be met in a very short time.

In addition to meeting the criteria, Turkey will need to implement the Return Agreement with the EU. This agreement will open the door for Turkey to accept immigrants who go to the EU via Turkey illegally.

Even if negotiations with the Commission are completed, visa liberalization will require the approval of the EU Council, where 27 countries are represented, and then the European Parliament. “Visa Ease” and “Visa Freedom”


Visa facilitation, which was discussed as a solution to the problem, came to the agenda at the beginning of 2023 to alleviate the visa problem that has been growing in the last two years.

The visa convenience solution includes providing faster visas to some groups such as students, business people, artists and academics, and ensuring that the visas are long-term and have multiple entries.

However, the desired implementation could not be implemented in this regard.

One of the most important reasons for this is that even if the visa facilitation process is negotiated with the EU Commission, its implementation is entirely the responsibility of sovereign member states.

It is noted that the commission does not have much influence on this issue other than making recommendations to member countries.

As a matter of fact, Minister of Trade Ömer Bolat, in his statement after his meeting with Varhelyi, said, “(Varhelyi) stated that, as the EU Commission, they carried out a coordination study and made positive recommendations to the member countries and their foreign affairs regarding the visa applications of the citizens of the Republic of Turkey and obtaining multiple entry and long-term visas.” he said.

Bolat also noted that Varhelyi advised member countries to increase the capacity of their consulates.


Diplomatic sources in Ankara note that the basis of the visa problem is the unexpectedly increased number of applications from Turkey after the pandemic.

Pointing out that there is no human resources or capacity to respond to more than 1 million applications per year, sources state that a large number of inaccurate information and documents have begun to be included in the application files, which extends the review period of the applications. “Visa Ease” and “Visa Freedom”

In addition, the same sources note that the number of Turkish citizens seeking asylum from EU countries in 2023 has increased significantly, exceeding 100 thousand, resulting in more meticulous examination of the applications.

Source:BBC Turkish


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