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Europe should see Turkey is no longer a country of emigration

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

 “I don’t say it impolitely, but I say it directly: I don’t want to see you here again,” said Muriel Domenach, the French Consul General in Istanbul, talking about her conversations with visa-seeking Turks.

Listening to her, one gets the feeling that she would like to say this to as many people as possible.

No, this sentence is not addressed to those whose visa requests are turned down, which is 3 percent of the applications made for France. Domenach was referring to her conversations with those who are qualified to get long-term visas.

Of course the key word here is “qualified.” Everybody, with the exception of those who have committed crimes, is qualified for free movement. Indeed, freedom of movement should be an essential right. But we don’t live in an ideal world; and when it comes to visas Turks live in much of a less than ideal world.

That is why when a French consul general is asked to talk at a panel organized to mark the anniversary of the labor force agreement signed between France and Turkey 50 years ago, you don’t expect the whole speech to be dedicated to visa issues. After all, Domenach could have dedicated her speech to the success stories of the 600,000-strong Turkish community in France, half of whom enjoy dual citizenship.

It’s clear that Domenach wants to be on record as giving a clear message about an issue that many Turks feel deeply resentful about, not to say humiliated.

She obviously puts it in a different way. “I receive flowers whenever we issue long-term visas,” she said. “Not that I mind getting flowers, but issuing a visa should not be seen as a favor.”

On the contrary, the French are doing a favor for themselves, according to Domenach. But of course she did not say it like that either! Basically she said that French national interests required a more flexible visa policy with Turkey. With the aim of increasing the number of tourists coming to France from 84 million to 100 million annually, the French government realizes that the current number of 200,000 Turkish tourists annually is way below the real potential, since France remain Turks’ second most preferred destination.

Moreover, Domenach also said that Turkey is no longer considered a country of emigration. She went on to explain some of the ways that they have endorsed the facilitation of visa procedures. One of them is the fact that once you get your visa, you don’t need to go to the consulate in person to renew it. For example, businesspeople can get faster visas if they have a reference from the Turkish-French Chamber of Commerce.

One would hope that the 26 European countries who decided to be part of the Schengen area in order to have a common visa policy would act according to the very gist of the “Schengen spirit,” which means having the same rules and procedures. However, different standards are applied in different Schengen countries.

An editor at the Hürriyet Daily News, who happens to visit a Nordic country often, got a three-month visa on her first application. Then she got a one-year visa, followed by another one-year visa. She used these visas to visit that country on at least nine separate occasions. Last year, when she applied and specifically asked for a two-year visa, she only got a three-month visa, even though there was no change in the information she provided to the visa department! She still works for the Daily News. It is not a secret that the government dislikes the Doğan Group, and not a day goes by without a tax inspector knocking at the door. Perhaps those at the visa department simply had some doubts about the future of the group. Do they know more than we do? (If so, I wish they let us know, that would be greatly appreciated!)

The French consul general said visas are not a “lock” but a “key” to enter France. This comes as music to the ears, especially from a country where the anti-immigration National Front is again on the rise. If one of the Schengen countries can do it, so can the rest.

Source: Hurriyet Daily News

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